Coles Application For Windows Phone 8!

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Lack of support for Windows Phone by some of the larger retailers has been long lamented by users here in Australia, and in some cases, devs who saw the publics need for utilities to help them use the services of some of these companies have been discouraged in their efforts to get meaningful apps to the public. Banks are probably the best at providing apps for Windows Phone users here, supermarkets, sadly have been unrepresented in the Aussie market. SO to see an official application from Coles on the store today, with no definite idea of when it was released, although it was last updated on the 19/11/2013, seeing the app on the store today was a nice surprise, and Nick from Built To Roam, [@btroam] the company that developed the app assured me that it has only been made visible very recently.

As seems usual with most large companies, they assess the public need, and serve it when they think that need is great enough, therefore there is/has been an Android and iPhone app for Coles for a while. Seeing a Windows Phone app says something about the popularity of the OS in Australia, it has become prominent enough that the largest food retailer in the nation deems it necessary to have an app available. Not having seen either I installed and tried the Coles app today, and, well, let’s have a look…
There’s always a certain expectation when installing a new app, we get the preview and description on the store, screenshots, and most of the time reviews, still at this point there are no reviews for this app, and while the screenshots and description show what looks like a good app, will it be useable, useful more to the point.

The all new Coles app makes it quicker and easier to do your shopping at Coles: •Browse weekly specials and add them to your shopping list •Use the barcode scanner to quickly write your weekly shopping list •Share and instantly update your lists with family or friends •Browse Curtis Stone recipes, watch the Recipe Video and add the ingredients to your shopping list •”’Sort your shopping list by aisle – no more walking around looking for that last item!”’

Already the description promises some useful features, I use Coles for work, so anything that saves me time or visits to the actual store will be a boon. On first starup tha app imediately asks to use your location

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and the app kicks in to it’s most obvious feature, finding Coles stores where you can get your shop on. The location was very accurate, and picked up correctly which stores were closest to me, and they are actually the stores I use most often. You are then prompted to selct a store and you can set a favourite store.

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You can also search for stores outside of your immediate area, which seems to be set at approximately 5 kilometres from the GPS point the app determines for your location. Before I get into the actual “meat and potatoes”[sorry] of the app, one thing that really impressed me was the way that mapping had been fluidly included. Simple zoomable maps are included within the program, enough for general orientation and simple navigation, whilst directions will take you out of the app seamlessly to the native mapping included in the OS for detailed, driving walking directions, and back into the Coles app again with a few back arrow taps.

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Tap on any store on the map for details , you can add it as a favourite, call the store directly from the app or more importantly get directions to the store from here. At this point too, you start to get an idea of the simple, clean design of the app, you never feel like you have stepped out of the OS and into something else, it is very true to the native look of Windows Phone.

Generally though we are looking at shopping, or expediting the shopping process with the app, and I suppose the app deals with three key features of that process, deciding what you need to buy, making sure you don’t forget what you need to buy once you have decided, and getting in and out of the store in as efficient manner as possible.

The deciding and not forgetting is bundled, a product catalogue, a barcode scanner and the ability to add those items to a list that is shareable.

The catalogue is easily navigable, with products broken up in to categories, or you can search products by key words like, apricot, dried fruit, rice etc. This is probably a story better told in pictures though

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Enter your search term

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and boom, the whole range of products with either or both of the keywords appear in a scrolling list, which you can add to your ongoing list by tapping the red cross to the right of the product. Coles has a pretty extensive range so it gives you a lot of choice for that final selection. If pictures aren’t enough to jog your memory tap on the body of any product to drill down into the details of any product, especially useful if the product is new to you or you have special dietary requirements that you have to adhere to.

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Of course that’s the straight search option, by default the app has a panoramic view of certain specials, by category, you can stick with those or you can edit them to the categories you most use.

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It’s all very logical and well laid out, and has a minimal learning curve, pick your product, investigate it and add it to your list in multiples if you like.

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NIcely too, you can also pin any of the lists, categories to the start screen. These lists can then be shared, albeit via an email, that you open for approval, and then the list appears on the app on another phone. Of course most of us are creatures of habits, so you could just set up multiple lists of staples that you ordinarily by, or for those one off products that you you grab on impulse and really like, use the included barcode scanner to add them to a list for future purchase. The scanner can also be pinned to the start screen. [see the very first image in this post]

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Super convenient and easy right, it worked first go when I tried it on the Lumia 1320, but, and this was surprising on the 1020, the camera wouldn’t focus down to the barcode and pick it up. I habe had that problem with the 1020 before with using the scanner in Bing so I can’t say if it is the app or the phone in that case, but it was the only dodgy thing in what to that point was feeling like a flawless app.

The one thing that really irks me about the app, and this would be down to Coles, and their legal department cutting corners but all of the references in the legal bits in the about section of the app refer to iOS and Android only, Hello! That’s just slack

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Besides that it is definitely a well put together app, and it’s about time major retailers here in Aussie get on the Windows Phone bandwagon. It does everything it needs to do stylishly, without expecting the user to be a major technophile. It’s more of a testimony to the design skills of Built TO Roam, and their empathy for the OS than it is to Coles savvy I’m sure

The Coles app is free, even though it is essentially a total advertisement for their products, and you can pick it up in the store HERE

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