Download! - Still broken on S60 5th Edition

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The sad state of Download! has been a topic of discussion in Symbian S60 circles for quite some time. Other consumer device platforms from Nintendo's Wii to Apple's iPhone have managed to show how successful software and content download shops can be if they're easy to use, so why can't this happen on Nokia's Symbian devices? We've taken a look at the latest version of Download! on S60 5th Edition, on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, to see if it's any improvement...

Download is still broken...

One of the main complaints about the S60 3rd Edition platform is the built-in "Download!" service on Nokia S60 models, which is supposed to provide a way to download free and commercial software straight onto the phone.

All About Symbian has written about this in the past but some of us had harboured a hope that the new S60 platform version would go some way to tackling Download's problems. Download in S60 5th Edition is slightly better in some ways, faster and more reliable, but the essential problems remain and it's worth going over them again so that (hopefully!) someone at Nokia notices how unhappy its users are with the service.

Just to give a specific example, here's a look at how installing an app happens through Download! on the Nokia 5800, the first device to use S60 5th Edition:


1) The first step towards a purchase is to notice the Download! icon. It's right there on the front page, the name pretty much tells you what it offers, and most new users are likely to try this at least once. So far so good.

Nokia S60 5th Edition menu screen

2) You then notice the slightly odd mixture of vague categories and specific app icons, and why is the videos icon so small? Still, the main categories seem to be reasonably useful as a guide, let's try downloading a game.

S60 5th Edition Download index


3) The selection of games is rather limited, mainly because S60 5th Edition devices have only just gone on sale (but even on S60 3rd Edition devices most compatible games still aren't available through Download!). Let's try Marble Revolution.

Download Games section


4) Okay, a text description, but no screenshots or demo though. However, it says "Price: Free", so the game costs nothing! Great, a nice bit of freeware to test out this new phone. Let's click on "Get".

Marble Revolution 2 description


5) Erm... okay, so it's installed the game. Wait, why is it also installing a second app called "license manager"?

Marble Revolution 2 installationLicence Manager screenshot


6) Aha, now the game has started loading automatically... oh no wait a second... this can't be right. It refuses to load the actual game until I pay for it, and there's no free demo option either. The description on Download! wasn't exactly true, was it? Luckily this reviewer had an unlimited data plan so there was no cost in the actual download process, but many people would have already had to pay just to download the installation file. And it's also a waste of time for anyone looking for freeware, which is how the game was advertised on Download!

Licence Manager purchase page



7) Maybe if we try accessing the game's icon directly from the Applications folder it will work... oh no, it just takes us back to the same "purchase or go away" page.

Applications folderLicence Manager purchase page

...and it's the same story for many other apps in the Download! section, apparently freeware but actually commercial. This really isn't the best way to encourage customers to come back. At best it wastes their time, and at worst it costs them money in unnecessary download charges.

Even beyond this price labelling glitch, the service is cumbersome and awkward to use. There's a lot of stuff that needs fixing.


How Download should work

Again, AAS has covered this ground, but as Nokia don't seem to have learned their lessons, maybe the lessons are worth repeating:

  • Download! on S60 phones should have a good and wide selection of S60 software, and ought to include the best titles available in each category. To take games as an example, some indie publishers such as Zingmagic are on Download! (at least on S60 3rd Edition), but others like Infinite Dreams and Astraware are totally absent, despite publishing some of the most critically acclaimed S60 titles of recent times. And, weirdly, there are some other very poor games on Download! which have been there for literally years. It's difficult to know why the rubbish is there when most of the really good games aren't. Is Nokia putting games on Download! according to the size of their publishers' wallets?
  • Download! content should display honest prices, visible before the user downloads anything. This is not only a good idea, it's possibly a legal requirement under consumer law in some countries. This is especially important for users who have non-flat mobile data charges, because every download costs them money, so unwanted downloads (such as freeware which isn't really free) is a waste of money.
  • Purchase methods should include paying by phone bill or phone credit. People spend a lot of money on calls and texting because they can use these services on their phone at the touch of a button. They would buy a lot more mobile software if it was similarly available by just selecting it on a screen. Vouchers might also be a good idea, for countries where phone billing isn't possible.
  • Content ought to have screenshots, and wherever possible demos too. It's all very well saying your app does something amazing, but people are far more likely to know whether the app is for them if they can see it running in some form or other.
  • Independent S60 developers producing quality applications and other content (such as themes) should have a clear and fair pathway to being published on Download! Perhaps there should be quality control to prevent absolute rubbish clogging up the app directories, though others may dispute the need for such measures. But either way, the process for getting content published on Download! needs to be made far easier, clearer and cheaper if the independent S60 development ecosystem is to survive. S60 developers are making some really great applications and other content, but hardly any S60 users find out about these because there's no mechanism for them to do so.
  • Content needs to be categorised more intuitively. At the moment, the categories are too vague and all-too-often misused (for example the Videos category often contains non-video content). There are also too many publisher-based sections which contain totally uncategorised content.


Why Download! is so important to the future of Symbian S60

If you can make software download services easy to use, even non-techie people will use them to buy software. This has been shown across many different kinds of devices, including the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console and Apple's iPhone App Store, both of which are aimed squarely at consumers without technical knowledge. Even Nokia has shown itself a potential model for Download! with its N-Gage platform client, which is much easier to use and contains more quality content.

Improving Download! is important for another reason, which is Symbian's and S60's status as non-consumer brands. Only phone anoraks and mobile companies know about them, everyone else has never heard of them, despite their massive sales and enormous market share. This severely reduces the chances of Symbian users actually buying Symbian software, and here's why:

If you buy a Windows PC, you see the Windows logo on the advertising, the packaging, the computer itself, the startup screen and the OS, so you know that you own a Windows-compatible machine. If you want software for it, you know you have to look for Windows software.

If you buy a Symbian S60 device, there is usually no Symbian or S60 name or logo anywhere, except perhaps tucked away on the legal page of the phone's manual. Most people who own Symbian S60 devices will never know they own such devices. Because they don't know they're Symbian S60 users, there's no reason why they should know that they can use Symbian S60 software either.

Download! solves this problem by totally sidestepping the need for branding. All a potential Symbian software user has to do is notice the Download! icon, click on it, and explore the contents of the service. If the Download! service offered a proper selection of good Symbian software, and accepted submissions from most or all developers, it would immediately and directly connect the Symbian development community with their potential customers. Such a connection would make it so much easier to find and purchase Symbian software, it could have potentially massive benefits to the Symbian ecosystem, and this has been proven to happen on other platforms with well-designed on-device software shops.

We've seen an explosion in download purchases happen on many other types of devices, why can't it happen on Symbian devices too? Nokia Music offers a reasonably comprehensive range of audio content direct to phones, why can't Nokia Download! do the same for software?

Tzer2, All About Symbian, 20 Jan 2009