Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of playing with various smart phones. I own an iPhone myself, my wife owns a BlackBerry Pearl 8110 (GPS version), and her cousin owns a Google G1 (Android device). As I mess around with the various devices and tried their application stores, I realized something. That something was this: The application stores are the real stars of the show.
Allow me to explain myself. You see, I’m a long time geek. When I get a cool new device I make it my goal to trick it out with third party applications that help me to get through my day. On my early smartphones, this was mostly games. As I’ve grown and moved into more professional realms, the games still get installed but I also look at other productivity increasing applications that help me do my job. The thing is, that in order to install these third party applications (and games) you had to know where to go and download/purchase them. If you weren’t geek saavy, you couldn’t do this, more specifically you didn’t know where to look to find the applications. I have installed cool applications on many a persons phone over the years only to have them go “Wow, that is so cool” and they ask if there are other programs out there. The answer was always “yes” but it was followed by long winded instructions on where to go to download the apps and having to instruct them to call/email me if they had problems.
Apple really helped change all that with their iPhone App Store. Now smartphone users (many first timers) had a single place they could go to browse, purchase, and install applications on to their devices. No longer did you have to be overly geeky to install cool applications on your phone. No more reading hundreds of forum posts, how to articles, and countless hours spent searching for applications to install. All you have to do is click the “App Store” icon on your screen.
I’ve long said that “Apps sell a device” but if people don’t know how to install those apps, it causes problems. A user (someone non-geek) needs to be able to find, download, and install the applications on to their phone(s) without hassle. Apple’s App Store did this. So Apple didn’t just change the game on the smartphone genere, they changed the rules for third party applications as well. Single click install is about as simple as it gets.
So what about they Android Market (G1 App Store) and the BlackBerry App Marketplace? While they don’t look as good as Apple’s App Store, they are pretty darn close. But they nail the general concept pretty well. The main point is to give everyone a place where they can go to search for, download, and install applications on to their devices with as few clicks as possible. Both of these other stores do this. Now, my wife, who is decidedly non-geek can go search for an application and have it installed on her app fairly quickly. This not only gives her a sense of freedom from me having to do things like this for her, but it frees me from having to worry about her installing a bad app. It could still happen, but the overall chances of it happening are greatly reduced.
While the applications one can install on a device will always help sell a device, a user needs to be able to install those applications without a geeks assistance. With the invention of these app stores, we’re pretty much there.