It won’t be a particularly extensive review, suffice to say that the Ovi store needs a hell of a lot of work before it can even be considered competition for Apple’s App Store.
The bad news for Nokia is that they encouraged the development and distribution of applications for the S60 platform but ignored any requirement (except the Symbian Signed certification process) to maintain control or any library of applications that became available for their devices. The resulting plethora of websites providing a better distribution platform and a bigger number of applications for the S60 platform than Ovi Store will make it nigh on impossible for Nokia to regain control and be the first point of call for applications on the S60 platform.
As a result of the lack of planning around application distribution on the S60 platform and the unmitigated success of Apple’s App Store, Nokia introduced the Ovi store in a rush, and it shows. They’re clearly aiming for a slice of Apple’s success but until they get the Ovi store past the current (in my opinion) Alpha stages of development, they’re not going to get much of it.
The technology roadmap and mindset used to develop it is obviously outdated. There’s little, if any, use of Web 2.0 technologies and all applications must be downloaded on the device only, and, in doing so, said applications disappear in to a maze of non-sensicle and inaccessible folder structures, never to be seen again. What’s worse is that if you want to format or hard reset your device (in my case Nokia’s flagship N97) then all the apps that you have paid for will disappear permanently and must be paid for again, because there’s no way to re-download them (without charge) from Ovi Store unless the application you downloaded is free.
That point alone is what will kill Ovi Store. Who on earth forgot (or god forbid purposely ommitted) such an essential piece of functionality as keeping track of what people had paid for and downloaded and allow them to re-download again without charge? Honestly, if it was a conscious decision rather than an honest ommission, the person responsible should be fired, sued, hung, drawn and quartered for utter stupidity. And you can put on their gravestone “Killed the Ovi Store”. Apple’s App Store allows you to re-download applications that you’ve paid for any number of times. If it didn’t, nobody would use it, which is probably why Ovi Store hasn’t exactly been the smash hit that Nokia expected/wanted it to be.
That said, the process for downloading an application via the Ovi Store client on the device is relatively pain free. Choose your app, click the download button, provide payment if necessary and it downloads and installs in the background.
I can almost see the thought process of Nokia’s technology strategist responsible for Ovi Store, what I can’t see however is a common sense approach to the development. They perhaps didn’t want to trap people in to using a computer application like Apple does with iTunes so they provided an “on device” method as the primary method instead but it ultimately leads to the same situation. You must use the on device application to download your app. Why not just let people use the web store if they have PC Suite or Ovi Suite installed on their PC? For those that don’t want to install PC Suite or Ovi Suite on their PC, they can use the on device method as the alternative.
The number of apps available is steadily rising but hasn’t seen anything like the rapid rise that Apple’s App Store saw in the first few months of opening. Browsing, filtering and searching for apps on Ovi Store is lacking and only showing ten apps at a time effectively restricts the speed at which advanced users can scan for an app they might want. Get rid of the over-sized graphic at the top of the page and reduce the size of the application icon or screenshot or offer better alternative views instead of just list style or grid view.
So far, Ovi Store is a huge let down and is already too cluttered with useless “apps” that would be better delivered from the content developer’s RSS feed. I think Nokia really need to get a handle on the direction and usability of Ovi Store before it all goes horribly wrong.
Maps 3.0 made the transition from Nokia’s Beta Labs in to a full blown app at the back end of June 2009. While the app is an excellent addition to any mobile phone, it’s not on par with Tomtom. Talking of Tomtom, the popularity of the iPhone has persuaded Tomtom to develop a version of the software for the iPhone whereas Nokia’s acquisition of Navteq and positioning itself in direct competition with Tomtom has effectively taken Nokia and Symbian off the list of handsets/devices ever to be supported by Tomtom – even though Tomtom 5 was already compatible with Nseries devices all the way up to N82.
Typical experience with Maps is, to be perfectly honest, extremely confusing. There are three separate apps: Ovi Maps for mobile, Nokia Map Loader and Nokia Map Updater. While Ovi Maps for mobile can download maps on the fly as you use it, it’s advisable to pre-load the Maps to your device with Nokia Map Loader. Once you’ve got the maps on the device, you use Nokia Map Updater to keep them up to date. Again, similar to Ovi Store, Maps has a confused approach to usability. One app should be all that’s needed to load the mobile app to the device and keep your pre-loaded on-device maps, up to date. Stop confusing people Nokia!
As for navigation with Maps 3.0, driving home yesterday evening I was confronted with a large traffic jam which, having paid for traffic updates, I expected to be shown on the device, it wasn’t. I re-routed myself and attempted to persuade Maps 3.0 to calculate a different route. Each time I pressed the “Diff. Route” icon, nothing happened, or at least I was given no feedback that something/anything had happened. It was only when I had turned around myself and driven 3 miles in the opposite direction that Maps had concluded I had no intention of going the route it wanted me to go and so relented to my request. God help me if I was somewhere I didn’t know. Essentially the one thing missing from Maps that would solve this is being able to avoid a part of the calculated route. If I could select the road to avoid from a turn-by-turn list and actually received feedback that my route had been re-calculated, I’d be much happier. Perhaps that will come out with Maps 4.0?
Towards the end of my journey I was prompted with a notification that there was traffic on part of my route and asked if I wanted to re-route. I was a matter of minutes from home and could see that there was no traffic on the road, yet the entire 15 mile stretch of road was identified as having traffic on it when infact it didn’t. I noted that while updating Maps 3.0 to Maps 3.01 last night that the road was still marked as busy.
Having traded in my N82 with Tomtom, I purchased licences for Driving and Traffic updates but in all honesty, I’d have Tomtom back any day of the week. Maps 3.0, while effectively a decent navigation aid, still isn’t a polished product. The device lags during typical use (probably due to the pitiful amount of RAM in the N97) and visual navigation isn’t fluid. Its one saving grace is that the voice guidance is well timed and very clear.
Well, this rounds out my review of Nokia’s Ovi moniker so far and it’s fairly clear that I’m far from impressed. Nokia is the world’s largest handset manufacturer but they’ve got a hell of a long way to go to become competitive with Apple. Some might argue that Apple have been developing software for a great many years and only have one device to develop for and that’s why they’re better at it. True, that is a fairly good reason but it doesn’t excuse Nokia’s poor effort so far. Someone at Nokia needs to pull their socks up and make some tough decisions. As far as I can tell there isn’t enough collaboration between departments at Nokia and a great many duplicate applications with overlapping functionality are being developed unnecessarily which results in wasted resources and confused device owners. If Nokia retake control of their websites and their contents, they’ll go a long way to identify which applications are wasting resources. Cut the fat, focus development resource and skills to the right development teams and you might be able to save Ovi as a brand that can compete with Apple.