Just days after I wrote about the disappointment of app stores other than from Apple, Sony Ericsson just launched their new app store, PlayNow Arena. Besides your few “childhood diseases” such as not redirecting when trying to access from mobile, not properly supporting IE8, etc (also crashed my Firefox, but that could be just me), Sony Ericsson has really been the first company to come up with a great user experience both on web AND on mobile. Looking at iTunes and PlayNow Arena side by side does reveal who they were influenced by – which only proves that somebody has finally been smart enough to learn from the current leader!
The site runs smooth and fast, and has important functions like sending a link to your mobile, ability for vouchers, and has pop-ups when you move your mouse over items with a buy button right there. I especially like their pop up on ringtones as it has an easy preview function built in. Billing is done through credit card, which you can save on your profile once you’ve done a purchase.
The mobile experience is a lot harder to get right when you have to cater for screens that are a lot smaller than iPhones. But Sony Ericsson has done a good job here as well, with a nicely designed WAP site with preview options here as well. They included navigation options at the bottom of the page, which makes it easy to navigate.
Norwegian IT news letter IT Avisen pointed out that content prices were quite high. Games are for instance sold at NOK 40 (app USD 6.25). However, the very same games are retailed for NOK 50 (i.e. 25% more) on competitive outlets like Inpoc or Eurobate, so at first look it seem like they are doing quite well here. In general, Java (and Symbian apps) are priced a lot higher, and it will likely be a while before you see $0.99 games on Java due to high costs for porting applications. Another point was made about the lack of free apps, but Sony Ericsson has already made a deal with GetJar (which had 2854 free apps for the k800i), so I do not expect it to take too long the PlayNow Arena to offer this.
And here is a nice touch: If you pay via SMS you pay 25% more than with your credit card. This makes so much sense, because you let the consumer decide if they want the hassle of entering their credit card, which they surely will do if they can save that much money. I’ve written about introducing alternative payment methods since 2003, and I am astounded it took so long for a major player to actually implement this.
17 countries are supported so far. The content selection is not huge, but that will change quicly I’m sure. Well done Sony Ericsson! The bar has been raised.