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Symbian DevZone - Sony Ericsson’s Application Shop Client from Handango

by Richard Bloor

What do you do when you find you have keen customers - you make it easier for them to shop. That is exactly what Sony Ericsson and Handango are trying to achieve with the Sony Ericsson Application Shop Client for the Sony Ericsson P900.



While the Application Shop Client is not the first software shop client for UIQ it is the first which taps into Handango's extensive catalog of applications. In addition to the vast range of applications it brings to the mobile consumer, it also includes several features to ensure the buying experience is as simple as possible.




Selling software and delivering it Over-the-Air is not a new concept to Handango. "We have had over-the-air purchasing for other platforms for over 18 months now," said Laura Rippy Handango's CEO. "But these earlier shops have been based around thin clients using WAP or XHTML. The Application Shop Client is very much the next step; it uses a thick client which improves the consumer buying experience by managing the process more intelligently."

Handango’s reasons for picking the P900 as the launch device for this new generation of mobile shop are imminently practical. "We have been seeing some incredible sales for the P800," said Laura. "We launched the Web-based Application Shop for Sony Ericsson in March this year, and then for the next two quarters, it was the number one phone adding software through all of our channels. So from our perspective we sat up and paid attention to the P800. P800 buyers are clearly application hungry consumers and that made us think about how we could service them better."

In building the Application Shop Client, Handango drew on research work they had done on consumer attitudes to software buying and incorporated several key requirements into the application. "We know from our research that being able to see an application screen shot is important to helping our customers make a purchase, so the Application Shop Client provides P900 users with a screen shot for the application they are interested in," said Laura. "Another important aspect is ratings. Because we manage Sony Ericsson’s Online Application Shop, power other good channels like www.my-symbian.com and Handango’s own Web site, we have active buyers who review and rate applications. We wanted to bring that to the mobile consumer, so we have included a star rating based on customer reviews in the Application Shop Client."



The Application Shop Client was written in conjunction with the Italian developer Bitween who we profiled on the SymbianDevZone back in November last year. Clint Paterson, VP of Marketing, explained that Bitween were selected because "they have some key competencies in areas relevant to the Application Shop Client. In particular, one of the really strong features of the Application Shop Client is the ability to restart an interrupted download at the point it stopped, because a wireless signal could get dropped, for example. Bitween had experience with that type of technology, and they have made it work really well. Also, the fact that they are members of the Sony Ericsson Developer World and well regarded by Sony Ericsson were also important factors in our decision." In addition to which Laura noted that "it’s fun working with Italians."



The Application Shop Client includes other features to make the consumer’s experience as rich as possible. For example, if a customer starts to run out of space on their phone and decides to delete an application to store some vital data (or load a new application), the Application Shop Client remembers their past purchases allowing the customer to download the application again and access the latest licensed version of the application. Also because the system knows they purchased the application before, it requires fewer steps to download as well.

The Application Shop Client will be installed on the Sony Ericsson P900 as part of the sales configuration so that it will be available for all new phone purchasers. The Application Shop Client has also been tested for the P800 and can be downloaded from the Web-based, Sony Ericsson Application Shop where there is a link to the download on the welcome page.

The Application Shop Client clearly has potential applications on other Symbian based phones, notably those based on Series 60 where the customers are of a different demographic to the typical prosumer purchaser of a Sony Ericsson P800.

"We are proud to be launching the Application Shop Client with Sony Ericsson," said Laura. "But, we will be talking with other Symbian licensees, partners and OEMs about this concept. Part of what we offer to our partners is a great customer experience and having a terrific on device client is an essential piece of the offering."

Future developments will clearly target other phones where the consumer audience is not as web savvy as P800 buyers clearly are. "Two elements make the Application Shop Client applicable to that broader audience," explained Laura, "The experience of buying is a few steps simpler than you currently find with the thin client approach, and features like the download interrupt make the buying experience more straightforward. The second part is Handango’s extensive catalog of software, which means that we can regularly refresh the catalog, so there are always new applications on the ‘store shelves’ for those buyers who want to see the latest and greatest. And having something fresh is a great way of retaining the consumer’s interest."

"The Application Shop Client should be particularly appropriate for Series 60 where the owners represent a whole new class of consumers. These consumers know that they can add software to their phone but do not necessarily know how. The Application Shop Client could get software in front of these people and that makes it important for both developers and the industry as a whole as it will help reach this new class of potential software buyers and massively increase the potential customer base for software."

The Application Shop Client certainly appears to live up to the claims made by Handango. The interrupted download feature works very well pausing while you take a call, or if you halt it for a longer period, recommencing from where it left off. The client includes the ability to download demonstration versions of the software, and the application installation and removal is all handled within the Application Shop Client. The only disappointment is that the lists can only be navigated using the stylus, and there is no option to use the jog dial.



Given Handango’s preeminence in the software market place the success of the Application Shop Client will be interesting to watch both in terms of how well it performs when compared to traditional channels and how quickly Handango implements it for other devices, Symbian UIs and other operating systems. The Application Shop Client will probably be the first sales mechanism which will start to provide a glimpse of how large the smartphone software market really will be.




About the WDN Symbian Editor, Richard Bloor:
Richard Bloor is a freelance writer and editor with 18 years experience in the IT industry as a developer, analyst and latterly Project Manager with a particularly focus on software testing. Richard has been involved with the Symbian OS since 1995 and has been writing about it for the last 3 years.

Richard is also an associate with System Architecture consultancy Equinox of Wellington, New Zealand.

Richard can be reached at symbian@wirelessdevnet.com.

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