The first batch of apps for the Zune HD can now be freely downloaded from Microsoft, and they come with an unexpected "present": static and video ads that play during launch.
Apps for the new Zune HD (read our review) are now available... with an unexpected "bonus": static and video ads that play during launch.
Nine apps are available: calculator, weather, Texas hold 'em, Sudoku, Space Battle 3, Shell Game... Of the Future, Hexic, Goo Splat, and Chess. They can be downloaded freely from the "Marketplace" menu on the device, and a new "Apps" menu item then appears on the main screen (you'll need to scroll down the main menu to see it, as it's pushed off the bottom of the first screen). Apps function just as you'd expect—they're small programs that look great and really take advantage of the nice screen. They are all professionally designed by Microsoft, though a couple are really worthless (ahem, Shell Game... Of the Future), but hey, they're free!
Or, rather, they're "free," since Microsoft has apparently decided to sell ads against them. The ads show up during app launch, which takes an astonishingly long time. Booting Chess took 30 seconds, though I suppose one could be grateful for the Kia Soul video that gives the eyes something to do.
Launching the weather app takes about 8 seconds, the calculator about 9. Goo Splat, which has been showing a static ad this morning for the Soul, launches in about 17 seconds.
Ads don't show up (or at least they haven't yet) when launching the utility apps, calc and weather; instead, they are limited to the games. The games themselves are bright, colorful, and work much better with the touchscreen than they ever did with the touch pad in the last Zune models. Chess and Sudoku, especially, look like an excellent diversion when you have a few minutes to kill.
The apps are all touch-enabled, though it looks as though only the calculator takes advantage of the accelerometer; twisting the screen into landscape mode switches the calculator to a scientific model.
Like the Web browser, the apps feel like a decent "bonus" on a generally excellent media player, though none are exceptionally compelling. Reactions to the ads may differ, though it is possible to avoid them by keeping games off the Zune HD.
Source: ars technica