Nokia Download! Review

It seems like every smartphone manufacturer has or is introducing an App Store of their own. When you mention App Store most people will think the first was Apple iPhone's App Store. There's little doubt that Apple was the first to successful make consumers aware of the concept but only diehard Nokia fans know that Nokia phones have been carrying the feature for the past few years in the form of Download!

Until recently, the games and applications available for your phone were either from your carrier's online WAP site (for some reason, most of them call it "mall") or something you found on the Internet and you manually loaded. Cellphone manufacturers have traditionally been locked out from creating their own App Stores as it would compete directly with the ones hosted by the carriers.

In 2007, Apple's iPhone totally changed the entire cellphone industry. I know it's been said again and again but I have to mention it again as Apple resisted all pressures to do things the way the carriers wanted. This meant no branding, no carrier control on the phone software, and the manufacturer could sell directly to the consumer (Apple with the iTunes store). The last fact opened up the door to Apple's App Store so consumers could download applications and games without them being heavily filtered by the cell carriers. This has allowed Google, Microsoft, RIM, and Nokia to similarly push their own App Stores directly to consumers.

Being one of the oldest app stores of the bunch, does Nokia Download! really have what it takes to compete? Let's take a walk through Download! and if you have a S60 device on hand you should go take a visit. Make sure you have a SIM card in your phone as Download! uses that to determine your region and what applications you will see...

For this review and all screen shots, I am running Download! version 3.2.818 on the Nokia E71 with a AT&T SIM.

Nokia's Download! opens up to a grid view:

It looks just like the regular S60 interface of your phone but just without your custom icons

Clicking on any of the folders switches you to a list view:

This view takes more screen space yet doesn't give you any more information than the grid view. That little green phone with orange screen icon at the top right of Mail for Exchange shows that I have the application on my phone and clicking on it will run it on my phone instead of trying to download it. If you see a blue phone it means an update for the application is available.

Clicking Option > View Details gives you a description of the application:

I have a hard time making a downloading decision based on this description. Imagine making an actual purchase for paid software based on it

You can download and install applications directly from Download!

If your phone gets wiped out you'll have to re-purchase everything since you don't get the SIS install file with your purchase

Purchase history (Options > My items):

This list is stored on your phone unlike Apple's App Store. Purchasing software from Download! usually involves a credit card so make sure the connection to the software vendor is secure by clicking Options > Security Details when making a purchase

You can see from the screenshots that Nokia designed Download! to work seamlessly with the S60 UI. You can even run applications you already have on your phone from Dowload! Download! is a great way for Nokia to centralize all their software and list only software designed to work for the consumer's handset.

Without comparing Download! to any other App Store you can see there are numerous improvements that Nokia make to Download! There is no list of new software so you have to search each folder to see if anything has changed. No search function so, again, you have to search each folder to find the software you want. The UI needs to be reworked so it shows more information about the applications. It's tedious to have to click "show details" for each application just to see what each does. Moreover, there's just so little information that I can't make a download or purchase decision on it alone. Lately, Nokia has been updating their software catalog so software like Nokia Sports Tracker are finally showing up on Download! after being listed on Nokia's mobile download sites for a few months. But Download! is missing a lot of great well known software such as Mobitubia (YouTube client), Screenshot, fring, and CorePlayer. Overall the Download! experience is fairly inconsistent with the view switching from grid to list for no obvious reason, purchasing something can be secure but not guaranteed, and the little icons shown at the top right of application icons are not clearly described (I'm not sure if it's even consistent because I saw a blue icon so I was downloading the update, cancelled the install, and the icon turned black. It wasn't orange to show I had it and not blue to show there's an update available).

With Nokia making Download! required for downloading some of their latest software like viNe and free software like Birdstep Smartconnect, there's no real point to recommending or not recommending as it's already on your S60 phone and sometimes there's no way around it.
Nokia Download! Review Nokia Download! Review Reviewed by Eric on 11/28/2008 Rating: 5

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