Time for another App store review – the
Nokia X App Store (dead link). This is another non-Google branch of Android 4.1.2 in a separate ecosystem. It will be launching soon initially in developing nations, and targets a different demographic than the high-end Amazon devices.
While Nokia is building their app catalog the
DVLUP (dead link) developer portal offers some great sounding rewards. And, as with other exclusive ecosystems that don’t access Google Play, you need to be in this store to get on the Nokia X device line.
Due to the Microsoft acquisition of Nokia, the Nokia X is in the strange position of being an Android app market owned by Microsoft, which has its own mobile OS to promote. The long-term support for Android and the Nokia X is questionable, but you can presume that Microsoft will want to see how it performs in the launch markets.
Update November 2014 – Microsoft has shut down the developer program, the remote testing lab, and now is shutting down their Android app store and will just directly use Opera’s store. This all happened in such a short time that I’d call this one a failure to launch.
As with many of these specialized markets, this app store (and the hardware supporting it) is targeted at a specific demographic. The Nokia X, X+, and XL all have modest hardware by today’s standards (specs link disappeared, but trust me it was nothing exciting). Unlike Amazon, with the recent release of the high-end Fire phone, these devices appear to be initially aimed at developing nations that need more affordable smartphones.
This can present opportunities – it opens up a large number of new users otherwise inaccessible through other channels. However, there are other considerations such as ad supply and value in new regions. It’s early to say yet how profitable apps in this store will be.
The long-term release plans appear to be global, but outside of developer test devices, Nokia indicates that the USA is not an initial deployment market.
Business model restrictions
The biggest surprise to me was the complete lack of support for paid apps. While there’s talk of a try-before-you-buy program in the future, right now you are limited to free (and ad-supported) or free with in-app-purchases.
This makes some sense, as paid apps may not fair as well in developing countries with budget phones. In-app-purchasing (or freemium) business models are the big thing right now. However, those of us with paid titles (which are SO MUCH EASIER to build as well as port to new app stores) are left out of luck.
To use in-app-purchasing, I will need to create a special build of my app that uses the Nokia IAP solution. This trashes the whole concept of effortlessly porting apps to the new platform! To spend the hours to integrate and test the new IAP model with my IAP apps, I’d have to have faith that this app market will be worth it for my apps. I’ll wait and see how the ad-supported apps perform…
Microsoft, and now by extension the Nokia X store, attempts to entice developers with a very ‘gamified’ development community – DVLUP. You complete challenges for XP, get badges, and earn reputation. This is similar to the big push BlackBerry did for BlackBerry 10. Hey, developers appreciate free devices and other gifts.
A nice difference, though, is that this XP can be exchanged for more than branded gear and promotional items. You can get marketing services and even gift cards to local stores like Starbucks and Home Depot. For simply porting a few apps, you should be able to get a tangible reward that you can make use of. A $100 gift card is a reasonable perk, especially if you’re already interested in having your apps distributed through new channels.
However, so far it has been bait-and-switch for me. I haven’t received any XP yet even though I have 5 apps on the market and performed 2 updates. Why?
Opera sells us out again
Despite being offered XP and other rewards (including a free Nokia X device after porting my 5th app), it appears that Nokia was making other deals on the side. Opera is at it again, taking their app catalog (in part acquired from Handster) and selling it wholesale to Nokia.
What does that mean? I couldn’t add my apps because the package name was in use. However, I got an email from Nokia within a few days that the app account they created for my company had been disabled and all apps were transferred to my new account. Cool!
The downside to that is that my apps were already on the market, and the DVLUP system didn’t see any of my apps as eligible for the “Android App Porting Bonanza” challenge that should have netted me 1250 XP and a free Nokia X device. I’m disappointed, and it doesn’t make me excited to put much more effort into supporting the platform.
I’m not sure how long the challenges giving XP for porting Android apps will continue for, so by the time you read this there may be even less of a nudge to pursue the Nokia X platform.
Update: I exchanged a few emails with their support team over the following few weeks, but saw no progress. With the rewards appearing to be an empty promise, my interest wanes.
It’s too early to see how many users this app store will have, but it could be a good opportunity to reach new users. If you want your Android apps to be available on the Nokia X devices, you have to have your app on the Nokia X store. In addition, sign up for a DVLUP account to hopefully get some nice rewards for your efforts.
This one was a bust. No rewards as promised, and everything is being shuttered. To be fair, Microsoft had no interest in allowing this one to live. Even though Nokia is separating from Microsoft now, it doesn’t appear that this market will be resurrected.