PhotoSec - First app that allows you to hide pictures on Windows Phone

Getting downloads on a non-existent platform

December 06, 2019 - 10 min read

Technologies Used: Microsoft Visual Studio, C# .NET, WPF

Was Available For: Windows Phone

I was 16 years old and had some C# knowledge. Microsoft was making huge push for Windows Phone. I got attracted into the hype and bought a Lumia 920. Worst part is, I made my best friend buy one as well. And I've learnt not to get hyped about a halo product again. I guess everything happens for a reason though. PhotoSec was very successful for what it was.

After my best friend got a Lumia 920, he started complaining that there are no apps to hide pictures. That wasn't his only complaint but it was one I could solve. One day, I went home and started prototyping about this idea. In a week, I managed to get something running. You could select a picture from your phone's gallery and the app copied it into its internal storage. It was great for Windows Phone standards, and believe me when I say this. The ecosystem was non-existent. Many social media apps were not available for Windows Phone. Imagine not having Vine when it was popular.

Anyway, I've decided to release it to the Windows Phone Store after QNote. I'd say it went pretty well. I was getting around 3-5 downloads per day. It was the first app that allowed to hide pictures on a Windows Phone. Here are some initial screenshots with a the app logo:

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It had the following description in the store:

PhotoSec allows you to hide some pictures on your phone with a password. It also allows you to create a fake directory with a fake password. So if someone asks you what your password is, you can enter another directory with other pictures in it.

And here is one of my tweets from around that time:

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As time passed, the number of downloads were increasing. I started getting competitors but fortunately, they were all paid applications whereas PhotoSec was free. So, people couldn't complain. I've kept on updating it with nice features. I've finally added image thumbnail support and invested quite a lot of time into the UI design. Here is a screenshot showcasing the thumbnail functionality:

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One day, I remember talking with a very tech-savvy friend of mine. I was telling him about PhotoSec and he gave me the greatest idea. This is an app that hides pictures right? What if someone forces you to unlock it? Imagine if there was this fake image directory inside the app that opens when you enter a fake password. Basically, you have two passwords. One opens a directory and the other one opens another directory. It sounded great. It was easy to implement as well so I did it.

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A week later, download numbers started increasing by a huge margin. I was getting around 70-90 downloads per day. It became the 38th most downloaded app on the Windows Phone store. I know that there were not many apps available in the store but it was fine if you think about I did it with very little programming knowledge as a 16 year old.

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Couple months after this success, I know what I wanted to do for a career. I knew I was interested into computers but this time, I wanted to make the computer itself. The only way to do that was to go to Silicon Valley. I had to get there. Step one was getting a computer science degree. I had to stop programming for a while and start studying for the exam that was going to take me to university. Many great ideas came to my mind that year. Some of them were realized by other people. Some of them were too ambitious for the current technology. I've never updated or worked on PhotoSec again.

--- Fast forward 2 years.

I was in Bilkent University. Studying computer science. I got accepted into doing an internship in American Express in the UK. The same week, I've received an email from Microsoft telling my apps were being taken down because of end of platform support. QNote and PhotoSec were gone. All that's left were some great user reviews and this repo on GitHub.

Well, PhotoSec may not be in the store anymore but it made me realize what I wanted to do as a career. I'm going to work on mobile technologies. At least that's what I'm aiming for. Whatever I do, whatever project I'll work on, I'll do it to get there. There might be a few bumps along the way but I've come this far, I'll definitely go further.

Moral of the story is:

Turn your hobby into your job

Now go find what you like, practise, get better at it. One day, it will be your job.