Symbian Horizon: Here we go again…

by Ben Smith on 4th November 2009

Criticising awful application stores has been a hobby of ours for some time now. Symbian Horizon‘s not an application store, but it should be much, much better… On this performance Symbian apps will soon be little more than an enthusiasts’ playground and a commercial train-wreck.

Horizon Directory - Symbian Phone Applications

Launched this week, Symbian Horizon is both a developer-support programme and an application directory intended to promote developers’ work and aide the magic term ‘discovery’*.

*‘Discovery’ is the thing people using poorly-designed and poorly-promoted mobile platforms have to do in order to find useful or entertaining software.  This is often confusing for iPhone users familiar with iTunes App Store and the phrase “there’s an app for that”…

And it’s the ‘discovery’ bit that fails to impress already (we can discuss how the software signing and development process pains developers another day).  Symbian seem to have confused the term ‘discovery aide’ with ‘list’… and sadly not a very comprehensive list either.

It commits a number of sins…

Symbian Horizon viewed on an N82

"Symbian Horizon can also be accessed from mobile devices" ...but you won't want to.

It’s not easily accessible on a mobile – Whilst it says it does in the FAQ, Horizon doesn’t detect mobile browsers or offer an easy-to-find mobile interface.

Also, because it’s only a directory (not a store in its own right) it will just redirect users to the developers’ own sites (of varying qualities and mobile accessibility) or one of the app stores participating (Nokia’s Ovi Store, Samsung’s Application Store, AT&T’s Media Mall, China Mobile’s store, Handango, Orange’s Store or Sony Ericsson’s Playnow)… A confusing and inconsistent experience.

    Symbian Horizon Featured Developer

    Tip: Try to find someone who writes English competently as a first language to copy-edit your front-page.

    The content is dire – See if you can spot all the errors in this, the front-page ‘featured developer’ panel above. Whilst I’m sure Martin the (I assume) ex-paramedic is a super chap, should the featured developer not be (a) promoted with some actual promotional content, not just an irrelevant bio and (b) be a major developer of interest to many people?

    This site is supposed to be promoting Symbian software to users, remember…

    Symbian Horizon - Most Popular Apps

    These are, apparently, the 12 most popular Symbian apps as far as Symbian is concerned.

    There’s nothing there – I can’t get Horizon to show me any more than 44 applications. There’s nothing listed from any of the major software labels… or even any of the current renown solo-developers (such as Jan Ole’s Gravity). Having visited once and found it useless, why would I ever come back expecting to discover new, interesting apps when even the (dire) Nokia store has a fuller catalogue?

    This isn’t easier or more complete.  It appears to be intentional, but it’s a mystery why you’d choose to fill your directory (at launch) with the least appealing content…

    I’m sure Symbian fans and employees will be queuing up to explain just how long it takes to start a programme of this size, that it’s only in beta so will improve ‘soon’ or that it’s not the directory that’s the important bit now. And to them, my standard answer: don’t launch it ’til it’s ready.

    Symbian, especially, need to up their game here – this isn’t a development platform that has much popularity to spare.

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