Nokia's App Social replaces App Highlights, adds wisdom of the crowds

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App Highlights, which is pre-loaded on most Lumia devices, has served as Nokia's primary app promotion and recommendation channel, and is an important part of the company's app strategy. From today, it will be replaced, on Windows Phone 8 devices, by the App Social service and app. App Social, which was previously available through Nokia Beta Labs under the name App Highlights Social, adds a social and community element to the existing App Highlights concept, including the ability to curate your own list of app recommendations.

App Highlights Social was first made available in a limited number of markets in May of this year. Rather than just having app recommendations from Nokia, Apps Highlight Social enabled anyone to create and share curated lists of recommended apps. It also introduced the idea of leaderboards and other community based ranking elements.

App Social lets you browse and create curated lists of recommended apps and games. Lists can be shared with the community, both within the app, and on the web. When you find an app list you like you can "thank" a user for creating it, which will move it up the leaderboard (ranking) system. You can also opt to follow a user, so that you can keep track of their app recommendations more easily via the built in apps feed section.

App SocialApp Social

Those familiar with the simpler approach of App Highlights may feel a little overwhelmed when opening App Social for the first time, but it is worth persevering. The top level pivot view is divided into four sections that represent the key functionality of the app: featured, spotlight, leaderboard, my profile, and app feeds.

The featured section provides quick access to highlighted app lists, with different lists highlighted for each country (e.g. Top UK Apps). The spotlight section highlights individual apps, offering a similar experience to the original App Highlights app. The leaderboard section gives access to app lists ranked by their community score (number of times they have been thanked), plus a list of the the most followed users, and a list of the most mentioned apps.

App SocialApp Social

App lists can contain multiple apps; they may also contain the curators comment on an app (e.g. "the best thing sliced bread"). Each app gets its own page, which includes details on how many times the app has been listed, easy access to screenshots, and a link to the Windows Phone Store so that you can install the app.

As you browse through app lists you can opt to follow and/or thank the users who have created them, helping to build the community side of the service. In order to do this you will need to sign into App Social using a Nokia Account, something that will happen automatically if you have already configured your phone with a Nokia Account (e.g. by using HERE Maps).

App SocialApp Social

App Social includes a powerful search tool that lets you look for specific app lists, apps, and users by keyword. It is a handy way of finding app lists that are not listed in any of the main sections (e.g. niche app lists).

As an alternative to search and looking through lists, regular users will want to take advantage of apps feed section of the Apps Social. This provides a list of all the apps that have been recently recommended by people you follow. If you're careful about who you follow, it can provide a one stop shop for new and interesting apps, without having to wade through lists you have already viewed, or hunting through the new+rising category in the standard Store app.

App SocialApp Social

It is entirely possible to use App Social entirely in "read only" mode, taking advantage of the lists created by Nokia and others users. However, there's also the option to create your own app list, earning you a chance an app recommendation glory. List creation, which is done in the my profile section of app, is a simple process, with a simple search process used to find the apps you want to add to your list, after which you can add your own comment about the app. You can create as many lists as you like, and, optionally, share them with others via a link to a web based version of the list. 

App Highlights SocialApp Highlights Social

App Social is an intriguing direction in which to take App Highlights. One the one had Nokia dilutes its own influence over the lists that get added, although this is moderated by the ability to control which lists are featured, but at the same time the quality of app recommendations should benefit from the "wisdom of the crowds".

The quality factor does depend on community participation and it's too early to say how successfully this will be in the case of App Social. It would be interesting to know whether App Social ends up driving more downloads that the original version of App Highlights, but in all likelihood Nokia will be keeping those metrics close to its chest.

What we can say right now is that App Social provides a compelling alternative to the standard Store app, one that should have particular appeal to those that like the idea of crowd sourcing information.

In the Windows Phone Store App Social is labelled as "BETA", but in reality this should be seen as more of a formal release, graduating from the previous beta release version. That's because it is replacing App Highlights has a very significant install base (as you would expect for a pre-loaded app).

Windows Phone Store description:

App Social BETA offers an exciting way to discover great apps exclusively for your Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 device. Browse a wide array of curated collections, create your own app lists, have the community follow your collections, and rise to the top of the leaderboard!

Top Features:

  • Enjoy browsing through tons of different apps lists brought to you by Nokia and App Social BETA users around the world
  • While you browse you can thank users for cool app lists
  • Sign in to create and share lists of apps with your friends and with the world in order to gain thanks and followers in your lists
  • Search for your friends and tech celebrities to start following them and gain insights from their lists of apps

App Social is a free download from the Windows Phone Store (it will also be preloaded on most Nokia devices). App Social is only available for Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7 users can continue to use the original version of App Highlights.

Existing users of App Highlights will be offered an update through the standard app update mechanism in the Window Phone Store app. On installing this update App Highlights will be replaced with App Social.

A beta version of App Social will be made available though Nokia Beta Labs. This version will get new features first, acting as a test bed for the main app.