I think that most everyone feel that they DO apply kata. HOW it is applied is where I feel there may be debate.

Although it may be worth asking if anyone here practices kata for the sake of practicing kata alone. And why? I actually think that there are good reasons to practice kata without application.

Given a choice, I would prefer to learn the basic moves first and then learn to vary them according to use. But that's just me.

I’m not quite sure I understand:
Do you mean you want to learn to perform a kata very well before learning function?
Or, do you mean you like to know the ‘textbook’ function of the movements before learning variants?
Or do you mean something else? :-)
Do you think you could expand on this; perhaps with an example?