Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that an update a few months ago to the desktop Zune software has removed the Marketplace for buying or downloading clip_image001Windows Phone apps.

This was something of a surprise move to some, since the Zune software has been the primary way of finding and getting hold of phone apps, other than using the Marketplace app on the phone itself.

Read more about the development here. Hear it from the Windows Phone team here.

Over the months since the Windows Phone 7.5 (“Mango”) release, the web site at windowsphone.com has been getting more and more functionality, including a much improved “Web Marketplace” – as of now, the web site is the only way to browse apps on your PC and get them sent to the phone. Very soon, it will only be possible to get apps for the phone if you’re running the “Mango” release.

clip_image003If you browse the web marketplace (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-gb/marketplace for Brits) and see an app you like, you can quickly have it sent to your phone – over the data network, without needing to plug the phone into the PC first. It’s a good idea to be on WiFi if you’re going to be installing apps since it’s quicker, and it won’t cost anything compared to downloading data over 3G. Especially if you’re abroad at the time…

The Zune software is still going to be used to feed updates to the phone, such as OS version upgrades – it allows the PC to manage the large amounts of data required to do the update, and the Zune software can also make sure a backup is taken of your phone, in case things don’t quite go to plan. So, if you get a notification on the phone that an update is available (either the phone telling you, or if you plug it into your PC and the Zune software tells you), then it’s worth applying the update. For more info on how to get Mango if you haven’t done so already, see here.

Also, if you’re downloading very large apps (games, perhaps), you may find that they can’t be installed using the over-the-air method, e.g. if they’re larger than 20Mb in size. For apps this big, you’ll either need to connect the phone to WiFi or plug it into your PC. The delivery of apps is still done using the Web Marketplace in the latter case, it’s just that with the phone connected to the computer, it will use the PC’s own internet connection and be fed the apps that way.