When I’m looking for applications to install on my phone, I use three different ways:
- Bing Visual Search
- Marketplace through the handset itself
Microsoft are starting to promote Windows Phone 7 Apps heavily in the lead up to the Holiday Season and they recently blogged about this.
I’m going to focus, though, on the three mechanisms above and what they can do differently from each other.
For me, Bing Visual Search(*) really demonstrates not only the power of this method of searching but also the breadth of the current Marketplace. According to Bing, there are 2,350 applications in the Marketplace. This is slightly incorrect because one of the features of Marketplace is the ability for handset manufacturers and carriers to have their own exclusive area of the Marketplace. For example, LG are currently giving away applications every 60 days to anyone who owns one of their Windows Phone 7 handsets … but more on that below.
(*) Please note that the link to Bing Visual Search is for applications in the UK market only. If you live in a different region, you may need to restart the search from the Bing from page.
What I like about Bing is that it makes it easy to browse around the Marketplace without needing to install the Zune software. The Visual Search interface is really slick and the application lists are presented in a couple of ways – initially as a large scrollable grid and then, when you select an application for more info, as a left-to-right scrollable list.
Where Visual Search wins over the Zune interface to Marketplace is in the number of different ways you can filter the data. You’ve got price ranges, publisher names, and preset filters of 25 top rated, 25 newest free apps, 25 newest paid apps and 25 most downlaoded.
Visual Search can only take you so far, though. Eventually, you end up needing the Zune software, if for no other reason than you have clicked on one of the “Click here to view this app” links, which opens the application page within the Marketplace on the Zune software.
The Zune software is more than a replacement for Mobile Device Center or ActiveSync, both of which were the previous interfaces required to synchronise content with Windows Mobile or install applications.
The Zune application, to an extent, can be used as a replacement for Windows Media Player, in that you can use it to play music, photos and video from your computer. It isn’t a complete replacement as WMP still has functionality that Zune doesn’t, such as synchronisation with older style devices, support for Play To technology, etc.
The application provides another method of accessing the Marketplace, but it includes music, videos and channels as well as the application marketplace. I personally find moving around the Marketplace harder with the Zune software than I do with Bing Visual Search. It can be for simple things, sometimes, like the fact that the genres aren’t listed in alphabetical order!
The user interface, though, is very slick and, ultimately, if you want to buy an application, you either need to do it with this application or directly in the device. For applications that cost money, there is often a trial option. Sometimes it will be made clear what the trial limitations are but I haven’t found that to be the case for too many of the applications, unfortunately.
The final route to the Marketplace is on the phone itself. As with the Zune application, you can purchase music, videos and applications through the Marketplace and the user interface allows you to drill down into each category. The Marketplace application on the phone also alerts you when there are updates due for applications you’ve got installed. You can then select when to install them.
What I like about the Marketplace is the way the background image is linked to the recommend item for sale. It presents a nice level of continuity.
Searching the Marketplace is very easy – press the Search button! Yep, you need to remember it is a context search option but it works really well.
If you are installing applications, you can choose many in quick succession and the phone will download them one after the other and then install them. At the time of purchase (even for a free app), you may be prompted to accept to certain device usage such as location information. I found the installation process to be just so slick, particularly compared to the Windows Mobile experience. You can just tap on Install and be done with it, or you can monitor the download progress. Installation is always silent – it just happens.
All in all, a great mechanism for getting content onto the device and I love the way the ecosystem extends beyond just the phone. The extension to the Zune application and Bing Visual Search is seamless and really helps you to find content.
It will be interesting to see the Marketplace grow over the coming months and see what gets added!