SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Sometimes it's easier to build anew instead of trying to fix what's broken. At least that's the tune Sprint is marching to these days.
Here at the third and final day of the company's Open Developer Conference, Sprint's general manager of wireless applications, J.P. Brocket, made it quite clear that the carrier knows what works and what doesn't--and that much of the company's future growth is going to revolve around a complete reboot of its application store, set to launch as the Sprint Application Store in the first quarter of next year. The company is selling it to developers as a simple way to sell and manage their creations for multiple devices.
A big part of that simplification is accelerating its application approval process. "If you want to get something onto the (current) Sprint Software Store, someone has to review it, someone's got to test it. By the time those things happen through long lead times, we've seen that some of the content completely loses its relevance," Brocket said. "We've got to stop. We've got to get out of the way so that content can get here faster."
How fast? While Apple is currently running two weeks or more on app approval, Brocket said Sprint is aiming to get the job done in less than a week. Brocket said that much of that depends on what the app does, citing that an app for finding a local pizza place would probably slide through quite quickly, but that an app with turn-by-turn directions, or one that changed the phone's native dialer, would take a little longer.
The company is also bucking some of what Apple and Google have done with their application storefronts by charging developers to have their apps re-reviewed--that is, if there are problems with it. Sprint still hasn't said what this fee will be, but Brocket said it will be "low" and that the company would be making it quite clear what the problems were, so that developers could fix them before resubmitting.
Other things the company plans to offer with its new app store are multiple payment methods, especially from third parties like PayPal, Amazon, Google, and others, though Brocket said carrier billing (or being able to charge a purchase to your monthly cell phone bill) could take a little longer.
Also to be included (though at the discretion of Sprint) will be a recurring payment system. This is one area in which Sprint has been pulling back with its own apps for several years, Brocket said, but one from which some developers could benefit, if used correctly.
"For certain products, recurring payments makes a lot of sense, but it's a small subset," he said. "One major reason for that is, (when customers buy multiple applications at once), what seemed like a small $2.99 purchase all of a sudden (is) seven $2.99 purchases. I start to notice that on my bill, and now I'm calling someone about my bill to get a disconnect or because I'm dissatisfied."
That's another thing the company is trying to change with the universal application storefront: its customer service responsibilities. Brocket made it clear that the only customer service the company should be doing is in regards to its own billing and service quality. "Support is best performed by the application providers," he said. "If there are network or device or system things in the way that keep that from happening--that's on us."
Brocket concluded by saying that Sprint has "heard what you've said for eight years. Now it's time that we're going to give you an enabling channel and a path to the customer. And it's up to you to create the great content and succeed--with our help, where we can."