I know I’m supposed to blog about my application but I’ve had some fun with the Leaf Open Market. I know it’s getting some bad press from some quarters but its not been too bad to me. They’re facing a hard battle to get some of the developers to support them, but they have a great vision and are making some progress. This is hopefully going to be a more technical review of the market, with a practical look at it going up tomorrow some time.
I emailed Leaf this weekend and got some info from them. Apparently some phones initially went out without the Open Market on them, but they’re getting sms’ed by their contract providers to be shown how to install it. If you don’t have it on your phone, you can go to http://www.leaf.co.za/openmarket. I’ve setup http://tr.im/nX6E to redirect there in case you’re not keen to type out that whole URL on your phone.
I’ve read their press releases and they basically say something along the lines of:
The phones are awesome (true) but a powerful phone is only as powerful as the apps that are on it. While they come with a load of great apps, more is always better and because of the “open source” nature of the OS and development tools there are LOADS of great apps. What we need in SA is a market for them, and this is basically what Open Market is about.
So my questions are “Does it live up to all that?”, “Is that all that’s needed in a market?” and “Do I think that this will be enough to convince developers to put their apps on here?”.
My Requirements for a software market.
1. Easy to use
This goes without saying – but it should be quick to load, and unobtrusive. Needs searching abilities, and good categorisation. Data going into the app needs to be standardised. (ie. if you allow people to specify what version of the OS an app runs on then keep the possible entries limited – not “Cupcake”, “1.5”, “1.5.0”, and “Newest version”). It should display the download sizes of the apps. Needs previews, ratings, comments and decent descriptions.
2. Highlights new apps
If I’m going to visit it every few weeks, a summary of the most recent apps would be essential. Otherwise I won’t know what the new stuff is and I’ll have a hard time finding the latest apps.
3. Automates updating older apps (and hence displays version numbers easily)
I know a number of developers who would hate to have to build an Auto updater for their apps, so having this built in would be sweet. It appears that a number of the devs who have put apps on the Android Market rely on this ability and are loathe to build something like this themselves
4. Does not restrict who can buy what
Seriously – why should someone in the UK see one app while someone in SA not? To be truly a simple solution for a developer it needs to provide an easy single place to distribute your application to as many people as possible. Providing roadblocks to that purpose is only going to make developers less likely to use the system, which in turn means less applications for your users
5. Provides user feedback on Apps
Ratings, comments, sharing apps with friends – all provides a social interaction. Extending this beyond the marketplace application is only going to improve your rating. Let people outside your device access a list of apps for download from your site. Let them link, and comment, and rate.
6. Provides users some kind of guarantee/trial system for apps
I’m not keen to spend R100 on an app only to have it be a piece of junk. Trials or 7 day money back guarantee’s are essential.
7. Allows for Paid and Free apps
Some people might code for love, but most of use need some kind of reward at the end of the day. You need to have a mix of both.
8. Keeps a history of previously bought apps so you can re-download apps again
If I spend R100 on an app and I have to reformat my phone, or get it replaced, I certainly want to be able to access the application again without having to pay.
9. Allows outside apps to link to apps in the installer
Especially with Android where apps can share Intents, it makes a LOT of sense to allow me to link to an app that has intents that I require directly from my App. If I can create a standard url, then its even better. I could then link to the app from a standard web page, and have the app market show more info about the application before the user chooses to purchase or install it.
10. Provides user and developer accounts
Without this, there’s no real way for much of the other requirements to be met, but this gives me ways to know who’s saying what about my app, gives me some assurance that if I upload an application, only I can update it. It allows usage information like “how popular is my app” and it allows users to see what they’ve downloaded and provide the ability to re-download apps that they’ve downloaded/purchased in the past.
I’m going to quote a bit of the slightly paraphrased response from Leaf to my questions:
[We’re releasing] Phase 1 of the website today. http://www.openmarket.co.za/. This will be the key point of internet interaction, we will over the next [while] release several new features, [hopefully this will include]: Contributor registration, Contributor management console, blogs, forums and then billing.
It seems like leaf’s got most of the main points under control. I’ll go through them quickly again with comments:
|Easy to Use||So far so good, easy installation, simple to find apps. But when there’s version numbers of “dunno” and some apps don’t have file sizes, its not ideal.|
|Highlighting New apps||There’s no feature like this right now.|
|Automates updating older apps||Doesn’t do this right now|
|Does not restrict who can buy what||As far as I’ve seen its Vodacom only right now, so its not an ideal start, but these are early days still.|
|Provides user feedback on Apps||Sorted|
|Provides users some kind of guarantee/trial system for apps||No paid apps yet, so not yet|
|Allows for Paid and Free apps||Will be done soon|
|Keeps a history of previously bought apps so you can re-download apps again||No paid apps yet, so not yet|
|Allows outside apps to link to apps in the installer||Busy chatting to them about this|
|Provides user and developer accounts||They’re doing it for Developers/Contributors, so makes sense for them to do it for users too.|
On the whole that’s a pretty awesome system. Looks like we’ll be in for a pretty good ride with Android in SA.
Hopefully with a bit of luck the last “red” items there will be sorted out and I’ll be a happy camper. Right now they’re doing pretty darned well as a first major app store that I know of that’s been built by a local company. I’m seriously hoping for good things from this.