Downloading Applications Using Your Smartphone - Let the Adventure Begin

By Mike Temporale on Wednesday, September 14, 2005

In todays world of mobility, we should all be able to pull out our Smartphones, dial in a mobile software site and download the latest and greatest game, PIM tool, utility, or whatever suits your fancy. That seems like a reasonable level of expectation, right? Well, apparently that's asking too much. Recently I attempted just such a thing with the two largest online retailers of software for Windows Mobile Smartphones. I was just looking to download the trial version of a new application. I knew the application was listed on both sites, and was available for download in a CAB format. What follows is what I experienced while standing on the platform waiting for my train to arrive using my C500 Smartphone.
Company A
For some reason, the mobile version of this site is one of the biggest and most bloated things I have ever seen. In fact it was utterly disgraceful. They sell software to mobile users, yet their mobile web site is slow, graphic heavy, and requires a lot of scrolling to find things. When I pulled up their site in Pocket IE, I had to scroll down past a large logo, numerous "tabs" that just don't line up correctly to be useful, past a couple links for logging in or creating an account, before I hit the search box. Just past the search box is the new software link that I'm looking for. In total, it took 34 down taps on my phone before I got to the new software link. Shocked Alright, I'm this far along, lets click the link and view the new titles, right? Well, it's not that easy. Once the new page loads, I have to scroll all the way down, past all the same things as before, past a rather large full screen designed for Windows Mobile logo Confused and past a couple more site specific links before I see the 10 newest applications. Finally! I click on the application I was looking for and once again I need to scroll past all the same crap, big logo's, wasted graphics, poor layout, etc, etc, etc... Until I finally get to the applications description. I find the download link and hit it. After all that, I was really looking forward to getting this application and getting off that site. However, the fun doesn't end there. I got an error saying the file type is not supported by my device. Evil or Very Mad I know it's a CAB file since I checked before I left the office. At this point, I'm frustrated beyond belief, so I pack it in and move on to Company B. Hopefully things will be different with them.

Company B
The mobile version Company B's web site was actually very nice. It was light on graphics, the font was easily readable, and it was very easy to navigate. So what's the problem you ask? I really only had 1 small problem with this site. For some reason, it detected that I was on the Verizon network and would only let me see applications for the Verizon network. For those of you that don't know, I'm not in the US. Verizon doesn't even offer service here. I'm on Fido's network, and I'm using a C500 which is possibly the most popular Smartphone on the market. The only links presented to me were: browse the catalog, best sellers, my account, and my basket. While the browse link sounds like it might offer some hope, it doesn't. It lists a total of 80 applications (10 per page for 8 pages) and they don't appear to be in any sort of order. Sad Of course the best sellers link wasn't going to help me since the application I was looking for was new. That's where my adventures ended with this company. They didn't offer me anyway to select a different network or device.

The Solution
By now I was totally fed up with the whole process. Do these people even try to use the mobile web sites they have created? My last hope was to check out the developers web site. The developers web site was very nicely formated for mobile devices, but they didn't have a local download link. They had linked the downloads back to the two online retailers that I have already been too. Sad On the off chance that the download link might get me past the Verizon network sniff, I thought I would give it a go. Besides, finding the application on company A's website wasn't the problem - downloading was. My guess worked out and I was finally able to download and install the application.

It appears that the top online mobile software retailers have not taken the time to ensure that the mobile version of their web sites are usable by their customers. They're selling software to help us enable our mobile lifestyle, yet their web sites are so awkward and painful to use that it's just not worth doing. Does anyone have a nice story about searching for applications from your Smartphone? Maybe that will lift my spirits. Confused

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