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Some interesting AU Windows Phone ownership stats..

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A couple of weeks ago I updated a couple of my popular Aussie Windows Phone sports apps (AU Footy 2013 + AU League 2013) to support Live Tiles (via Azure/WNS Push Notifications) – and a quite a number of the existing users have enabled it since receiving the update.

As part of the subscription process (invoked when a user nominates to receive live tiles), the system has been collecting (non personal) information on the Windows device being used (in order to target the required specs/resolutions for the live rendered tile images and content).  This information includes the device Manufacturer/Model and the current Windows Phone o/s version (ie. whether they are running 7.1, 7.8 or 8.0 etc).

I’ve been monitoring these stats (via a stats page I drummed up) and was somewhat surprised at the results I was seeing. Over past few days these stats have stabilized somewhat – with the %’s starting to stay pretty fixed even though many users were still signing up (so from this I think I’ve got a pretty good/representative sample size at this point).  The second of these apps (AU League 2013) was delayed by Marketplace certification woes – so although that’s only just been made available – the stats coming in from that app are pretty much identical to the Footy app (and are included in the overall sample).

Apart from the curiosity factor of seeing what’s up in the Australian WP marketplace – these stats of course are invaluable as a planning tool for what WP Devices/Versions and resolutions I need to focus on for upcoming new Apps + App updates.

NB: These apps (AU Footy 2013, AU League 2013) support all current versions of Windows Phone (7.1 through to 8.0) including LMD (Low Memory Device) handsets – so no users/devices were excluded from being able to download or use these apps (available to 100% of devices which can install apps from WP Marketplace).  One important requirement to be included in these stats however were that they had purchased the app.

tldr stats analysis

Of my subscribed users/devices surveyed – WP8 now has 80% share and of the remaining 20% less than a quarter of those are running 7.1 (everyone else has 7.8). It appears everyone loves and buys Nokia handsets (87% of market)  – in particular the Lumia 920 (56.2% of all devices) – however budget WP handsets have failed to bring any sizable boom in app sales.

Read below for breakdowns of these stats and thoughts….

Windows Phone O/S Breakdown.

The primary interest I had in analysing these stats was to know what %’s of the market have the different WP O/S versions. As an App developer, this is important to me as there’s currently some tough choices and tradeoffs you need to make when deciding what you will target. For example – if you develop a WP8 app you get a lot of extra API functions like lock screen support (that customers are crying out for) – but at the same time you eliminate anyone with WP7 handsets from your potential customer base.

Of devices surveyed here are the breakdowns (percentages round up to 1 decimal place so may not equal 100%).

Windows Phone O/S Percentage of Surveyed Users
8.0 79.1%
7.8 16.4%
7.1 (aka Mango) 4.5%

After a year of a lot of device fragmentation since launch – it looks like WP8 is really starting to become the platform to target – with almost 80% penetration.  This is pretty good news for developers (and users with 8.0 handsets).  The other good news is if developers want to include support for new wide + small tiles in Apps – over 95.5% of devices will be able to use them (ie. those with 7.8 and 8.0 handsets).

Note that some of the 7.1 devices simply don’t have a 7.8 update available (and may never will) – but it’s good to know that ~80% of 7.1 users have updated their handsets so far.

Windows Phone Manufacturer Breakdown.

Knowing which manufacturers are moving handsets is probably more of a curiosity – however the results were quite surprising. Whilst  it was probably pretty obvious Nokia was the dominant player in the WP space – I hadn’t realized just how large this market share was.

Of devices surveyed here are the breakdowns (percentages round up to 1 decimal place so may not equal 100%).

Manufacturer Percentage of Surveyed Users
Nokia 87.1%
HTC 11.1%
Samsung 1.6%
LG 0.2%

Yes – you read that correctly – Nokia have a massive 87.1% of the WP market – a staggering lead (and well deserved). Everyone else is an ‘also ran’ with HTC making the only meaningful indent into the market.

Windows Phone Handset Breakdown.

Again quite a few surprises here.  From the figures observed – it seems that the high end devices are definitely the ones of choice for users  – and the budget handsets from Nokia + HTC seem to be hardly making any indent at all.  It turns out over half of the market actually own Nokia Lumia 920’s – that’s awesome!

Of devices surveyed here are the breakdowns (percentages round up to 1 decimal place so may not equal 100%) – here are the Top ones..

Handset Model Percentage of Surveyed Users
Nokia Lumia 920 56.2%
Nokia Lumia 800 10.7%
Nokia Lumia 820 8.8%
HTC 8X 4.7%
Nokia Lumia 925 3.2%
HTC Mozart 2.4%
Nokia Lumia 620 1.9%
Nokia Lumia 520 1.6%
Nokia Lumia 900 1.5%
Nokia Lumia 710 1.5%
Nokia Lumia 720 1.1%
HTC HD7 1%

Other handsets with Marketshare of 0.5-1% included : HTC Radiant, HTC 8s, Omnia 7, Samsung ATIV S, HTC Titan, Nokia Lumia 610…   Many other handsets showed up in the sample too – but had such small numbers I won’t mention them here.

At least one user had a Nokia Lumia 1020 (I’m very jealous).

However, I was somewhat disappointed by the really low numbers for the budget WP devices (such as Lumia 6xx/5xx devices and the HTC 8s) – which only accounted for around ~5% of the sample.

As a WP developer – I like others was looking forward to the anticipated growth in WP market share that these devices were going to bring (which would of course – we hoped – mean lots of new users and potential customers). These figures tell me something completely different though – it’s not made a whole lot of difference to my revenue as a developer – and that’s not great news.

Keeping in mind that this sample is of users who have paid for my app – live tiles aren’t available to trial users and there’s no free version – there’s a couple of potential conclusions I can make. Either not many of these devices are being sold – or potentially more worrying (and maybe more likely) –  the people that buy budget handsets don’t buy Apps (as they are on a budget / can’t afford it or can’t meet necessary payment requirements).

Again – neither of these conclusions are a win for developers – and also makes me question the value in spending a lot of time optimizing apps for LMD and other low end devices.

I’d love to see some figures like this from developing markets (and free apps) – as these would be far more influenced by the affordability of apps vs the average disposable income (and would further help determine if a large influx of budget WP handset owners does actually result in large increase in sales of Apps).

Windows Phone Screen Resolution Breakdown.

Something again quite important for developers to consider is to ensure they target the available resolutions on devices (so High Resolution 720p/WXGA devices aren’t using low resolution image + media assets).

There wasn’t too many surprises here (given the dominance of the Lumia 920 which does WXGA resolution). The bad news is the low resolution WVGA devices still make up a pretty large slice of the market (so developers won’t be able to dump your low resolution graphics assets from apps just yet).

Of devices surveyed here are the breakdowns (percentages round up to 1 decimal place so may not equal 100%) ..

Screen Resolution Percentage of Surveyed Users
WXGA (720×1280) 59.4%
WVGA (480×800) 35.1%
720p (1280×720) 5.4%

Other Stats…

As part of storing Live Tile Push configurations for users on the server – I have also been inadvertently tracking what teams people barrack for (as the server needs to know what team tiles to issue as part of the payload).

I probably haven’t got enough users on board for the NRL app (update only appeared yesterday) but those of you who are into AFL footy will be interested (or disappointed) to learn that the most popular teams are –   Essendon (~15%), Collingwood (~12%), Carlton (~12%), Hawthorn (~10%), West Coast Eagles (7%).  I guess the Essendon supports have quite a lot of live news requirements right now so this app may be more important to them 8P.

I hope you found this enlightening – probably only of interest if you’re an app developer or an Aussie WP enthusiast – and I’ll continue to monitor these stats in future and see how my customer base evolves in the Australian market.

Written by mobilewares

August 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

Launched : AU Weather Pro + AU Newswire for Windows 8 Metro

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Today was a pretty big day for me – as it marked the ‘official’ debut of mobilewares into the Windows 8 Metro/RT space – with 2 x titles (AU Weather Pro + AU Newswire) appearing in the Windows 8 App Store launched with today’s ‘Windows 8 Release Preview’ launch.

I was caught a bit unaware/unprepared for the the actual release this morning – so have not yet had a chance to get the new Windows 8 section of my site up and live where I’d normally provide details of my apps. Luckily for me AU Weather Pro was featured on the AU Store start page today (along with the SBS On Demand app – which is sortof like ABC iView but all metro goodness)  – see https://twitter.com/techAU/status/208354899954642945/photo/1 for a snap shot (big thanks to @TechAU for posting this pic on twitter – hope they don’t mind me linking here).

Both apps have been ported from Windows Phone 7 platform – and when I say ‘ported’ that’s really only referring to some of the underlying ‘business logic / data services’ – as the UI layer in Windows RT and the type of user interactions being targeted for is just a whole different beast.  (nb: In fact I would go as far to say that the suggestion by anyone that you can ‘just port your wp7 apps across to win8’ – is generally a pretty sure fire indication that they’ve never actually done it themselves).

It’s also important to note that both these apps are currently considered to be ‘Release Preview Editions’ – and although I wasn’t really allowed to mention this point in my app or App Store description (due to some strange certification rules) – they are basically ‘previews’ of some of the features you can expect to see in the final versions (aimed at the GA release of Windows 8).

So for the time being they are both completely free / free of any advertising – and yours to play with – warts/bugs and all.  I will of course try to get some updates in over next few weeks/months, gradually adding features – and moving towards what the final product may look like (until then you’re all part of one big experiment #evillaugh)…

AU Weather Pro :
AU Weather pro displays a lot of similar information to the WP7 sibling (ie. BOM observations, forecast, Radars etc) – but the UI, flow, interaction and presentation is quite radically different (and I very much ‘re-imagined’ the whole experience from what the WP7 version had).  Rather than having a lot of drill down pages (hanging off a central observation summary or forecast) – the widescreen/panning content groups all the information about a particular location in one place.

The way you do your settings and find locations is also quite different – basically mostly controlled by either location services lookups or entering a postcode (or suburb name). 

Here’s a few screenshots below of it running in Landscape mode (it also supports portrait, snapped and filled views) – using the resolution/scaling found on the reference 10.3” 720p tablets.

Online Windows 8 Marketplace Deep Link : http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-AU/app/au-weather-pro/7b4f55b8-6e4c-48a8-8789-b29b9c1f892d

screenshot1 screenshot2 screenshot4 screenshot3

 

AU Newswire :

This app was probably a lot simpler/faster to get going – as unlike AU Weather Pro (which had some quite unique types of information to present) – the traditional Windows 8 panning grids/lists design being promoted via the template apps worked pretty well with it to begin with. 

One of the new things I added (over the functionality in WP7 version) was the ability to tell the app which Australian State you reside in – and it then filters the available default topic feeds and ‘suggested other feeds’ (ie. If you say you’re in Victoria it will show you feeds from Herald-Sun, TheAge, ABC Victoria etc – whereas NSW users will be offered content from Sydney Morning Herald etc). 

Another feature I added was ability to download an updated catalogue of feeds from the settings – so that way I can correctly handle changing RSS feed locations over time without having to deploy new versions of the app. (in fact there’s already an updated feed catalogue offered from what was submitted to the store with the app).

The look+feel of the app is also quite different to the WP7 version and tries to create a black+white/print style feel. See screenshots below :

Online Windows 8 Marketplace Deep Link : http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-AU/app/au-newswire/9e416d1f-f961-4934-a275-a28a7c17f8f8

screenshot1    screenshot5

screenshot6   screenshot8

 

Some thoughts for those about to rock (that is ‘those wanting to get some Win8 apps on the store’).

There’s quite a few gotcha’s for Win8 Development I should mention– particular for the RP version + submitting to the store.

1) If you ‘think’ you’ve got everything 80% there on Windows 8 CP build you can’t just recompile for RP. There’s a massive amount of ‘subtle but painful’ changes – such as virtually every ‘allegedly’ constant Resource name for colors/brushes being changed slightly (and there’s no direct mapping for many).  Additionally the logic and structure if you’re using the LayoutAware base class on pages has changed quite a bit – so you’re best off re-creating every single page in VS2012 and importing XAML and code behind into the new structures (making use of the LoadState overrides to initial everything – instead of OnNavigatedTo etc as you may have done earlier).  In fact as a rough guide – it took me around 4 days to ‘recompile’ these apps for RP. (and quite a few XAML bugs were actually introduced – which I hope but doubt were fixed for the build released today).

2) If you’re about to ‘port’ from WP7 – reality is you can’t (unless you want your apps to really suck and fail certification) – and keep in mind a Win8 Metro apps is really about 4 times as much effort .  Putting aside the completely different XAML layer/controls, .NET v4.5 framework changes, missing core classes (things are quite different and use cool new async based classes/code which is really nice but NOT compatible with your own code) – Win8 apps must work in Landscape, Portrait, Snapped and Filled views (requiring a lot of fancy footwork to adapt the layout) and then to make things really tricky – the screen scaling (based on the screen pixel resolution and the actual physical size) needs to be handled in a number of ways. Oh and then they need to support ALL of touch, pen, keyboard and mouse input – so this may throw many of your original designs sideways too. Then of course you need to redesign the user experience so more content is shown on each page (as you don’t have the limited screen real-estate you have on a wp7 device – with the exception of ‘snapped’ view which is kind of similar).

3) Certification is hard – really really hard.  I’m hoping things improve for new developers signing up over the next few months – but for those of us who battled it out to get apps approved for the RP – it was a very hard slog. Apart from the certification rules not being actually documented in full anywhere just yet (was getting failed on points I didn’t even know existed – such as requiring an Age rating of 12+ because app had used location services) – like with the initial WP7 Marketplace launch – it’s clear the testers themselves have a bunch of different interpretations of the rules.   Both apps each failed certification 3 times before they were passed – and each time I was given only a certification clause number a no explanation at all (and suspect I was given a hail mary the last time around lest the RP store launched with no apps at all).  Let’s just say certification involved a week of pulling my hair out and several times I almost just gave up and put it in the ‘too hard I’ll come back in 6 months when they sort it out’ basket (really big thanks to some local/regional guys at Microsoft who helped me through this and restored my sanity).

4) There’s still quite a few bugs – hopefully some of them were ironed out for todays build (have not checked yet) – and others are possibly going to be sorted with finalized Display drivers. One which stumped me totally for a whole week (and seemed to first appear in RP) was that 8 bit transparent PNG’s won’t work properly (transparent pixels would turn black after 3 seconds) – the fix for that was to set images as being 0.99999 opacity instead of 1.0 (don’t ask me why but it worked). Another which caused a lot of grief – was using the GridView with Item template containing Variable Sized Wrap Panel seems to throw a berko when panned with touch – if you have groups with different sized items (I had one group with large tiles and another group with some smaller tiles that were shorter height wise). I actually had to redo the entire page and recreate the experience the GridView *should* have provided by using a scroll panel with child stack panels. 

Anyhow the lesson learned is that it’s ‘still a beta’ (as is certification and everything else) – so expect the completely unexpected and make sure you test everywhere (many bugs didn’t rear their heads until I used simulated touch on the simulator or threw it on the Series 7 slate).  Then get any timeframe you had in mind (particularly if your first attempt) and multiply that by about 3 or 4 – there’s likely to be a massive learning curve involved.

But don’t worry – no pain no gain – and I think when I get going on app #3 I will used my newly gained knowledge of what ‘not to do’ to a big advantage and will hopefully be making the right design/functionality and UX decisions up front (rather than scaling back original ideas after failing to get them going to my satisfaction).

Anyhow I hope this is a new platform I can grow to love – and the end results seeing my apps running on a Samsung Series 7 Slate were likely getting that perfect golf tee shot (golf hacks like me will get what I mean here).

 

Oh and if you’re up and running with the RP release – be sure to give my apps a shot – and if you’re feeling generous stop in to the store and give me a nice review too (5 star reviews make me quite warm and fuzzy!).

Written by mobilewares

June 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm

New Developed Down Under Submission Pages Go Live..

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The official Developed Down Under website went live a couple of weeks ago – and for launch we hadn’t yet added the new developed opt-in/submission process (which was still pointing at the original page on the wpdownunder.com blog). 

So after a bit more tinkering and testing this part of the site is now live too – and should help make the signup quite a bit less tedious and user friendly.

You can check it out here at – http://developeddownunder.com/developers.aspx  – or just click on the ‘submit your apps’ whilst on the site.

New Submission Process Overview

The idea of the new submission forms was to make it a smidgen quicker/easier for developers to include their apps – by adding in a few server side smarts and some more fancy validation of entered information.

One new cool thing is the ability to locate all your apps without having to dig out a Marketplace Deep Link for each and every app you’re submitting. Now on the new signup – need to only provide a single Marketplace Deep Link (for at least one of your apps – even one you aren’t planning to submit).

image

Once you provide a deep link – the website will go off behind the scenes to Marketplace – and fetch all your apps (by using the Publisher ID in the deep link you submitted) – and then displays them so you can quickly just tick the ones you want.

image

Once you fill out the rest of the information (your name + email are required – website/twitter info is optional) – you are taken to a confirmation page where you can finalize your submission.

Then when you hit the confirm button – we’ll get notified of your submissions and you’ll get notified too via an email.  Note that we will still need 24-72 hours to approve/moderate your submissions before they appear in the catalogue (for those using the DDU Windows Phone app).

 

What’s next for the DDU Website

While there’s no definite timeframes – we intend to start including more features in the website as time permits – such as providing an online version of the catalogue (so you can browse them on the website without the DDU app) – and the ability to find out more about publishers.  

Keep an eye on the website for more..!

Written by mobilewares

May 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Developed Down Under Hits Windows Phone Marketplace

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I thought I’d post something here about a new community initiative relevant to Aussie Window Phone users, developers and bloggers called ‘Developed Down Under’ – which officially went live to the public around 24 hours ago.

dduwidewpdownunder

So What is Developed Down Under (aka DDU)

The idea was originally conceived (just over a month ago) by Scott Sheedy from wpdownunder.com to deduce a way of grouping together and promoting Windows phone apps from Australian developers. Garry Holden from Handiware suggested the name ‘Developed Down Under’ (which we ran with after consensus on twitter).

some of the goals of DDU included

– To improve visibility of App’s on the Windows phone platform that have been made by Aussie Developers.

– To help Aussie Windows phone users quickly find and locate Apps directly relevant to their local Aussie market – and have an easier way of identifying these products when looking at blogs, news sites etc (ie. coming up with a recognizable logo/icon and name)

– And similarly to what is being done with Apps – promoting local Aussie bloggers and news Sites who cover Australian specific Windows phone news.

And an App is born …

Last week the concept evolved from an idea (and a lot of behind the scenes work by Scott) – into a full blown Windows phone app (with inspiration from products like wp7nl, appflow, etc).

This product allows users to view a catalogue of Aussie Developed Apps – and then click through directly to that App’s page on Windows Marketplace (where it can be downloaded/purchased/rated/etc). There’s sections such as ‘Apps for Aussies’ (which filters out a list of apps purely designed for localized Aussie stuff like news, travel, weather etc) – and ability to browse by publisher, genre and get randomly selected ‘quick picks’.

screenshot1   screenshot2  screenshot3screenshot4

On Wednesday night last week – Scott put out a call to all developers (http://www.wpdownunder.com/?p=4639) to nominate their own apps to be included in this catalogue (nb – this is where to go if you want your apps to be listed – it’s a live/online catalogue so we can add you in at any time) . Due to concerns with privacy/copyright issues – it was determined that simply auto including titles may cause numerous issues (and also that there was no simple way to determine which publishers on Marketplace where actually from Australia).

And by Thursday night last week (after I spent a whirlwind couple of days developing it and setting up all the required server side magic whilst Scott simultaneously put together the other required pieces) – the initial app was done and dusted and certified to marketplace.

You can see the App’s product page at : http://mobilewares.net/DevelopedDownUnder-WP7.aspx

Keep in mind of course it’s an initial release (0.9) – and the focus was to get something out there – so lots of bells + whistles that we didn’t have time to include will be added in coming versions.

An Amazing first Day Launch…

Last night (around 8:30pm) – after receiving a publishing success notification from Marketplace in the morning – we noticed the app could finally be downloaded via the deep link – and went live. We timed it with an awesome review from 1800pocketpc.com (who’d been provided with a XAP a few days earlier). You can check it out on the link below (there’s even a video there too of it in action).

http://www.1800pocketpc.com/developed-down-under-one-stop-shop-for-all-your-aussie-app-needs/30239/

Then overnight things went crazy – thanks to the above review, the overall buzz being generated on twitter (under our chosen hash tag #wpddu) – and a great placement in the WP7 new list (the App was actually one of the 4 listed ‘new’ apps on start page of online versions of Windows Phone Marketplace around the world) –  resulting in a huge amount of downloads from all corners of the globe (and that was before the Australians who this app was targeted at had even woken up).

Today (thanks to some awesome behind the scenes PR work by Scott) – we also got plugged on a number of news sites – including a couple of real biggies (that reached out further into the mainstream than we’d ever expected), such as :-

Gizmodo : http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2012/04/developed-down-under-promises-to-make-finding-aussie-made-wp7-apps-easy/

CNet : http://www.cnet.com.au/aussie-app-promotes-local-windows-phone-downloads-339335629.htm

Not to mention some of the awesome WP7 focussed news sites who helped spread the word too over the past week (along with a swag of positive and encouraging tweets in the #wp7au community too) :

Peter’s Kitchen : http://www.peterskitchen.net/?p=7639

WPCentral : http://www.wpcentral.com/developed-down-under-local-marketplace-highlighting-app-aussies

Now nearly 24 hours later – I’m staggered by the amount of people who have installed this app. Even though I have some pretty popular titles in the AU Marketplace (and have had similar in the US before) – I’ve never seen such a large volume of users downloading a Windows phone app before in such a short space of time.

The Developer Response

However – none of this would be possible without the humbling show of support from the Australian Windows Phone developer community – who have been submitting their apps for us to include.

As per the snapshot below from the scorecard – (catch the real live one on wpdownunder.com ) – a few hours ago we were up to 76 submitted apps (from 22 publishers) – well on the way to our first 100.

w7ddu

There’s still quite a few more AU developers out there we would like to get on board (who likely have not heard about it – or were away for Easter break) – and hope they can come in and nominate their apps when they hear about it.  If you’re one of them – please click here to visit the signup page on wpdownunder. It’s free, quick and may be the best thing you’ve ever done for your App (ok that’s a stretch – but you get the general idea).

We’ve also had 3 other news sites/blogs (apart from wpdownunder) providing dedicated Aussie Windows Phone news feeds for us to use in the App (via the aggregated news feed which shows all the content chronologically) – 1800pocketpc.com techin5.com and peterskitchen.com – culminating in the ‘best of the best’ of Aussie WP7 news.  Huge thanks to all of these sites for their support!

The Win-Win-Win cycle of DDU

One of the great things about this initiative (apart from it being driven by an enthusiastic community) is that it’s an all round win for everyone (if it’s successful of course – but looking quite likely from our first day’s feedback/downloads).

I don’t know which comes first (the chicken or the egg) – but the way I see the cycle is :

– More Apps submitted into DDU = more content for users to look at

– More content for users  to look at = more people wanting to use the app

– More people using the app = more downloads/visibility for the publishers submitting the apps

– more downloads for publishers = more apps being made

– more apps being made = more submissions to DDU

and so on and so forth…. (I could quite possibly throw in the More Aussie Apps = More Handsets Being sold type cycle in there too – but you get the drift..)

So what are you waiting for – go and download it now – it’s free!

Anyhow – if you want to check it out – please visit http://mobilewares.net/DevelopedDownUnder-WP7.aspx (for product page and deep links) – or alternatively – point Bing Vision on your Windows Phone to the following QRCode below (and you’ll be taken straight into the app download page in the Marketplace App).

http://windowsphone.com/s?appid=ad55f32c-5dc7-4c1f-a2b3-2b4f49040e9c

Don’t forget to visit http://wpdownunder.com to keep up with news – and share the love on our twitter hash tag #wpddu

And on that note – a massive thank-you to everyone who has supported this initiative with submissions, tweets, words of encouragement, news , downloaded the app!

It’s truly awesome to see the wp7 dev + enthusiast community come together like this for a common goal – and I’m really excited about the potential of where this will all go.

Ongoing mistakes by WP7 Marketplace Certification with Bing Maps

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The process of WP7 app certification can range anywhere from being simply and quick – through to requiring mountains of effort, frustration and a really long waiting times in between.

The problem is that not only the testing is just completely random/inconsistent (you’ll see tons of apps being certified which clearly fail to meet requirements) – it appears a large amount of the testers are really struggling to understand the certification rules themselves – and regularly and invalidly fail apps which are perfectly OK.

To give you an idea of my experience with this – over the past 12 months – I’ve published ~25 apps in marketplace (each having several updates/versions) – so that’s upwards of 75+ Marketplace certifications.  

Out of these – a large number have come back as failed  (perhaps  ~30%) – occasionally some for perfectly good/valid reasons (which I appreciate) – but vast majority has been due to a vague/ambiguously worded certification requirement being misinterpreted by testers.

This is clearly not good enough – and makes the process of releasing and updating apps hugely problematic (and quite often renders me helpless to quickly address other bugs/enhancements to apps which users are asking for).

 

The ‘Location Services’ related Certification Rules

One certification requirement however has without doubt caused me the most grief – the ‘location services’ privacy policy (section 2.7) – resulting in more ‘failed’ certifications for me than anything else (I’ve lost count of exactly how many – but perhaps has resulted in 10-15 failures for me).

Taken from the Windows Phone 7 Certification documents :
 

2.7.2 : The privacy policy of your application must inform users about how location data from the Location Service API is used and disclosed and the controls that users have over the use and sharing of location data. This can be hosted within or directly linked from the application.

and

2.7.3 Your application must provide in-application settings that allow the user to enable and disable your application’s access to and use of location from the Location Service API.

 

While you’d think for this I could simply implement this right once – and then ensure same functionality is applied to all my future apps/submissions (thereby guaranteeing I never get failed for that reason) – this is clearly not the case.

The problem is that it testers simply don’t understand this rule – and hence each one applies it differently – ensuring that no matter what has been done to correct a previous failed certification – a conflicting interpretation from the subsequent tester will result in yet another fail.

 

Bing Maps vs Location Services

The root cause of the above certification rule being necessary (with my apps) – is due to using the Bing Maps Control (as below). 

image

Whilst using Bing Maps by itself has no bearing on the above rules (as you are not providing or querying the user’s location simply by showing the map) – the problem is that in order to position a map or place a drop pin – you need to pass in instance(s) of the  GeoCoordinate class (which is a basic struct containing longitude, lattitude and height).

As per all my apps – they already has the longitude/lattitude of these pins hardcoded in the app metadata – so at no point do I request nor need the users actual location – and each time GeoCoordinate is used by my app – I initialize it manually with static coordinates.

The gotcha is this GeoCoordinate class is located in the System.Device.Location namespace (in System.Device dll) – so you have to reference this System.Device in order to use Bing Maps with drop pins. 

This then quickly becomes a problem – as when you submit your app to the WP7 AppHub for certification – the automated ‘capability’ detection tool invalidly decides that your app is actually using ‘location services’ (when in fact it’s just using a basic class to pass in static coordinates).

When testers then go to certify your app – they then jump to the invalid conclusion that all the location services rules and additional requirements need to be followed (as per couple mentioned above). This is despite the fact that at no point is the app ever asking for nor utilizing the location services to obtain a user’s current location.

NB: While it’s possible that ‘internally’ the Bing Maps may access your current location (this is not something that is discussed or revealed in any documentation) – what’s 100% certain is that there is no ability for developers to control whether a user’s location is accessed by Bing Maps or not (as no such properties are provided). 

 

A recent example of how one of my apps was failed incorrectly.

As mentioned above – at no point do these apps in question (which use Bing Maps) – ever obtain or use the user’s location (at least not to my own code). Nevertheless – repeated certification failures on this point have led me to go completely overboard in ensuring that these requirements are met.

The most recent example was my app ‘NHL Fixtures 2011/2012’ (which like my other sports apps) – use hardcoded/static geo coordinates to plot the location of a sports venue on a Bing Map (and never get the actual user’s location).  

Last week – I submitted the first version of this app.  After 4 days it was certified and published to marketplace.  Then, a few hours later – an end user provided feedback that a couple of the internal hardcoded URL’s were pointing to incorrect pages (which were displayed in the hosted Web browser – several pages into the app). It’s important to note that while no actual ‘error’ was thrown – nor did the app ‘crash’ as a result – the information displayed was a different web page. 

As a result I quickly fixed these hardcoded URL’s and submitted an app update (ie. no code or functionality changes at all other than to show a different web page). In the tester notes (as I always do) – I explained the nature of the update and as a precaution – again pointed out all the ways in which I’d satisfied these above to location services related rules.

Today (4 days later again) – I received a ‘fail’ from marketplace (on above rules) – invalidly claiming that I’d ‘not provided a location services privacy policy’ and that location services ‘couldn’t be disabled from the app settings page’.

This could not be further from the truth – as these ‘in app’ screenshots below clearly show (from this failed submission).

 

Proof + Screenshots of the Marketplace Certification #fail.

Please see red circles for relevant functions.

Firstly an example of where Bing Maps is used in this app (NHL Season 2011/2012). As per comments above – the drop pin and map center locations are hardcoded into the app (and not derived from a user’s location) in order to show the following Bing Map :

image

 

To satisfy requirement 2.7.2 (requiring that a location services privacy policy is shown) – here is 3 x places links to the Privacy Policy Page IS SHOWN :

image  image image

and here is the location services privacy policy page that Marketplace testers claimed ‘didnt exist at all’ (ie. the page all these links above go to when clicked) :

image

The link on this page ADDITIONALLY allows user’s to view Microsoft’s Privacy Policy (in a web browser) – as it’s their Bing Maps control which may/may not use the user’s location.


Similarly – for requirement 2.7.3 – the ability to disable location services (the only logical way – which is to disable use of Bing Maps) – the following setting exists in the ‘app settings’ page :

image

When above settings is disabled – the following behaviour happens when you go to view a Map (it doesn’t load/use the Bing Maps until you re-enable this functionality in settings) :

image

Just in case everyone misses it though – the following text is also present in the App’s description on Marketplace (and shown to users) :

 

image

 

Given the overboard and comprehensive nature these requirements were met by me – you really have to wonder how this app was failed by Marketplace. Short of completely removing all Bing Maps functionality from my app – there’s nothing further I could have possibly done (every ‘i’ had been dotted and every ‘t’ crossed).

What’s more gobsmacking is how a tester could be under the impression that no privacy policy was shown nor were settings provided to disable location services.

Seriously #wtf?? marketplace – I provided no less than 5 mentions/links to the privacy policy throughout the app and description – how could they possibly have missed this or the app settings page.

 

Actions Microsoft need to take to remedy this ongoing issue.

 

As mentioned this is an ongoing and persistent problem for me (and no doubt many other developers using Bing Maps or location services) – and after nearly 12 months of WP7 Marketplace being around – it’s painful and frustrating that it’s still not be sorted out.  

The ability to quickly push out app updates as well as new apps is severely restricted – due to the long turnaround times by Marketplace (with the weekend – it can take up to 1.5-2 weeks to get a release out if it gets failed).  This poses a real customer service problem for me – as I’m unable to quickly respond to actual bugs/problems in apps by deploying updates – and of course limits ability to correctly time app releases.

It’s clearly not a case of ‘occasionally getting a bad tester not doing their job’ – it’s an ongoing mistake (likely due to internal policy/training of testers) which will keep happening on regular basis.

As such – I’d really like to see Microsoft take the following actions to try overcome it :

1.  Explain to testers that apps using Bing Maps need the System.Device DLL in order to place drop pins. (and doesn’t mean an app is asking for user’s location). Also explain this results in the invalid ‘location services’ capability detection on XAPs.

2.  Fix the App Hub submission process so that it correctly detects location services capability. That means (in more technical terms) – it needs to look for calls to the ‘actual API methods’ requesting this  – rather than just seeing if app references System.Device (as it does now).

3. In future – fix the API so that either the GeoCoordinate class is not inside System.Device – or simply fix the Bing Maps control so their are native methods to set locations without this class. ie.    .setLocation(float longitude, float lattitude) – not .setLocation(Geoocordinate l)

4. Finally – please clean up the sloppy and inconsistent work being done by testers. The screenshots above show just how badly the testers got this wrong.  I can’t begin to imagine what sort of shoddy work was performed by this particular tester – but if some form of audit process was applied to failed apps (requiring someone with more experience to confirm the fail) – then mistakes would be fixed before they impact the developer and delay their releases/updates.

 

 

Anyhow – that’s my 2 cents on this topic. I hope Microsoft really does address these issues soon.

Written by mobilewares

September 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm

WP7 Marketplace Signup help for Aussies Part 3 (filling out the W-8BEN)

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This is the third article for Aussies (and others o/s) who are in the process of signing up so they can be paid for Apps sold via Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.  This entry covers the final step required to get paid – submitting a valid W-8BEN form to Microsoft Marketplace.

If you want to check out the first couple of articles – please see links below :

Part 1 : WP7 Marketplace Signup Help for Aussies (Bank Info + More)

Part 2 : WP7 Marketplace Signup help for Aussies Part 2 (getting a US ITIN)

 

What is the W-8BEN

The W-8BEN form is the document you need to provide someone who is paying you money from o/s (in this case the Microsoft Marketplace Commerce Team) – and it’s full name is something akin to what you’d find in a Borat sequel – “Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding”.

The PDF downloadable version of the W-8BEN can be obtained from this address – http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw8ben.pdf – and allows you to type in some of the required fields via the Acrobat viewer (as it’s a editable PDF form).

Ideally – you’d submit this form after you had obtained either a US Tax File Number (ITIN  – See Part 2) /or/ EIN. However, if you are willing to forgo the 30% withholding tax on payments made to you (nb: that % may be different for other countries) – you can submit this form without indicating you have one of those.

Like with the ITIN application (which is sent to the IRS) – you need to submit an actual hard copy of this document to Microsoft for it to be valid (ie. you can’t email or fax it in).

Like with the ITIN application (W7) – everything needs to be perfect for it to be accepted – otherwise it will be rejected by Microsoft if any minor thing is wrong – and you need to do it all again (back to go – don’t collect $200 etc).  So it’s very important you don’t mess this document up.

Normally, Microsoft won’t process/approve this hardcopy until your first payment is made (which will be at end of the month and assuming you are owed at least USD$200). However – to save a lot of hassles when it’s time for payment – Microsoft offer an ‘email based’ pre-approval service (which essentially allows you to scan in your W-8BEN and submit it via email). This way if something is wrong you at least find out about it a lot sooner – AND you don’t need to waste money on courier/mail services to get an invalid to them.

In order to do this ‘pre approval’ – scan in your form (to jpg etc) –  and send it to  mplcomm@microsoft.com – and then wait up to a couple of weeks to get your response. If it’s approved – then it’s then (reasonably) safe to send in the real thing.

 

How to fill out the W-8BEN

The following walkthrough provides information on how to fill out this W-8BEN form – and references to the 11 sections on this form. (please download it first so the below makes sense).

 

Part 1 :

 

Section 1 – “Name of individual that is the beneficial owner”

This field needs to be entered via the “Microsoft rules” for approval – in that you need to clearly identify both your own name – plus the company name of your Marketplace account. (so Microsoft can match it up with your account internally).

For example – for the company/account name (the one visible to end users on Marketplace) is ‘ACME Games’ – and my own name is ‘Joe Smith’ – hence the correct entry is in format ‘#my name# [#marketplace name#]’ :-

Joe Smith [ACME Games]

(NB: If your marketplace company name is just your name I think you can either leave out the []’s – or simply put in your name there as well).

 

Section 2 – “Country of incorporation or organization”

This simply needs to be the country you are in – ie.   ‘Australia

 

Section 3 – “Type of beneficial owner”

For individuals and solo traders operating outside of the USA – you should just tick ‘Individual’ as the correct option.

I’m 99% certain that even if your company is a full incorporated entity (not using EIN) then you still need to tick individual (as the other options relate to companies based inside the USA). However – you may want to check with your accountant or the IRS website to confirm this.

 

Section 4/5 – Address Details

This is pretty straightforward – simply put in your actual address (note that for 4 you can’t use a p.o.box etc – must be a real address). Leave 5 blank unless you do have some other address you want correspondance to be sent to.

Section 6 – “U.S. taxpayer identification number, if required (see instructions)”

This bit is pretty important – as it determines whether or not the US gov withholding tax is ‘automatically’ deducted from payments made to you by Microsoft.

If you have obtained a ITIN or EIN – you should enter the appropriate number assigned to you – and tick the appropriate box.

If you leave this blank then it means you don’t have one of these (or you intend to supply the W-8BEN a second time with this information).

 

Section 7 – “Foreign tax identifying number, if any (optional)”

I wasn’t 100% sure what to put here – so just to make sure I provided my Australian ABN number and indicated that it was that (which was accepted by Microsoft) :

ie.   XX XXX XXX XXX (Australian ABN)

It’s possible leaving this either blank – or providing some other info (such as your personal Australian TFN) – is also appropriate.

 

Section 8 – “Reference number(s) (see instructions)”

I left this blank – and suspect this is the case unless you filled in something other than ‘individual’ in section 1 (speak to your accountant).

 

Part 2 :

 

Section 9 – “I certify that (check all that apply)”

I used the following information (based on me supplying an ITIN number) –

Checked [a] – and entered ‘Australia’ in the line provided.

AND

Checked [b] – to indicate I had provided a taxpayer identification number in section 7.

Note: My understanding is that if you are not providing an ITIN or EIN – then you would not check any of these options in Section 9.

Section 10 – “Special Rates and Conditions”

This one is a little confusing – as it’s similar to the type of question asked on the W7 form (where you need a treaty article number etc). I actually left this completely blank (instead relying on the ITIN to indicate for no tax to be withheld).

I suspect if you are in Europe – and other tax issues such as VAT are in play – then this may be where you can provide this information (but for Australians it didn’t seem to be required).

 

Part 3 :

 

I just ignored this bit (as there’s nothing to actually fill out). However – I did provide a cover letter along with my W-8BEN stating why I was submitting the form etc. (so not sure if this was even necessary).

 

Part 4 :

 

Don’t forget to sign this form and date it! The other bit in here (apart from signature and date) – is the ‘Capacity in which acting’.  I provided the value ‘Individual’ (which I think is similar to Section 3) – except this might be different if someone else is filling out this form on your behalf.

 

Next Steps

Once you’ve filled out/scanned and submitted the W-8BEN to Microsoft via email (for pre-approval) – you’ll either get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from Microsoft.

If it’s a ‘yes’ then you can proceed to send everything in to Microsoft via snail mail.

The correct address for this is as follows :

Microsoft – Windows Marketplace for Mobile
Attn: Finance Department
29011 Commerce Center Drive
Valencia, CA 91355
USA

As per this link, Microsoft recommends quote – ‘sending the W-8 form using some form of tracking mechanism to assist in investigating any issues related to the delivery of the W-8 form’.   I personally used Australian Express Post satchel – and sent it register post with delivery confirmation (extra feature) – which cost somewhere around ~AUD$15.

Please Note as mentioned above – the final ‘approval’ by Microsoft on your hard copy W-8BEN will not be performed until you receive your first payment event.  Hence – until that point is reached – App Hub will show you the ‘bank or tax information missing’ style messages when you look at your account (so be patient and ignore these messages).

Once the first payment is made – then your App Hub account will no longer show these messages – and within a few days of payment – you will be able to start viewing your payment reports (via Reporting section in App Hub).

 

Additional Steps … (EU VAT Exemption)

If you’re in a country where EU VAT is an issue  – you can also submit your ‘VAT Identification Number’ to obtain EU VAT exemption (after your W8-BEN is sent). This will allow Microsoft to send you your HCTI (Hard Copy Tax Invoice) if it’s applicable to your country for payments collected/paid. 

Microsoft’s advice on this is ‘You are not required to provide a valid VAT Identification Number to get paid, but without it you will be charged the VAT’ .

Please see the appropriate section in this link for more information on EU VAT and how it may apply to you.

 

 

Getting Paid….

Well once you’ve done everything covered in these 3 articles AND of course you’ve got a paid app out there – it’s time to finally collect some money…  Now you can sit back and way for the $$ to roll (or more likely trickle) into your nominated bank account.

Note that payments may take 60-90+ days to arrive from the actual date the app was purchased (due to funds needing to be collected from various mechanisms such as credit card, carrier billing etc) – and individual payments need to be USD$200 or more (otherwise anything owing will be rolled into next payment event).

 

 

That’s it folks – hope these posts have helped you untangle some of the confusion around signing up for Marketplace when you’re not in the USA. Please leave comments/feedback if you have some more wisdom to share on any of the topics in these posts.

Written by mobilewares

June 15, 2011 at 11:55 am

AU Weather Pro v1.5 (for Windows Phone 7) Updated

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A new update of AU Weather Pro (v1.5) has submitted to Windows Phone 7 marketplace for certification.

This update addresses quite a lot of the things being requested in the user feedback I’ve received (both via the review system and via direct emails) – so I’m hoping there will be a lot of happy campers as a result (for those using it).

There’s a couple of major changes in this new version I wanted to mention…

First up – a lot of people asked if the Animated BOM Radars could be included. Although there’s a separate App – AU Radar – which is does a pretty comprehensive job of this (and incidentally only costs AUD$1.70 to get the full set of features) – many people felt it should be part of this App too.

So for the v1.5 version – I’ve now added ability to access 128km/256km local radars as well as the National (Australia wide) animated radars – for all 50+ locations offered by BOM. While there’s still a lot of other radars (like Doppler, ‘rain since’ and shorter/longer range versions etc) – I’ve kept things simple. Incidentally – those that do want the other radars can still also load up AU Radar too (I personally have both of these installed on my handset).

A screenshot of the radar page is pictured below –

wpr_radar

Next up a lot of people commented on (ok – “complained about”) the UI – such as it not being as ‘Metro’ friendly as it could be, it being a little cluttered and hard to read – and that the photographic icons weren’t very attractive (as they were low resolution only). Some folks even (quite rudely lol) commented that I’d used American spelling rather than ‘stralian versions (like ‘initializing’ instead of ‘initialising’ etc)

So for this release there’s been quite a big facelift of the whole UI. One of my sources of inspiration (apart from re-reading the Microsoft materials) – was an excellent blog post from Jeff Wilcox called ‘Metro Design Guide for developers 1.0’  (which had some awesome tips on some of the more subtle but visually important aspects of WP7 app design such as what sort of spacing to use around screens, appropriate text sizes/styles etc). 

From these and a lot of playing about with different designs – I settled on the following new designs – which I think does a lot to improve readability, more white space, more Metro friendly, and a lot less unnecessary chrome.

Here’s a before/after screen of the Observations page and below it the Forecasts page (before on left – after on right) – note that a bit more work was done post these pictures.

newobs

and for the forecasts –

newfc

I also gave the forecast and 72 hour observation history graphs a bit of a rework (sorry don’t have original screens). These screens previously weren’t very theme friendly – so the new versions got a bit of a makeover too :

wpr_72hrgraph  

 wpr_fcgraph

One thing to note on the new version is I’ve completely dropped the use of the photographic icons as they weren’t available in the full resolution I wanted and hence looked pretty blurry(which incidentally came from the US gov weather services site – and originally used on the Media Center weather App I wrote in a previous life).  Instead – this new version uses the Metro icon set only – and superimposes them on top of your nominated theme accent color.

There’s also quite a few other spots which had minor (and more major) updates – which you can check out if you get the new version.

With regards to the live tiles – numerous o/s issues/bugs still exist making it sometimes unreliable (which unfortunately I’m not able to do anything about). I was really hoping the new NoDo update would remedy these problems – but after running with that it appears nothing was changed on that front. I’m now hoping maybe mango update will do better (but seeing as all questions/feedback sent to Microsoft about this topic, has just straight out ignored – I’m not counting my chickens).

Anyhow – I hope those using this app enjoy the new update. While there’s still a bunch of things I want to add in future to this product, and improvements I want to make – I think this update will address most of the things people have been asking for.

Thanks again to everyone who provided feedback (there’s been some 50+ reviews/comments on marketplace and have received loads of emails) – this was a great help – and keep them coming.

This app has also been the #1 top selling News/Weather app in Australia since a couple of days it was initially published in Jan/11 – and still is (now in April) – so thanks to everyone who took the time to evaluate and purchase it!

The new version should hopefully be published/approved in next 24-72 hours by Microsoft Marketplace (assuming they don’t find anything to complain about) .

Note : As per previous updates – if you’re running an earlier trial version AND you haven’t installed NoDo WP7 update – the marketplace App ‘update bug’ (the actual important bit of the NoDo which ‘must not be mentioned’) –  means you need to uninstall this App and reinstall the new version when it arrives.

Written by mobilewares

April 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm