marketplace

We've received a number of reports that the Windows Phone Marketplace has been causing some issues at some point today, with the infamous "c101b001" error code when attempting to purchase (or download) an app. So far we're aware of trouble for the UK, U.S., Ireland, Netherlands and Italy.

The UK now has access again, so hopefully this is just a maintenance outage. Let us know in the comments should you be encountering problems, and which region you're accessing from. Some users have taken the issue to Microsoft Answers to seek assistance and populate a list of affected markets.

Thanks David (and everyone else) for the heads up!

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As you may have noticed by now, this week’s Xbox Live release, TextTwist 2, hasn’t shown up on the Marketplace. Nor has an older game’s price dropped as the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. It’s frustrating for folks like me who want to grab TextTwist and get their spelling on.

A little background info: the Windows Phone Marketplace usually updates during the wee hours of Wednesday morning in the US, though the actual update time is far more erratic than the Xbox 360 Marketplace. I’ve stopped staying up for it. Occasionally – maybe three or four times a year – the mobile Marketplace doesn’t update until later in the day (most recently in September). But it has always updated by Wednesday night, so we shouldn’t have to wait too terribly long for the new game and sale game to appear.

Speaking of the sale game, Microsoft didn’t announce it in advance like they usually do. Rumor has it that Flight Control may be the Deal of the Week, but nobody knows for sure. Keep checking back at WPCentral and we’ll let you know as soon as the Marketplace update goes live!

Update: Flight Control's price has dropped to $1.99 and TextTwist 2 is live. As for the delay, perhaps the snow in Washington mucked things up for our friends at microsoft. Thanks for the comments, everybody!

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Windows Phone Dashboard Beta [Developers]

As a developer I value feedback very highly. Every morning I habitually check for new reviews on my apps to see if there are any suggestions or complaints. I have a big whiteboard with a list of to-do's for each of my apps, and I add their feedback onto that. If you have anything in the Windows Phone Marketplace, I suggest you do the same, or find something similar that works for you - because there is no better way to not make money than to ignore the very people that should be paying you.

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AppFlow, a popular third-party Marketplace browser, has been updated to support all 36 international markets, which enables users to find apps in foreign Marketplaces regardless of the region you're located in. Lists within the app were specific to the U.S. market alone, so this is a welcomed update for us non-U.S. residents. The Marketplace that the app will use as preference can be altered in the "Info" tab, allowing on-the-fly switching.

As well as the above, lists in the app (that aren't themed - eg. "Best Mango Apps") will now be relevant for that particular region, and the ratings/reviews will reflect what is provided on that given Marketplace. App descriptions are also displayed in the region's language.

You can download AppFlow from the Marketplace for free. For more information surrounding the update, check out the press release found at the source linked below.

Source: Distinction

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Although on occasion certain apps may get by on the Marketplace, it seems once we get wind of it Microsoft acts swiftly. Such is the case with "spotify" a $0.99 app that reportedly looked like the official Spotify app.

It was unclear at the time of what the developer's motivation was here though it certainly looked suspicious. Now, Microsoft has reacted by removing the trademark-infringing app from the Marketplace. It does not appear that any action has been taken against the developer as his other apps, Stock Today and AllSportz which are legitimate and free are still available.

At least new customers won't be caught off guard by the Doppelganger anymore and hopefully this will a rare happening in our Marketplace.

Thanks, Den, for the heads up!

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Over at the Windows Phone Developer Blog Todd Brix just announced that with the new year comes new markets for Windows Phone. Since the initial release of Windows Phone the geographic availability of the Marketplace has been spreading, and with this there are 6 new markets: Argentina, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and the Philippines.

In the post he mentions that this does not mean that those markets are available to WP7 users there just yet, but rather that developers can now publish their application there in anticipation.

There are also a few extra rules which govern what content will pass certification. So if you have an application that may possibly have questionable content I would suggest publishing it first to the rest of the world, and then these new markets, to make sure you don't get stuck in certification hell.

With the these new rules in-place I imagine that quite a few developers will not be able to get their applications to these areas:

Examples of potentially offensive content in certain countries/regions include, but are not limited to the following:
• People in revealing clothing or in sexually suggestive poses
• Religious references
• Alcohol references
• Sexual or bathroom humor
• Simulated or actual gambling

However that's not totally a bad thing, because from the look of it these markets will never have to deal with any fart-apps!

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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On December 20, a fake Spotify app surfaced in the Marketplace.  It is published by a user called khanamish and is selling for $.99, as opposed the official Spotify, which can be downloaded for free.  Other signs to look for to differentiate between the two are that the real Spotify is listed with a capital "S" in the title and uses the Spotify logo, whereas the fake one's icon actually has the word "Spotify" as its icon.  The fake also only has two reviews, one of which flat out calls it a scam.  We're not exactly ready to do that ourselves, but we will question the developer's motives and tell you to steer clear of it.  At the very least, why pay when you can the official app at no cost?

Khanamish has two other apps in the Marketplace, Stock Today and AllSportz.  Both have the same look as the Spotify rip-off, but both are free, so maybe they are legit.  We're not looking to make trouble for any devs, but khanamish's Spotify app is dubious and warrants being called out.  If anyone out there has used this or any other app by this developer, we'd certainly like to get your feedback.

Thanks to Den for alerting us to this!

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Happy Holidays everyone! With some of our readers finding a new Windows Phone under the tree or getting their Windows Phone Marketplace gift card in the mail, we thought it was a good time to throw out some app suggestions. We've polled our staff and have come up with a few games and apps that we think every Windows Phone should have. Or in the least, we highly recommend you give them a try.

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Free gadgets for UK dev's [Developers]

Yesterday we covered The Developer Movement where Microsoft Canada was giving away goodies to developers for publishing apps.
Apologies for this being rather delayed but we have good news for those of you in the UK! A while back MSDN UK started their own promotion where you get 1 point for every app you publish in the Marketplace.  You can then redeem those points for gadgetry by either saving up the points for something big, or just redeeming them for prizes as you go.

Here's a brief summary of some of the prizes, but be sure to hit the source link to go find out the rest:

For 1 point:
  • Pure One Mini Black Compact Radio
  • A 12 month magazine subscription
  • A Champagne Afternoon Tea for 2
     
For 4 points:
  • A Pocket Cinema Projector
  • An Xbox 360 Console (250GB HDD)
  • A Performance Car Experience

There are additional benefits if you are a student.

The closing date is the 5th of February, so I recommend stocking up on your energy drink of choice ASAP.

Source: MSDN UK Team Blog

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We haven't been covering the whole "Marketplace hits XXX" for awhile now, mostly because it got old, but we're returning for 'the big fiddy' aka 50,000. According to All About Windows Phone, the app store is now at 50,126 items with 17k apps being added within the last 90 days. In fact, though it took a year to hit 40,000 apps in the Marketplace, another 10,000 were added just in the last 40 days, which hints at a strong improvement in rate-of-growth.

However, some caveats do apply here. While there are over 50k apps, not all are available in all regions and some have been pulled by the publisher or Microsoft, meaning they are no longer available. In that sense, the numbers are a little more sobering: "US (42,655), UK (40,305), France (39,235), Spain (37,027), Italy (36,944), Germany (36,958), Australia (37,024), India (36,752) and Singapore (36,922)".

All About Windows Phone also points out though that average number of submissions is now 265 a day which is almost double what it was a month ago when it was just 165--that increase in submissions is most likely due to increased awareness since the Gen 2 devices launched, especially Nokia's push in Europe and Asia.

Other interesting stats note that 58% of apps are free on the Windows Phone Marketplace, with 14% being paid with free trial and 29% are just paid. This figure puts WP7 right in between Android (69% free/31% paid) and iOS (43% free/57% paid).

Finally, rate of growth is important to look at with Windows Phone taking 14 months to reach 50k while Android took 19 months and iOS did it in just 12. The Android numbers show how even a slow-start can lead to explosive growth when all the right pieces are in place (e.g. device availability, advertising, etc.) while iOS was a bit different since it already had around 4 million users even before it launched the Marketplace (that's actually quite impressive). Sill, the Windows Phone Marketplace numbers show very strong growth and it is still very much a competitor against Android and iOS--given enough time.

Source: All About Windows Phone; Thanks, James, for the tip!

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Did you get a shiny lump of coal for Christmas? Not planning on keeping it until the world's reserves run low? Don't worry, Microsoft has your back! The good people over at Microsoft Canada have just started a promotion entitled "The Developer Movement" where they are handing out cool toys to dev's just for publishing high-quality apps to the Windows Phone Marketplace up until May 20'th 2012.

So what do you get? It's based on how many apps you publish within that time, and here are the rewards:

PUBLISH 1 QUALITY APP  
       Select a reward below:

  • A Kinect™ Sensor for Xbox 360®
  • 10,000 Microsoft Points
  • Monster® Beats™ Headphones
  • A 1TB External HD

PUBLISH 2 QUALITY APPS
      Select a reward below:

  •     A Windows® Phone 7
  •     A $500 Gift Voucher
  •     35,000 Microsoft Points
  •     An Xbox 360® with Kinect Bundle

PUBLISH 3 QUALITY APPS
      Your apps will be considered by our judges for publicity across:

  •     The Xbox Newsletter
  •     The Xbox Live Dashboard
  •     MSDN Website
  •     MSDN Flash Newsletter
  •     Canadian Developer Blog

The website also mentions that the first 200 people that register (for the Developer Movement) may get their AppHub account for free. So if you're a Canadian developer then what are you waiting for? It really is a win-win offer.

Cool, eh?

Source: The Developer Movement; Thanks, @archiecoder, for the tip!

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Feed Me removed from the Marketplace

For those not familiar, Feed Me is a well laid out RSS reader for your Windows Phone (here's our review). We've been contacted by the developer of Feed Me, forty3degrees, and informed that the Windows Phone app has been temporarily removed from the Marketplace.

"Feed Me will be temporarily removed from the marketplace within the next few days. Due to personal reasons I am unable to further develop or support feed me for the immediate future. However, I do hope to have a new version back online towards the end of the first quarter of 2012.Thanks go out to all of the people that have supported feed me over the last 10 months."

The developer is considering publishing an unsupported beta version of Feed Me until he can get a new version back on the Marketplace. You can reach out to forty3degrees through their website or Twitter account (@forty3degrees) should you need to reinstall Feed Me or voice your support for the Windows Phone app.

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The idea of an alternative to the Windows Phone Marketplace, one based on homebrew and freeware analogous to the iOS Cydia, has been kicking since Day 1 (see this early attempt). But with the increasingly wide spread availability of official unlocking opportunities e.g. ChevronWP7 Labs, the notion has become more reasonable, mostly due to the increase number of users.

Over at XDA, 'BAZAAR' has launched as an early beta for those interested in taking it for a spin. The alternative Marketplace won't be confined to the strict, seemingly arbitrary rules of the official Marketplace (see Ffffound) but it also won't be a haven for cracked or pirated apps. Instead, this will be a source for developers to distribute their homebrew apps that Microsoft would not approve as well as standard freeware apps.

That's the good news. But here's the bad: you need to have a DFT, NextGen or Deepshining Custom ROM installed on your phone i.e. a ROM that supports XAP-installation by IE9 (yeah, you can do that in a custom ROM). That's a shame and quite a big limitation right now as going the custom ROM route cuts out a huge chunk of potential users, including all Gen 2 devices. Still, it's an initial framework and we can hope that there will be a breakthrough where this will be allowed

The app itself only allows browsing right now as they work on getting permissions for the repository. The developers are looking for user feedback from those with custom ROMs and will be adding the following features in the future:

  • Creating an account within Bazaar
  • Managing favorites applications list and the ability to download and install them as a batch process (very useful after reset/flashing new ROM version)
  • Add ratings and comments for applications
  • Submit new applications via Bazaar web site
  • Online search in Bazaar applications repository
  • And many more…

It is cool looking and we hope the start of something bigger. Maybe Microsoft could land a hand to an unofficial Marketplace?

Source: XDA; Thanks, Carlos, for the tip!

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A few weeks ago we highlighted a new app called Ffffound by developer RogueCode. The app, based off of the website Ffffound.com, quickly became one of the more popular apps in the Marketplace, earning excellent reviews from users. The app pulls images from Ffffound.com and allows the user to view, save, favorite and even share the images in a elegant and beautiful way.

However, there were some memory issues with the app, causing crashes on the Samsung Focus. The developer quickly dispatched an update to fix that but in turn, that broke the 'save' option for many users. Not to be deterred, RogueCode quickly sent out another update but this one hit a snag: Microsoft suddenly rejected it based on the grounds that the app showed 'adult content', specifically images with partial nudity. 

Now the developer is in a bind: he can't filter those images automatically and therefore can't push out his update. He would, in essence, have to filter them manually resulting in large delays before you saw the image--not to mention all the work involved. Result? Consumers lose.

This is reminiscent of the app ImageWind, which pulled a stream of photos from Twitter. That app too was pulled from the Marketplace only to appear months later with a 'safety filter'. Now, in doing this story, we learned that app received another update (v1.3) and they have completely removed the Twitter feed altogether as Microsoft still wasn't happy with the "Flickr as a filter' option. ImageWind is now just a Flickr-streaming app, losing its original purpose.

So we ask the question: Does Microsoft need to revise its policy on 'adult content'? Perhaps offering a way for us adults (the majority) to opt-in? We of course think so but we want to hear what you have to say. And maybe, just maybe, Microsoft will listen.

In the meantime, we're not sure what will happen to Ffffound, which is a real shame.

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Just a quick follow up on an earlier story about Microsoft updating it's EULA on the Marketplace.  If you are in the Windows Phone Marketplace Online shopping for an app and see a warning message that reads,

"It looks like there's a problem with your Zune Account or you haven't created one yet. You need a working Zune account to get apps from Marketplace."

Microsoft hasn't necessarily revoked your Zune Account.  You just need to accept the new terms before you can resume your online Marketplace activities.  Just scanning the rather lengthy and wordy Terms of Service document, it appears the changes concentrate on XBox Live services, legal terms and dispute resolution.

If you hit the "Edit or Create Zune Account" link you are sent to a summary of the update where you can review the changes and accept them. Once you accept the changes, your Marketplace account is restored and you can return to buying your app.  You can find the full TOS from Microsoft here.

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An interesting thing happened yesterday which we chose to not cover in detail. In short, someone published an app to the Windows Phone Marketplace that was pirated. Specifically it was a popular GPS navigation app which cost a good amount of money.  The person responsible presumably ripped the original XAP from the Marketplace and simply re-submitted it, pawning it off as their own.

Did they try to make money from it? Nope, they did something possibly worse--they offered it for free.

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We like single case studies. You get exceptional detail and that personal touch. We also know you can't extrapolate the result to every similar situation, but they are useful for drawing some conclusions. For example, a few months ago, we wrote about about a Mortal Kombat guide for Windows Phone versus its Android version (Part 1, Part 2), with the former having a higher return in ad-revenue. Now we turn to a case with iOS.

The story is told by Anlock, who specialize in child-learning apps for mobile platforms. They make the same apps for both iOS and Windows Phone except that the iOS version is "more enhanced". They were making only iOS apps but were persuaded to try their hand at Windows Phone--since they had all the content, porting was easy. On both platforms their apps received the same 4 and 5 star reviews and both were even featured at some point in the Marketplace and App Store. The only difference between the two, really, was Anlock tried an "extensive advertising campaign" with iOS (that failed) whereas on WP7, they had no out-of-pocket advertising program. So what was the outcome?

"In terms of ranking, our WP7 app has been number 1 in the US in the Kids + Family category for the past three months in the Marketplace. As for the iPhone app, it has been ranked in the top 400 in Games\Educational for more than 2/3 of the entire time frame, reaching the top 100.

The end result? As said, FIVE time more sales of our WP7 app vs. our iPhone app."

The next question of course is, why the difference?

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Microsoft is launching a developer competition with some exciting prizes. Should you have one or more game titles on the Windows Phone Marketplace then you will be in with a chance on getting your hands on a Dell Alienware M18x gaming laptop (3 winners chosen by random) or an Xbox LIVE Gold Card (25 winners selected on a weekly basis). Oh, and if you're a developer who has used Windows Azure to develop your game, you'll receive two entries for that title.

So check out the Microsoft User Community Facebook page for more information and to enter the competition (you have to "Like" the page to be able to enter). Be sure to read through the rules when you get a moment (note that this competition is available to the U.S. only). The entry period to submit your application is from November 30th to February 29th. See the below chart for more detail regarding the sweepstake stages.

Source: Facebook (Microsoft User Community)

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We reviewed the 3rd party app Cracked Reader back in September and we had also helped recruit some beta testers for it earlier. Cracked Reader was a solid app for the humor site Cracked.com--elegant, smooth, lots of options. It even got a free-trial later on. But now the developer, Nash Bansal, has had his app pulled from the Marketplace by Microsoft.

Reason? For "...infringing on demand media's trademark and unlawfully republishes content from the http://cracked.com site".

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Cracked.com launched their official app just days ago in the Marketplace. That app is free and not half bad but it's honestly not as impressive as Cracked Reader. Which is probably why Demand Media wanted to eliminate their competition. Sure, they had a legally sound reason to do so, no argument there, but there are plenty of paid apps that do pull feeds and which haven't been pulled. Heck, there's a terrible unofficial WPCentral reader out there too. Lucky us.

It might have been preferable for Demand Media to just partner with Bansal, but probably due to the timing with their developer team (Nventive), it would have been difficult. Still, it's a shame to see such innovation crushed for basically a lesser app in the Marketplace. Lets just hope other media companies don't get the same idea from this precedent.

Source: Twitter 1, 2

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We've been following the Marketplace closely since the platform officially launched in October of last year. The statistics has always made us quietly giggle to ourselves with the growth Windows Phone has witnessed in terms of quality apps being submitted and developers establishing themselves compared to Android and iOS. Distimo, a mobile analytics firm, has published Marketplace data in some pretty charts and graphs. Starting with the image above, we can see the steady growth of the Marketplace, which is well on its way to the 50,000 marker, and compare the increase of paid and free apps with the number of publishers.

From launch 70% of available apps were paid, and this trend continued until early this year where an influx of free apps stormed the Marketplace - accompanied by spam. You'll notice a growth halt between June and July this year, which was due to Microsoft decreasing the number of apps a developer can publish a day with similar functionality. Check out a few more charts after the break that run through app breakdown, the comparison of downloads between Apple and Windows Phone with top 300 free and paid apps, and the number of apps available in countries.

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