Sunday, March 14, 2010

An app store just for India - Airtel's Application Store Review

Apple changed the way people looked at the phone with the first captive application store. Peers were quick to launch competition for the iTunes store, and the Ovi Market Place for Nokia phones, the Android Market Place for Android phones, and then a Microsoft Market Place were up and running within months. Now, Airtel has taken the plunge by launching its own app store for Indian customers.

So why did Airtel have to open an app store when all smartphone users have their company stores to download applications? I didn't take long for me to realise that the store make sense for people with phones that can run Java applications but don't have credit cards to charge the apps on.

The Airtel store has about 1,400 applications split into multiple categories. Though the store is useless for iPhone, most of the applications are tested to work with BlackBerrys, Symbians and Windows Mobiles. Some even work on Android phones.
There are some good free apps like Snaptu which allows users to use Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, look at the weather reports and read RSS news feeds. You don't pay anything for downloading the application over GPRS, but data transfers are billed to you. These apps can only be used on GPRS, so even if your phone has Wi-Fi you will still have to log on through the slower Net connection.

But that is the least of your problems as the service is also limited to Airtel customers. Then, you can't transfer the downloaded applications to another phone. Some of the applications are really bad and there is no way you can do a trial before you buy it; there are also no screenshot available on the Internet. You can only use the maps on Airtel GPRS network, so if you are on roaming or the Airtel signal is weak, you can't use the application. Plus, these are early days and no one knows if the Airtel App store is here to stay.

Anyway, I think it is a great step forward, especially with the many cheap Chinese smartphone available in the market. Here's hoping the apps become better.

The above review appeared in the Indian Express, on Sunday March 07, 2010


bipin said...

I don't think Airtel's heart is really into it. They are among one of the many first movers in India's technology industry who think that being first mover is enough. Well, the time will tell.

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