The Ovi Store should help us jump the two hefty hurdles to getting the many great Symbian apps on to our Nokia phones: they're hard to find and they're difficult to install. The store should help with the first one, by putting everything in one place and delivering only those apps that are compatible with your handset, rather than taking the brain-teasing 'which version of Symbian?' quiz that was required with most apps.
But making apps easy to install is just as important, and that means keeping clicks to a minimum and making messages easy to understand. But downloading some apps, even free ones, from the Web-based app store took us six clicks from the app's page, not including typing in our username and password. The process of paying takes even longer. And once the installation has started, there are the same old cryptic messages that flash on screen that we're using to seeing from installing Symbian apps before the Ovi Store. That means confusing error messages and seemingly random confirmation requests that seem to time-out in milliseconds.
Finally, once the application has installed, it's up to you to find it -- and on a Nokia, this has always been a treasure hunt. Of the three we installed, one ended up in the Applications menu folder, one got its own folder in the main menu, and a ringtone opened up right away, to be saved into the phone memory or discarded.
The Ovi Store should rule this behaviour with an iron fist to make sure users feel comfortable that once they pay for an app, they'll be able to find it -- and uninstall it -- easily. Apple's App Store made mobile phone apps the buzzword of 2009, not by having the greatest content -- just ask a Windows Mobile user about all the cool stuff they can get -- but by being so easy to use that anyone could find and install apps.
Nokia, with its cornucopia of different phones, has a much greater challenge when it comes to building an app store that works for everyone. But if it doesn't master it, it could go from mobile dominator to mobile dinosaur.