This morning when I refreshed the Download application on my Nokia N95-3 (NAM) I was greeted by the new Ovi Store icon. Clicking it launched the browser and took me to store.ovi.mobi.
Initially the site was very slow and timed out a couple of times but now two hours later it seems fine with snappy page loads and quick searches. The desktop version of the store at store.ovi.com still seems to be suffering from first day overload with frequent hangs in Firefox.
Although users in other markets have reported being able to download the Ovi Store application to their N95’s it doesn’t seem to be available to me, probably because of the ancient V. 20.2.011 firmware on my device. Nokia appears to have abandoned the N95-3 leaving North American users stuck on this dated version. Actually, I think a mobile web based app store is fine. I don’t see what an application would add to what is in fact just a download catalog like a slicker version of Getjar.
At launch there are 995 downloads listed for my phone of which only 82 are free. The majority of my favorite applications are missing. There is no sign of Opera Mini, Gmail, Google Maps or Sync, UCWEB, MobiReader, Screenshot, Y-Browser, WordMobi or AmAze GPS. There is some good stuff there including Skyfire, Fring, Nimbuz and Gravity but the lack of popular mainstream applications like Opera Mini and Gmail is disconcerting. Are Google and Opera boycotting the store on account of it’s signing requirements, which are particularly onerous for Java applications? Also, why is ShoZu $4.99 when it’s free everywhere else?
I was pleased to see that FlipSilent, which I don’t have, was available in the Store. Downloading was quite easy for this free application. You do have to log in, which seems unnecessary for free apps, but my existing Ovi ID and password worked, hooray for single sign in. If you don’t have an account it’s possible to register on the mobile site. Registering requires an email address and mobile number and there is a Captcha too, but it’s definitely doable. The download went smoothly. I searched for ‘Flip” and FlipSilent was on the first results page. Clicking the app name and on the next page, the download button started the download. Couldn’t be simpler.
Paid applications run from $0.99 to at least $39.95. Most ringtones seem to be $2.95 allthough some are an outrageous $4.95 and there are a couple of free ones including the “futuristic” Nokia tune from the new Star Wars movie. There doesn’t seem to be any way to preview ringtones, even on the desktop site, which is going to hurt sales badly I believe. The only way to buy paid applications in the U.S. is by credit card. Nokia handles mobile credit card purchases as well as possible with only name, card number, card expiration and CSC required. You can store your card details for future use too. It’s great that you don’t have to fill in your address like all the dumb hotel booking sites do. I wonder why no PayPal option though?
Although most of the initial reviews of the Ovi store have been pretty negative, I like the mobile web version. It’s well designed, easy to navigate, search works well and the download process is relatively free from roadblocks. There are a few things I’d like to see changed thorough. For the Ovi Store to be a roaring success, Nokia needs to drop the log in requirement for free downloads, eliminate mandatory signing for java apps except as required by standard platform security and make a real effort to get all popular applications in the store.
Ratings: Content Usability
Ready.mobi Score: 5 “Good”
Mobile Link: store.ovi.mobi