Battle of the app stores

Features Andrew Williams 16:27, 30 Oct 2009

Who wins the war of the app stores? Ovi Store? App World? Android Market? Apple App Store? We find out

The success of the Apple App Store caused an explosion of similar stores from mobile companies within the first few months of its release. Really though, the idea is merely an extension of the games and apps WAP stores that have been run by carriers and some handset giants for many years now.

Still, the bar has been raised and now we’ve come to expect a better experience and greater choice than ever before. How do the Nokia Ovi Store, the BlackBerry App World and the Android Market stack up against the App Store? We took a look at all of them to find out, as well as seeing how much you can get for your money once you’re in there and indeed how much there is to actually buy in the first place.

App stores are fast becoming a reason to choose or avoid certain phones. Your mobile is fast becoming a replacement for the PDA, MP3 player, camera, portable games console and even your computer for certain tasks – and it’s largely down to the additional apps you can get for it. Which stores should you take seriously? We find out.

Nokia Ovi Store
Number of apps: 1000+
Payment: By credit card or Paypal
Popular price range: £4-8

The Ovi Store had some issues when it finally launched back in May. To be specific, it didn’t work. Thankfully, it’s up and running now so you can download to your heart’s content.

There are two main ways to buy apps off the store. The first is to browse to the website from your mobile. However, it’s preferable to download the Ovi Store app and do your shopping from there- the experience is slicker and easier to use.

Content-wise, the Ovi Store is the least impressive of all the app stores we’ve checked out. A lot of the content on there is java based, rather than that using the more advanced Symbian platform. This is fine for games, which there are a lot of on the Ovi Store, but Java apps will almost universally pale comparison to Android and iPhone rivals. There's also a lot of low-fi customisation content such as wallpapers. Yipee indeed.

The relatively small amount of, dare we say, advanced apps also means that the genuinely useful apps end up being really quite expensive. Handy Weather, for example, will set you back £17.99 even though you’d be able to find an app with similar functionality for 59p on the iPhone.

So, although the Ovi Store has positioned itself as a contender to the App Store’s crown, it’s actually populated almost entirely by legacy apps and games, some of which were made years ago. Although there remains a fairly healthy selection of Symbian apps available - if not as many as you might at first expect - there’s arguably not enough momentum behind the platform to entice publishers to put much cash into developing for it extensively in the future.

Top paid apps

  • Crayons (drawing) £3
  • Crack It (joke) £1
  • Safe Deposit Box (security) £12.99
  • Timer Pro Touch (timer) £1
  • Sticky Notes touch (organiser) £1

 

Apple App Store
Number of apps: 50000+
Payment: by voucher/credit card
Popular price range: £0.59-5.99

Apple’s App Store is undeniably the big daddy of all the app stores. Not only does it have far more apps than any of its rivals, it’s also easily the most well known of the app giants.

This popularity comes with some distinct advantages. Although the App Store is generally accessed from within the iTunes application and directly through an iPhone or iPod Touch, there are numerous websites that let you search through the store easily without either of these.

It’s a good job too because the sheer number of apps on the App Store makes it tricky to navigate with the limited tools provided by Apple. While you can search through the apps by their category, publisher or date, the search tools still aren’t comprehensive enough to satisfy those looking to scratch beyond the store’s surface.

Still, with apps like AppSniper and websites like appshopper.com, finding the right apps at the right price becomes a lot easier. We wouldn’t understate the fact it’s much easier to find coverage and reviews on iPhone apps than any other phone. Thanks to the alarming take-up of the App Store’s wares, dozens of sites have cropped up to slate and berate the apps you should avoid and show you the ones worth a purchase. You can find a comprehensive selection of iPhone app reviews on our very own apps channel.

The App Store bangwagon is so cramped that competition had meant that 59p has become the store's most used price point (apart from freebies, there are probably even more of those). Yes, doused with dross as it may be, the App Store has hundreds of genuinely useful apps selling at bargain prices.

Top paid apps

  • Camera Zoom (photography) 59p
  • Internet Radio Box (radio) 59p
  • London Tube Deluxe (travel) 59p
  • Mobile minutes tracker (utility) 59p
  • Weather Pro (weather) £2.39

 

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