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Monday, 20 July 2009 07:12

LG 'snapps' into action with 'App Store' live beta

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Stung by criticism that LG’s iPhone-clones didn’t offer an app store, something most notable on the recent new “Arena” handset, LG promised to deliver its own “app store” – and has just come through with the goods in beta form.

Promising “quality-controlled applications” designed its range of “feature and smart phones”, LG has understood at last that it needs to offer its customers access to a proper range of third party applications delivered through an official LG “App store”.

Seemingly unable to come up with a snazzier name at this time, the store’s official title is the “LG Application Store”, available from www.lgapplication.com. While it will first launch in Asia, LG promises the service will expand to 24 countries including Australia.

That said, we had a look at the site just now, and noticed that an Australian portal is already open, offering a “25% off opening special” on what appears to be largely Windows Mobile Apps.

While the page was loading, I also noticed that it flicked over to “Handango” for something, which likely means that LG is leveraging Handango’s store for Windows Mobile customers until apps for LG’s own operating system are unveiled, so it would appear that the current Australian LG app store will undergo so massive changes over the next few months.

Although Apple currently has 65,000 apps and will surely have tens of thousands more by year’s end, LG says it “expects to offer up to 2,000 applications on its site by the end of year with at least 100 programs available free of charge to LG handset users.”

This contrasts with many thousands of free apps on the iPhone, and while actual pricing for the apps LG’s store delivers is as yet unknown, we can only hope it rapidly emulates the competitive nature of the Apple app store, and avoids the higher prices seen on Nokia’s Ovi store.

Dr. Skott Ahn, CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company, said: “As we’ve announced earlier, LG is planning to invest heavily in the smartphone market going forward, with ten smartphones being introduced this year alone.

“As the trend has shown, the appeal of smartphones is in the diversity and usefulness of the applications. Opening our own Application Store will allow us to offer the best content and applications for our devices so that LG phone owners will get the best possible ownership experience.”

LG is also potentially taking a swing at all of the “fart apps” on Apple’s App Store, noting that it wishes to “ensure that the applications available in LG’s Application Store is of the highest quality”, and that it will do this (in conjunction with content providers) by applying “rigorous quality testing before [any software is] made available for download to ensure ‘bug-free’ operation.”

Hmm, if only it were that easy, eh? Why has no software developer ever thought of trying to write “bug-free” software before?! The world would be a different place… and software developers likely wouldn’t make as much money!

So, what else does LG have to say about its new application store – and plans for software developers?

Continued…


LG’s Dr. Ahn added: “It’s important to understand that unlike other mobile phone manufacturers, LG’s Application Store is not intended to be a new or separate business model.

“It’s an added-value service that comes with LG’s high-end phone and smartphone ownership. And unlike other mobile phone online stores, LG’s intention is not to censor the type of applications that are available to our customers but only to ensure that they meet the high standards for quality and compatibility.”

Although LG’s Application Store is totally new, it turns out that LG has been working with software developers since October last year on what we’re told is an associated project, the LG Mobile Developer Network.

The site is “specifically designed for third party software developers of LG mobile phones”, and LG says that since the site opened in October, it has been “significantly renovated with enhanced contents and functionality.”

In addition, LG says: “The number of applications is expected to expand even further over time as developers will be given added incentives. At the website, developers can develop and share widgets and test their applications through Virtual Developer Lab (VDL) and Over-The-Air (OTA) downloads.

“Currently the website supports Java SDK and for widgets, it will support VDL, OTA downloads by the end of the year for compatible devices on the global market.”

LG does talk about smart and feature phones getting access to the store, but notes they’ll need to have apps downloaded to a PC first and presumably then transferred over to the phone.

However there is one phone that will have direct, on-phone access to the store, and that’s the new LG-GM730 smartphone, which it launched last month at Singapore’s CommunicAsia and which launches in Australian retail stores over the next couple of weeks in “late July”. 

LG-GM730 users will be able to “flick horizontally on the ‘Quick Key Box’ at the bottom of the home screen and tapping the App icon”, and promises that its future feature phones “will be able to access the LG Application Store in the future.”

Finally, the LG Application Store will remain in beta test stage “until further notice”, so if you’re already coding apps for iPhones, Nokias, WinMo devices and more, LG no doubt hopes to tempt you into writing software for its platform, too.

The only large gap left in LG’s app store offering is the massive lead Apple has created, but with LG and its Korean brother Samsung having both shown great tenacity in moving from the low end to the high end over the past decade and a half, and both gaining much market share... when it comes to catching up and potentially even overtaking one day... things are lookin’ good!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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