The auction house is the defining feature of the World of Warcraft in-game economy. It allows players to hawk their wares and easily meet up with other buyers without the hassle of face to face meetings or spamming chat and forums to find the person who has that rare item that you want. The use of the auction house or AH has become so ubiquitous that Blizzard figured it was time for players to be able to utilize it without actually logging in to WoW.
The remote auction house was the answer to this demand. Players using a web browser or apple devices like iPhones or iPod touches can log in through their Battle.net accounts on the World of Warcraft Armory and access the auction house from any of their characters. The functionality of the remote AH is very similar to what's available in the unmodified WoW UI with a few important changes.
Using the Remote Auction house
The first thing you'll encounter when you log into the Remote AH is the Summary screen. It links you to the four other parts of Remote AH; the Browse, My Bids, My Auctions, and Create tabs as well as a brief report on the number of items you're selling, number of auctions you've won, and how many items and gold are awaiting you in your mail box. You'll also have the option of selecting whether you want to do business on your home faction's auction house or on the neutral auction house. Another notable feature of this page is your ability to collect your mail while out of game. This effectively allows you to conduct all the business that you would normally do on the Auction House without being required to log in.
From the Summary tab you can proceed to the Auction House Browser. This tool, UI aside, is practically identical to the in-game auction house. You can search for items based on all the usual criteria from the names of items to the quality or type just like in game. The engine for the tool is remarkably quick, yielding results almost as quickly as the real thing. From this screen you can purchase items quickly and painlessly. You simply click on "Bid" or "Buyout" then you'll be prompted to confirm your decision. Once you've confirmed your purchase a little flash box will pop up alerting you that you've won an auction!
Creating auctions, unlike buying, is significantly different. Due to the obvious restraints resulting from not actually being in-game, Blizzard opted to give players the ability to sell any item that exists in their bags or their bank space. When you go to create an auction you'll be prompted with a box asking what you want to sell and a long list of every item that you have in your possession. When you click one of these items you'll be brought to the familiar screen that lets you choose how many of the item you want to sell, what the bid and buyout prices are, and additionally will show you the listings of other players that are selling the same item. When you're satisfied with the conditions of the auction simply click "create" and it's done!
The final two tabs focus on your bids on other players' auctions and the auctions that you are personally listing. The UI is uncomplicated and easily disseminates the information you need. For your personal auctions there are three categories: Active Auctions, Sold, and Ended. Active Auctions are the auctions what you have currently listed that have not sold or closed -- these items are still for sale. If there are bids on your item then you'll be able to view them just like you would in-game. Sold auctions are fairly self explanatory; these are the auctions that have ended in a successful sale. You'll be prompted with the amount of gold that you are entitled to. Ended auctions are auctions that have closed unsuccessfully, you'll be given back the item you listed minus your deposit and furthermore you'll be able to monitor your mailbox on the Summary tab to see that the item has been moved to your mailbox.
The "My Bids" tab lets you monitor items that you have bid on where the auction is still open as well as see items that you've won and items that you didn't win where the auction has closed.
All in all the remote AH provides the same functionality as the in-game one with an easy to use, eye pleasing interface. It's a treat to use.
Premium vs. Free
Right now the Remote Auction House is in the beta testing phase which means that it's free to use for all WoW players with active accounts. There's no word on when it will go live, but when it does it will be split into two categories of functionality: Free and Subscription. Users that subscribe to the Remote AH service will be billed $2.99 per month and be entitled to more advanced functions. The parts of the Remote AH that allow you to buy, sell, cancel, or otherwise modify auctions will only be available to subscribers.
Players that use the AH for free will still be able to monitor the state of their existing auctions as well as browse the AH to check prices, but they won't be able to do anything interactive beyond that.
iPod & iPhone Functionality
The app available for Apple hand helds is very similar to the Remote AH web interface. It has the same Summary, Browse, My Auctions, and Auction Creation tools that the web version has. These are all packaged in a really good looking and compact set of tools.
If I personally owned an iPhone I think subscribing to this service would be a no brainer, and would recommend it to any other WoW junkie. It looks amazing and easy to use, plus you get to use it on your PC as well!
The entire Remote AH is a really neat idea that lets WoW junkies feed their habit at work or school or wherever they happen to have internet access. The UI is simple, lagless, and easy to use. This is a really impressive tool and anyone with the time and inclination should really try it out while it's still free to get a firsthand look at what it has to offer.