The Steam mobile app isn't bad by any stretch, but it's not particularly good, either. It's just sort of there: You can browse the store with it, purchase and remotely install games, chat with your Steam pals, and do most of the other major functions of the desktop Steam client. But there's nothing about it that really makes me want to. If it wasn't for the fact that I need it for Steam Guard, I probably wouldn't bother having it installed at all.
I can't honestly say how Valve might best go about making its mobile app more appealing, but I'm eager to find out what it's got in mind. And with any luck I'll find out fairly soon, because a new Steam mobile app (opens in new tab) has now launched in beta for both Android and iOS devices.
"We’ve rebuilt the app on a new framework and modernized the design. (2015 called and wanted their app back.)," Valve wrote. "You’ll still be able to browse the store, get Steam Guard codes, and confirm trades, but now the app comes with QR code sign in, smarter notifications, an improved Library, and multi account support."
"[The beta test] helps us test our assumptions, learn what you like and don’t like, and find things that need to be fixed. This is especially important when the app can be used on so many different phones and devices."
Valve invited "invested Steam users" who already have the mobile app installed and are willing to provide feedback to give the updated app a try. Full details on doing so are available in the Steam Mobile App group (opens in new tab): It's fairly straightforward for Android users (hit the provided link and wait for the update to install) but iOS users will have to install Apple's TestFlight app and then join through that. Apple also apparently restricts the number of initial beta participants to 10,000, so you may have to wait for more slots to open before you get in.
The early reactions on Reddit (opens in new tab) seems cautiously optimistic. Redditor awnful24x7 said the store and notifications are improved while Steam Guard "is now more focused and much easier to find," and do-You-Like-Pasta concurred, saying it looks good and the new QR code login option works well. Some others complained about slower performance and lag, but restarting the app apparently helped clear those issues up.
I've installed it on my phone (a cheap, years-old Motorola, for the record) and to me it seems, well, fine: The layout is a little cleaner, the notifications are more immediately accessible, the wishlist is very prominent (which is nice for regular sale-hunters) and while it does feel a bit sluggish in spots, it's not at all bad or unmanageable. The big win is the QR code login option, which is very nice: Instead of using a name, password, and Steam Guard as I usually do, I just clicked the "show me a code" link at the Steam login screen on my desktop, scanned it with my phone, and blammo, I was in, fast and easy.
The one knock against the beta app is that it doesn't currently support widgets, so the little Steam Guard screen I used to retrieve login codes without having to fire up the app is no longer functional. The QR code option may have rendered it redundant anyway, but on the off-chance that I will occasionally need a standard Steam Guard code, I hope Valve brings that widget option back soon.
There's no time frame at this point on when the new mobile app will go into full release, but Valve implied that there's still quite a bit of work to be done. It also invited all interested Steam users to take part in the conversation about the mobile app, even if they're not currently using it.
"We're still adding features, fixing bugs, and polishing the app," Valve wrote. "It's helpful to hear what you're excited about, what could be improved, and what needs fixing.
"Everyone is welcome to join the group and the conversation, even if you're not able to participate in the beta. We want to hear from you."