WP7's Zune-based Marketplace is subpar

Ready for the release of Windows Phone 7, Zune has been updated to version 4.7. This new version includes the ability for a user to synchronise to and download applications for a WP7. No one expects everything to be perfect at launch, but after playing with Zune 4.7, one has to wonder how much thought was actually put into the PC version of WP7’s marketplace. Let’s go through some of the issues that are immediately apparent:

Invisible tiles

Note the blank tiles in the above picture. At first you might assume that they’re still downloading from the Internet. The truth is that the developers of those applications decided to use transparent PNGs for their tiles with a white image, and Zune isn’t designed to handle that (showing the white image on a white background). For those that aren’t aware, those tiles will be the colour your chosen accent color when installed onto your phone.

Screenshots aren’t as they should be

  

First, many of the screenshots are show at the wrong orientation. It’s probably not a complicated issue to solve, but it’s important. Most people aren’t as skilled at sideways-reading as they are at normal reading.

The second issue is that they’re at such a low resolution that you can’t really see what’s happening a lot of the time. Considering the devices specifications, the screenshots should be at 800x480px – surely Microsoft can muster up the extra storage space that would be needed for bigger screenshots.

Language issues

      

This Zune client is set for English (Australia), so what’s an application doing there that’s described completely in another language? Shouldn’t Microsoft have picked this up during the approval process? Displaying foriegn languages applications to a user isn't necessarily bad, but you’d expect Microsoft to at least provide translated descriptions.

Other annoyances

Going through every little quirk in the Zune software could take some time, so here’s a brief summary of some of the ones not discussed above:

  • There’s no ability to click on a developer’s name and see all applications by that developer – not even an option to see official Microsoft applications listed.
  • At this time, there’s no ‘premium certification’ to separate crapware from applications that have had real thought put into them.
  • Some of the tiles look terrible, and won’t do any justice to WP7 if placed on the start screen.
  • Location specific applications (such as a timetable application for Seattle’s public transport system) are shown to everyone, and it’s not until you read the description that you realise that the offending application isn’t for you.
  • Zune user pictures aren’t synchronised with XBL user pictures.

Of course, a lot of this will change in the coming few months after WP7 goes public. Let’s just hope that Microsoft gets on top of it quickly, and keeps giving WP7 the attention it’ll need to fend off the fierce competition. As it stands now though, the desktop WP7 Marketplace experience is definitely subpar.

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62 Comments

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So in other words, it's on par with the Android Market experience.

At least, that's what it seems like your article is saying.

Annoying picture orientations? Try that ON the phone itself, which is great in the Android market, when you go to tilt your phone to see it sideways, and it just rotates the picture to keep it poorly oriented.

The same language problem also exists in the Android Market. By now we're all used to seeing a handful of Japanese RPGs, Korean train apps, and Chinese...not sure what. The best part is, there's absolutely no way to filter these out. None. In fact, 'filters' aren't something Google has spent much time bothering with at all.

Same for location-specific apps. And same for 'ugly' apps. In fact, this article could almost read word-for-word as an Android critique.

And do ANY markets have premium certification...? I've never even heard of such a thing.

Classy .. I am pretty it will be improved sooner than later.. and it can be used wherever you want even if don't own a zune player or a WP7 phone ...your steer your own boat...

First impressions are important and a lot of people will being seeing these Zune Marketplace screens for the very first time when they plug in their new and shiny WinPh7. First impressions are important. Mom and Aunty wont appreciate icon sizes, transparent tiles or seeing stuff in another language.

derekaw said,
First impressions are important and a lot of people will being seeing these Zune Marketplace screens for the very first time when they plug in their new and shiny WinPh7. First impressions are important. Mom and Aunty wont appreciate icon sizes, transparent tiles or seeing stuff in another language.

This is not a problem in the Windows Phone Market on the phone though.

Apparently developers are aware of this problem also. Here's a quote from Pictures Lab developer:

"Rene Schulte
To the author:
Hi, I'm the developer of the Pictures Lab app.
First of all thanks for the kind words. A lot of work went into this and I have more to come. Follow @PicturesLab if you want to get all the updates.
The problem with the Marketplace icons: The same icon size is used as for the app's tile image, which should be transparent for the best experience. But the Marketplace / Zune does not work very well with transparent icons. There's no hint or documentation anywhere that explicitly tells you that. I know that some apps use a white logo on a transparent background. Obvisiously this doesn't work with a white Zune background.
Many devs already submitted updates that will bring new icons. Please keep in mind that the Marketplace has not opened officially and some things aren't perfect right now.
Landscape mode: Only 480x800 sized screenshots are allowed for Marketplace submission. Unfortunately 800x480 can't be submitted at the moment. Pictures Lab for example supports landscape mode. Please see the Marketplace description for details.
Just a few words for the WP7 haters: Wait until you used a production (!) device (not a developer prototype) for a while before you judge this platform. I own an iPhone 3GS and used several Androids. The touch experience of WP7 is outstanding and the overall usability way better. Going back to the iPhone feels so outdated whenever I work with WP7."

Well ,what else can you expect? It's been the same as Xbox since it's inception - the only way you can change those details is to specifically email support and ask them to do it - but honestly what do you expect Microsoft to do? You put in fake details, it's not their problem.

GP101 said,
Oh you might want to have a look at this... not good news...

http://www.winextra.com/archiv...our-way-and-its-gonna-hurt/


It's been that way for years. And was designed to prevent people abusing the Zune / MS store by buying something thats cheaper in one store, and then using it in a different country. Or using products not licensed for sale in one country, by buying it from another.

Yes it sucks that Microsoft doesn't realize that sometimes people emigrate, but the blame also lies on people who abuse the service by putting in fake information.

Considering the devices specifications, the screenshots should be at 800x480px - surely Microsoft can muster up the extra storage space that would be needed for bigger screenshots.

The screenshot size is fine here on a 1920x1200. I don't want it taking up 1/4th my screen just to see a screenshot of an application. And no, WP7 also supports devices with HVGA screens: 480x320

This Zune client is set for English (Australia), so what's an application doing there that's described completely in another language?

And what if I was an Italian living in Australia and wanted an Italian app for w/e reason? Should I have to change my zune's language just to see that?

At this time, there's no ‘premium certification' to separate crapware from applications that have had real thought put into them.

What? Why should there be? That would just **** of devs, its up to the community to rate apps.

Some of the tiles look terrible, and won't do any justice to WP7 if placed on the start screen.

And some of the applications on Android / iOS / Symbian look terrible too. Your point?

Location specific applications (such as a timetable application for Seattle's public transport system) are shown to everyone, and it's not until you read the description that you realise that the offending application isn't for you.

Yet again, what if I wanted to visit Seattle and wanted to know the bus timetable? Should I have to change my Windows location just to see those applications?

Maybe the developer should have named his application, Seattle bus timetable?

Zune user pictures aren't synchronised with XBL user pictures.

2 different accounts. Not a problem.

They should add videos, sometimes screenshots are not as good as videos. Developers should have the option to upload small video previews of their applications.

Transparent icons are not Microsoft's problem, its lazy developers not taking the time to make the appropriate artwork.

The size of the screenshots for apps, depends on the size of the Zune window on the screen. Full sized screenshots appear on the phone, and may appear on the web version of the app marketplace.

The current app marketplace is in a testing state at the moment, so eventually the apps you see will depend on the markets chosen by the developer on submission.

XBL avatars, is such a moot point. Its possible for you to download the gamer picture and use it for your zune image, if you wish, but no way should it be done by default.

Premium Certification, this is currently there if your game is Xbox Live compatible. If a developer wants to make their app appealing, they should get a designer to make their marketplace artwork! Its not up to marketplace to devote resources to making trashy apps look less trashy. These apps and devs will be punished with lack of sales and lack of downloads.

And finally to the person who hates the Zune UI, FCUK You, and FCUK off to the android or iOS app stores! No offense!!

martinDTanderson said,
Transparent icons are not Microsoft's problem, its lazy developers not taking the time to make the appropriate artwork.

But this should have been caught in the approval process.

JonathanMarston said,

But this should have been caught in the approval process.

For the most part, the approval process is automated. I hope Microsoft does add some bold text to the submission artwork page specifying NO TRANSPARENCY IN IMAGES

Half of these complaints are a joke.

- Why should an Italian developer write an English description if the target audience is Italian?
- Why shouldn't I be able to see a Seattle timetable if I plan to go there in the future?
- Why is your subjective opinion of how good or bad tiles look relevant?
- Why would I want to use my XBL avatar in my phone?
- Why is there a need for "premium certification" AFTER the app already has been reviewed? You're basically asking for a way to suck even more money out of developers.

Go away.

JHH said,
Half of these complaints are a joke.

- Why should an Italian developer write an English description if the target audience is Italian?
- Why shouldn't I be able to see a Seattle timetable if I plan to go there in the future?
- Why is your subjective opinion of how good or bad tiles look relevant?
- Why would I want to use my XBL avatar in my phone?
- Why is there a need for "premium certification" AFTER the app already has been reviewed? You're basically asking for a way to suck even more money out of developers.

Go away.

+1

This is why MS did the smart thing and got the Zune 4.7 update out now and not when phones shipped, these things can get looked at and fixed quicker. I wouldn't be surprised at all if we don't get another minor 4.7 update (still 4.7 but a different build, like 4.7.1 if you will) that fixes things.

On the other hand they might just wait to fix everything and add new stuff in 5.0 but it doesn't seem like we'll get that till 2011, I hope it's sooner rather than later though.

Drunken Beard said,
And this is news why ? This is forum thread material, but news ?

I agree. Are these supposed to be news stories where you simply report facts or are they opinion pieces? This post is obviously an opinion/review. It really should be stated as such and not reported in the "news" section or at least put "review" in the title so we know it's an opinion piece and not a factual report.

Drunken Beard said,
And this is news why ? This is forum thread material, but news ?

If websites, especially news websites, don't make a fuss, the companies won't know.

I agree totally with this write up, while the devices aren't on sale until next week the Zune marketplace for apps is lacking for all the reasons above. MS need to polish this up and quick, at present it looks dreadful, as they control the store there is no reason for bad presentation and its dreadful that the marketplace is not location aware, it should show apps based on location first then give you an option to drill down if you want to look at other locations? I love the Zune software and feel totally disappointed by this update (did anyone notice the anaemic background options got even more white for instance, MY EYES!!!) and can only hope (as Paul T mentions) that a major version is out soon in 2011. Beyond the Apps the zune service in general for myself is still unable to suggest music based on what I have listened to, even though I have listened to over 10,000 tracks and liked allot of things, since they are into partnering more these days on services a quick hook up with LastFM would be awesome just for their much more extensive music database and suggestions etc. As I say I love the zune but this service needs to grow up and stop being a minor project. They also need to bite the bullet and make a MAC version of Zune instead of a simple client to sync certain things.
Microsoft are not controlling the hardware, all they need to do now is make sure the service they offer is awesome and based on this first look they have ALLOT of work to do quick!

As someone else just said, this is complaining for the sake of complaining, it's not perfect but it's far more polished than anything on Android (love my Galaxy S, hate hunting for apps). And I'll take the Zune software over iTunes ANY DAY. It might not be perfect, but it will get better.

To the language thing, this is common place on the Android Marketplace and iOS AppStore. I don't think much can really be done about it, just fact of life I think.

Xerxes said,
To the language thing, this is common place on the Android Marketplace and iOS AppStore. I don't think much can really be done about it, just fact of life I think.

Well, Google Translator DOES a good job on identifying language, so it puzzles me as to why Android Marketplace is that way.

Hmmm.....I just took a look through the Marketplace and I have to say that your rating of the Marketplace as subpar is bull****! I say this because the quality of the screenshots presented varies with each app. Some are quire good while the ones presented in your opinion are quite bad.

Yes, I agree that the shots should be presented in the landscape view if the app was running in that view and also agree with your other points but subpar is really stretching it.

Subpar doesn't mean it's dirt, simply that it's not up to the standards that users expect these days. I have faith that the marketplace will get better very quickly, but right now it needs a lot of work.

Brody McKee said,
Subpar doesn't mean it's dirt, simply that it's not up to the standards that users expect these days. I have faith that the marketplace will get better very quickly, but right now it needs a lot of work.

I think every product isn't quite ready for the users, since before wide testing you can't be sure of users' needs. The question is, how long will it take for Microsoft to update the software as issues are found?

Clearly some oversights on Microsoft's behalf. The whole of Windows Phone 7 is a work in progress though, that's kinda what's exciting about it in a funny way. It's a great starting platform that will definitely take market share away from Android.

Tom W said,
Clearly some oversights on Microsoft's behalf. The whole of Windows Phone 7 is a work in progress though, that's kinda what's exciting about it in a funny way. It's a great starting platform that will definitely take market share away from Android.

Will It?

The Halo said,

Will It?


It's very likely it will. When I get some money, I'm certainly opting for a Windows Phone 7 phone.

I think a lot of these are child's diseases, although the screenshot orientation problem looks annoying and also hard to fix for Microsoft coding-wise. It's hard for an automated algorithm to tell the orientation. They need to let the authors tell how they should be oriented, as simple as that.

That tiles can look terrible is something I think users will forever have to live with. It's the same issue as horrible icons in Windows. Unless MS goes really strict about this, but they have never done so in the past with either icons or UI guidelines. Windows is notorious for having very diverse interfaces, even if only counting those from Microsoft. This kind of unrestricted artistic freedom that is a double-edged sword is simply "Microsoft" to me.

Northgrove said,
I think a lot of these are child's diseases, although the screenshot orientation problem looks annoying and also hard to fix for Microsoft coding-wise. It's hard for an automated algorithm to tell the orientation. They need to let the authors tell how they should be oriented, as simple as that.

Yeah the orientation thing seems to be easily fixable, it won't require a client update just a server side update.
That tiles can look terrible is something I think users will forever have to live with. It's the same issue as horrible icons in Windows. Unless MS goes really strict about this, but they have never done so in the past with either icons or UI guidelines. Windows is notorious for having very diverse interfaces, even if only counting those from Microsoft. This kind of unrestricted artistic freedom that is a double-edged sword is simply "Microsoft" to me.

Having gone through the app market place i agree with most of points.

Alot of these issue are pretty obvious and I wonder if they are still working on a final Zune software for the WP7 launch. I had expected a Zune version 5.0 not 4.*.

Anyways point like terrible looking tile are beyond Microsoft control, what are they gonna do reject the app? at a time that they need all the developers they can get.

Also why should your Zune user pictures be synchronized with XBL user pictures. its two separate services, and its better that way.

Joho said,
Also why should your Zune user pictures be synchronized with XBL user pictures. its two separate services, and its better that way.
It would be good to have the choice, as the accounts are linked anyway. But I agree that it shouldn't be mandatory.

Brody McKee said,
It would be good to have the choice, as the accounts are linked anyway. But I agree that it shouldn't be mandatory.

It DEFINITELY shouldn't be mandatory. Specially since there is Zune social. I don't want my real pics on XBL, and I don't want my XBL pic on Zune social.

Joho said,

Anyways point like terrible looking tile are beyond Microsoft control,

Also worth pointing out that developers specifically choose to have their application listed in different regions, even if they're not in the same language - it's not something Microsoft just does. And on the issue of screenshots - this is also the developers fault (maybe partly Microsoft). MS ask developers to submit their own screenshots, upto the full 800 x 480, but of course many developers will find it difficult to get a full shot of the emulator at full size unless they have a screen res greater than 1920x1080, which quite a few don't, so they submit lower resolution screenshots.

Joho said,
Alot of these issue are pretty obvious and I wonder if they are still working on a final Zune software for the WP7 launch. I had expected a Zune version 5.0 not 4.*.

This is funny. You do realize that version numbering is largely trivial, right?
This was going to be Zune 5.0 but (as discussed on the Zune Insider Podcast) they decided to number it 4.7 because of a pun. Read the number, no period, you'll get Four Seven, which sounds like "For Seven" as in for WP7