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Vodafone India has launched a new mobile app store, VStore, in partnership with Appia, which has deployed its white-labelled app store solution for the telco. According to Vodafone, the app store features 10,000 free and paid apps for 3,500 different mobile handsets across Android, Java, Symbian and Blackberry platforms, featuring popular categories including games, entertainment, social networking and local culture. Vodafone claims that the catalog also includes a collection of content from local providers, including Hungama, Indiagames and Nazara, Spice, and Vodafone-branded apps like Portfolio Tracker, Vodafone TV, and Chhota Comics.

 

We tried browsing the app store through a link on the Vodafone Live portal on an Apple iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy SII handset. Some observations:

– Support for many devices: The app store features app for old platforms like Windows Mobile and even Palm 5. It also curates apps for the iPhone and offers App Store links, since Apple does not officially permit 3rd Party app stores. On the Galaxy SII, the app store recognized the phone and automatically displayed Android apps. It features a good collection of Android apps including apps from Hungama, OLX and others.

– Categories & Apps: The store offers apps across various categories including niche categories such as Medical, Databases and Document Management. In addition to mainstream apps, it features several trivial apps such as news feed readers, themes, and apps claiming to be signal boosters. We’d suggest that Vodafone should keep a check on these apps to ensure that only quality apps make it to the store.

– App Download page: Features the price, user reviews, minimum requirements and screen shots for the app. The My Downloads page keeps a record of the apps downloaded by the user previously, and facilitates redownloading of purchased apps.

– Browsing Charges: Despite subscribing to a 3G data plan, and using the same APN (Access Point Name) we were charged separately for browsing through the App store. The app store can not be browsed over a Wifi connection. We don’t understand why Vodafone charges separately for browsing its App store.

 

– App Billing: We tried buying and downloading an app and it worked fine. However, there was no additional SMS notification for the deduction.

– For Developers: Developers can submit apps to Appia for distribution through Vodafone and other operators’ app stores. Appia claims to have enrolled 32,000 developers and says that it distributes apps on app stores of its 40 partners including T-Mobile, Opera, Samsung and others. Signing up for the developer program is free. We don’t know about the revenue sharing arrangement between Vodafone and Appia.

Overall, the experience was a little better compared to some of the other operator app stores. Since, the Android Market does not support operator billing at the moment, there are more chances of Android users downloading paid apps through Vodafone’s store. However, we would like to see something like Getjar Gold or Amazon’s free app of the day on the store, to drive usage.