App Stores: How hard can it be? [Nokia Ovi Store]

by Ben Smith on 26th May 2009

“How hard can it be?”… In my experience, a question asked only by those without a clue… But it does appear that application stores are trickier to get off the ground that you might think.

Ovi Store T&Cs

Welcome to the Ovi Store: three sets of delightful legal-ese to agree to

With the launch of Nokia’s OVI store today many, including myself, were expecting – even hoping – that Nokia would re-assert its authority and roll out the ‘mother of all app stores’.  The signs have certainly been positive – built-in operator billing (where operators wanted it) and a market that put content and apps side-by-side in an even more seamless way than Apple’s effort were good news, but now it’s live I worry Nokia are clutching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The glitches experienced this morning are certainly annoyances and Nokia will rightly get a kicking for allowing the service to be swamped by user requests, but it’s the design and usability of the service – described as ever by the excellent coverage from our friends at All About Symbian – that really worries me.  My own observations are similar to theirs:

It’s slow… oh dear god it’s slow on mobile – Not slow as in ‘overloaded’ (although it is)… Slow as in poorly designed.  Testing on my (now ancient) N82 requires network downloads when switching between each screen.  On both Apple and Android platforms the presentation is done locally giving a sensation of speed, if not faster usability

Ovi Store - Poor launch content

OVI Store at launch: Ringtones and more ringtones.

The launch content is pretty disappointing - Sure, Gravity (the impressive Twitter client) and Shozu (for sharing and sending pictures and videos), two of my must-have S60 apps pop-up in the right places (although the Shozu entry appears broken right now) but it’s disappointingly easy to get to the £3 ring-tones and other junk content.  Right now, I’m being shown 960 items for my N82 of which 894 are paid-for and there’s nothing it appears I can do to stop Ovi Store suggesting Hannah Montana (not a fan BTW) as items 3 and 4 on the ‘suggested for me’ page.  There’s only 22 items in the ‘business’ category, 11 items in ‘social networks’, 7 in ‘photo and video’ (isn’t this what N-Series is supposed to be all about?), but 124 items in ‘ring tones’.  Obviously this is a store for everyone – ring tones are likely to have a wider interest than e-mail syncing software – but why isn’t Nokia Messaging, Mail for Exchange or Ovi Maps available in the catalogue?

Ovi Store - Doesn't have Nokia apps

No Ovi Maps in Ovi Store, but how about some Star Trek wallpaper?

There’s no trial-version option or time-limited demos – A criticism of all other app stores, Nokia should have had this on the agenda.  Roadsync, my preferred Microsoft Exchange syncing application, is £26.99 – pricey, but well worth it after a 30-day trial proved its value. However from the OVI store it’s all or nothing – no demo, no link to a limited version.  Nada.

Ovi Store: RoadSync Push Email & PIM Data

Roadsync customers appear to enjoy 'Sexy Buritto Talk'

Recommendations can be a bit weird - Taking the example of Roadsync, a business application for synchronising enterprise e-mail, I’m not sure why a game ‘World Championship Pool 2009‘ is the 2nd ‘related’ recommendation or how happy Roadsync’s vendor Dataviz will be that the first item on 2nd page of recommendations is ‘Burrito Sexy Talk‘ (don’t hold your breath for a review on The Really Mobile Project of that last one…)

So far, so disappointing… With the ‘edutainment’ style ads that Apple run for their App Store, lots of people – including those who don’t have iPhones – have a very high expectation of what an app store should look and feel like (even if Apple’s ads do paint a very rose-tinted view of the process).  Ovi store has a fair way to go yet…. Nokia are on the brink of ballsing this up.

Previous post:

Next post: