I really, really, really did not want to have to write this kind of article, but was forced to. I was a really big fan of Nokia Widsets. Nokia Widsets allowed you to get small, easy to use and fast to use applications to your phone to be used on the go. Facebook was there, Helsinki metropolitan area route planner was there, Wall street journal headlines, The Economist and other content providers were there. Life was sweet. Combine that with the success of Nokia Sports Tracker that is an amazingly cool and helpfull app for a sports enthusiast as me and you are on a roll. I really hoped and wished that Nokia Ovi would be a great success and that I could finally get the most out of the great phone device that I carry with me ( N95 8 Gb – great phone ), instead of the iPhone that I should have purchased.
So. I really wanted to like Ovi. I read the launch reports and thought to give it some time to mature as I knew that they were not ready yet and they weren’t doing the Apple experience, which is quite normally the bar to which everyone will compare any new entrant to online merchant services. I knew that they were against unimaginable task, as they were trying to cater much more diversified group of mobile phones and consumers than Apple. So I wanted to like Ovi, I understood what they were against, I had empathy for the developers doing the work – and I still got angry and frustrated.
Well someone decided to pull the plug from the Widsets service that I actually used almost daily and force me to use Ovi store. Never mind the fact that Ovi store clearly does not have even remotely those services that Widsets had and never mind the fact that when they just ripped out Widsets, they did not provide any warning and transition time. No. The service was cut off, and just as I would have wanted to use public transportation route planner, I was directed to the Ovi Store – which is a pain to use while on the mobile. So big fail there.
Lesson: If you create communities and services, provide smoother transitions from one service to another. Otherwise users will not trust you and your services at all.
Ok. So Nokia let me down a little bit, no big deal. I was able to check the timetables otherwise. I could have had the bookmark in my mobile phone’s browser to get access to the same service as Widsets mostly did not do anything on it’s own, it just provided runtime environment to access many webservices in convenient and fast to use form. I hate to use the default web browser on my phone as it feels clunky to use. Widsets solved this problem, I did not need to type in urls – I just collected applications to my Widsets desktop and selected them from there. It was simple and it worked, and it sure did beat the experience of typing in The Economist rss-feed url into the browser. But I got over it, Nokia just downgraded the utility that I had on my phone.
Yesterday I finally took time and started to actually get into Nokia Ovi. I slept well, ate good breakfast and calmed my nerves. I’m gonna get through this, I’m gonna like this experience and I’m going to reset my phone back to the utility level that I had some time ago – I said to myself and started.
Creating account was quite easy and I got in. But before I get to Ovi Store, I had to download ’Ovi Synchronization’ to my phone, configure it to phone’s synchronization settings and synch my phone to the service. Even though it was just few steps, it felt cumbersome – especially as I only wanted to get to the Ovi Store, not to take advantage of synchronization services as I already synch my phone to my computer! Oh, and for some reason settings that came in the SMS message did not initially go into the menu. I had to go back to the message, reopen it and save settings again, before they came visible and I was able to do the synch. Small things. But I got forward. Oh joy!
I looked at the front page of Ovi service and had a strange moment. Is this what they have been up to? I can see my contacts, calendar and phone’s notes online? It’s like Google’s services, except crappier. Only thing that Google does not have is the mobile synchronization, but boy would I have been much more satisfied if I would have got a collaboration with Nokia and Google. Google providing slick web userinterface in their Google Calendar and other services and synchronization to my mobile phone. Second rate calendar and to do list is really no value AT ALL to me, and I doubt that it is any value to most of the users who use similar services at the moment. It is as if Nokia thought that hey:” we could try to pull the same thing off what Apple did with Mobile Me – never mind that they actually provided utility and great user experience, never mind that we are known to do half assed user experiences and don’t have any idea on what additional utility we could provide compared to our competitors. ”
Ovi Share is another example. It is photo sharing service, which should have easy connectivity from your mobile phone and unlimited storage. Sounds promising, but I was unable to take it into use. Instructions tell me that I should be able to upload images from my phone’s gallery, but I only have Flickr and Vox as options there. There is no information on how to configure my phone to use Ovi Share. I even tried to use instrcutions for older version of the phone and see if I could find update to the Online share-application from Nokia’s ’Download’-application, but no avail. Luckily Flickr exists and works. Sent email to Nokia, but don’t expect any replies soon.
And do I need to say anything about the Ovi Mail?
Music and games stores however look more promising. Unless you happen to use OS X or Linux, which shuts you out from the music store. Games store usability has more to hope, but atleast you can get some really cool Symbian / NGage games from there – so plusses to Nokia for that.
From business perspective there must be some reasons that are not immediately clear, why Nokia creates these Mee too services that are launched only to receive a big yawn from audiences in developed nations. Most likely there is a big plan relating to convergence and a common platform to provide services in less developed countries. Places where Apple and Google are not yet real competitors with their devices and services. Nokia’s services might be good enough to be used in South America, Africa or in India – where vast population is yet to jump on the internet and mobile bandvagon. Nokia’s platform play however can fail, if the platform is so horrible that users will not want to use it or if someone else builds a better ecosystem. Google might try to do it and large global operators like Vodaphone are already trying to do it.
The promise and idea of Ovi-platform is great. From software business point of view global marketplace for Symbian software with location aware recommendations, community and valuable content with one stop shopping opportunities sounds more than great. Based on even one article in ZDNet you can see what the difference in idea and goal – and actual execution and experience consumers see is.
Ovi aims to ”offer consumers relevant, targeted media through their social connections and their physical location information”, which atleast at the moment feels like something that is far, far, far away.
On the other hand Nokia might be trying on release early, release often type of strategy where they push services that are beta quality – or atleast do not yet fill the full promise – into the market, and will let market help them evolve services into something spectacular. However I doubt it, as everything on Ovi feels so unoriginal and non interesting. Nokia Ovi is clearly not a work of passion, but rather feels as a desperate attempt to get back into the game. I really, really hope that they will get some hard core bleeding heart product managers and people who can breathe passion and enthusiasm to those who are building these services as Nokia could have really terrific opportunities with value adding services, if implemented properly.
Lesson: If you are doing a ’me too’-service, for god’s sake please try to provide some utility, entertainment or value to the end user compared to the competitors.
Lesson: Expectations management. Set the stage for comparison that is beneficial for you, create low expectations and dazzle people with what you publish.
From usability and shopping experience perspectives Ovi Store is a disappointment. Ups, sorry. Meant to say HUGE disappointment.
I wonder what blind monkeys Nokia contracted to do design and user experience work for the Ovi Store, as it is horrible compared to almost any international webshop. It is filled with little gems of antiusability that makes your head hurt and really kicks out every last thought about buying anything, or taking things for a test drive. For example see below. If you browse applications from Business-category, what is the most prominent thing shown with each product after product’s icon? Is it product’s name? Is it product’s tagline? Is it the price? Is it the company making the product? Or is it the name of category you are browsing?
Small thing that just got my eye.
More troubeling for me was the whole layout of the Ovi Store. So much space was wasted for ad banner and navigation:
And when you open the navigation bar:
It almost feels like that Ovi Store is designed to take any pleasure out of finding and trying out something new. I was an eager beaver trying to find all the applications that I used to have in Nokia Widsets back to my phone, but quickly became frustrated. There was no Facebook-application or almost any other tool that I had on my Widsets page available. Some utilities seemed to be of limited value and overall there was little or no excitement about anything that I saw in the store, especially when even recommendations seem to produce just a big yawn.
Wallpapers and ringtones, loads of utilities that no-one gives a damn. I really tried, I tried to get excited, I tried to find something to get hyped about. But I got bored. Compare that the experience I get with The AppStore, where I would like to buy interesting and nice looking applications, even though I don’t even have iPhone yet!
Actual page for each product is quite good, and Nokia is really trying to make downloading software easier:
By writing your phonenumber you will get a download link to your phone. When following the link you must sign in ( with your Ovi account, even for free apps and content ) and download software to your mobile over network. You can’t – atleast I did not see a way to – download packages to your computer and then transfer them to the mobile, so be prepared to have unlimited data plan. Experience is better than it used to be, when you had to use Pc Suite – so Nokia is trying and learning, but it sure is still a long journey before Ovi is pleasure to use. It sure isn’t the appstore that entices people to try and buy. Note to any readers that I did not have the stomach to actually try to buy anything yet as I had read the reports about spectacular failures other had had.
As Nokia’s own standard browser is what it is, I decided to download Opera Mini and start to customize everything to it. By putting needed feeds and bookmarks into Opera, I could try to get all the things that I had in Widsets to my phone, and have them on my fingertips like I used to have. The value that widsets provided to me was greater usability on my mobile phone for certain webservices while I was on the run, but I will survive with what ever mobile versions those services have.
Lesson: Enduser experience matters more than Nokia seems to care. No matter how good the strategic intent, business model and idea behind Ovi is if Ovi platform becomes synonymous to irrelevant and boring even before the start
This experience that I have had with Ovi made me rather sad, as I really hoped it to be better, more relevant and more interesting than it is. I still have high hopes for Nokia, especially since I know that they do employ really smart and talented people who would like to make the world a better place. I really look forward what the future brings in new versions of the platform / services, and have my fingers crossed that there are people inside Nokia that share my hopes and want to save Ovi from irrelevance. Nokia can make great services and identify runaway successes when they encouter them, Nokia SportsTracker is a great example of that.
Ovi has a great promise, but yet needs to deliver.