Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Mobile Monday London 30 Jan 2012 Digest

I decided to join a few old colleagues to the Mobile Monday London yesterday evening and was quite glad I did - there were a lot of interesting points raised, which I will try and digest as concisely and impartially as possible, having worked with all parties involved: developers, store owners, companies of all kinds commissioning development of apps and games and lastly handset manufacturers and mobile operators.

The subject was: Mobile Games; current trends and what are the lessons for other sectors? This is very interesting as I have often seen games as an indicator of where apps may be going and sometimes even vice-versa. The panel had a broad and interesting background, the moderation animated and the questions slowly built up to a frenzy towards the end when beers were calling, so without further rambling, my bullets are:

Key Highlights
  • 16% of 5.4bn mobiles sold last year were smartphones
  • Fragmentation: One person in the audience remarked that they still remember the days of 14,000 Java SKUs and we seem to be heading the same way with Android. The panel commented that most developers they know are developing 6 SKUs for Android vs. 4 for iOS, so it really is not that big a deal. 
  • You can buy your way to the top of the (apple) app store 
  • Android was seen as more likely to promote an innovative idea...
  • the Android market is more freemium but the iOS market still quite premium, however, 
  • both the way you develop freemium as well as the gameplay is different to the way you develop premium apps, from the start, for the former marketing people are involved from the beginning and the game play is quite different
  • Developers are trying to diversify (more below) but none of them use a roadmap, and those that do only do it to launch and then follow public demand. (CB: I have seen this a lot shall write more on this later on this blog)
Other key points
  • Emerging market is still seeing a lot of Java vs. the two horse Android / Apple race of the ROW
  • despite 500,000 apps on the Appstore, the amount of copycat games is now growing rapidly
  • While developers are tying to get out of the "apple bin" they are still looking for incentives to get out and into Android, these maybe grants from the likes of Tiga, as well as other incentives such as pay for hire...
  • Developers are trying to get away from one big hit on on the app store
  • Piracy was seen as a barrier to Android market early on (CB: assume they mean rooting, however you can jailbreak an iPhone, so not sure how founded this is)
  • Mobile Ads are a part of a freemium strategy, typically can be 20% of revenue??
  • The big screen coming into play: yes (CB: even more need for a a roadmap!)
  • Gamification: is it a threat? the quorum was that gamification is for people who don't know how to develop games. 
  • Social gaming is growing 
  • developers are still spreading their developing bets between cross platform and not
  • The App Store is "more predictable" (CB: I think reading these bullets again its just that most developers, audience included, know the app store better, and of course, it is an older model)
So that's what I took away from the event, I would be interested to hear and points I may have missed, and comments people may have, etc. I recently moved this blog over from a tired 2006- html design of my own, and with it did a bit of a clean-up, but will be adding content back over frequently now, and will post updates on my Google+ profile, so please feel free to follow should you wish

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Mobile App OS choices

When deciding what OS to go out on there on are a number of factors to take into account, unfortunately, as with most things apps, all most people is see is numbers. Numbers are important, if you want distribution, but it is also important to look at the product, who uses it and its fit.

Bloomberg, for example, an app I have helped port to different OSs, is a great fit for Blackberry, Nokia and iPhone as the key business phones in the key Bloomberg markets: finance. While it may be good to be everywhere, you have to ask the cost of that and the incremental gains. Moreover is managing all these versions - they may be within budget to build, but as new services are rolled out, managing a roadmap across lots of mobile OS and their subsets (BB6, BB7, ipad, 3G and 4G screen sizes, etc) can become costly and difficult to manage.

Spotify is on Meego and the Nokia N9, as well as iOS and Android, but not on windows market; why - well the N9 has hit a sweetspot and will ship around the world to the kind of audience who will pay for a premium service, and the are relatively few apps on the device. Sonos is just on iOS and Android, probably based on the premise that while its users have other devices, if you have a premium music device, you will have either a tablet with the aforementioned OSs or a dedicated controller.

Social networks want to be pervasive, however with each OS version comes fragmentation, then there is the issue of prioritising the versions when you update an API and risk offending part of your base: the only option is to update all at the same time or plan very, very carefully and risk backlash! An developer from a social network recently told me that if they did it all again they would do probably just one or two native apps (no prize for guessing which ones) and the rest in HTML5 - he then corrected and said - no, I would do them all in HTML5 and have done: after all you get the most important APIs: location, audio and video, working out of the box, across all devices, in one go. How important is this, well very;
  1. one it means you can stay on or ahead of the curve - rolling out new services on mobile almost or even in parallel
  2. it means you avoid embarrassing issues like the iOS facebook app that recently had everybody in London posting from Walton Abbey for a while
  3. moreover, fragmentation is minimal: another developer recently expressed that his users have upto four different experiences of their product: one on a tablet at home, another on a PC at work, and then another one or two on their work and personal mobiles
A weather app, like accuweather for example will have different priorities, from bums on seats to strategic deals, which will see them having everything from bespoke versions just for the Nokia N97 and Voda 360 homescreens (yep I did that, it seems to be everywhere now, from samsung in store ads to tablet online promos - which is great) to then being on maybe android more than iOS now (how many weather apps must there be on the App store!).

So, in short there are many things to consider:
  1. What APIs if any you need and which support them and which handsets. Apple is still all inclusive (all devices have a compass, gps, etc, etc) however other devices / OS have all sorts of fragmentation 
  2. how easy is it to integrate the service you want on that platform and which platform(s) Android is not too far from Java J2ME, you may want to focus on this from the beginning
  3. How much is your app, how important are ads vs. revenue, freemium support
  4. do you have the need for fancy functionality such as in app subscription, upgrade, etc.. your mileage WILL vary by OS
  5. How important is design and brand. Apple are very aware of the style, UX, fonts, etc and encourage homogeneity with the OS, a clean experience, etc. This means not only is the experience generally more "pleasing" for want of a better word, the apps around it are generally of a high, homogeneous quality as well: no negative association. Android are now starting to do this as well, as per this new announcement of a few days ago of a style guide. Believe it or not, Vodafone were doing this in 2009 with Vodafone 360 and Nokia did it with their own beta apps but that is it.
  6. Your target audience: How many people use and will pay for your service: you may get 500,000 downloads for free on one platform vs 50,000 paid for on another... quality is generally better than quantity.. (unless you are targeted on quantity, of course!)
  7. The submission, update and approval process
  8. The stats, settlement, promotion, how easy will you be to find on the store, etc
  9. what phones your analysts have (if you are quoted :))
  10. can you do it in HTML5, get the usage and adoption stats, build on what you know, not what you think... so much time, so many wasted features have been built over the years on assumption: just get it out there!
Hope this helps...

Monday, 23 January 2012

... main page archive ...

Not a lot has changed since my first posts of 2006 from the original blog below, so here is a small update as I bring it over to Blogger; when we were doing some of the first mass-distribution apps (nokia festival guides pushed to 100,000 of festival goers on over 1,000 different devices) or 2008 when we saw the iphone taking grip. Back then, everybody who went to the festival wanted the app, just not everybody could have it.

Now, everybody wants the apps, and thanks to iPhone and then android quite a few people can have them. What has changed, I hear you cry, is that its not just the odd app, there is an app for everything. To which I will answer: yes, however, even with 500,000 apps on the app store, and 100 apps on my phone, I only use a few of them on a daily basis, and they have not changed that much:
  • News and magazines have been revolutionised by the iPad, obviously, but even on smartphones, with apps like Pulse
  • PIM is generally managed by social apps these days, but also on OS
  • Entertainment has skyrocketed: doodlebug, cut the rope, angry birds, etc need no introduction, neither do ebook apps
  • Travel evolved from apps like tripit to more social environments like PIM did: foursqaure, facebook places and more... also specific apps like tubeexits and apps to check buses, trains and even Boris (BoJo) bikes are making travel that bit more civilised, unless you are travelling low-cost by air, and then you are stuffed :)
So what else? well to be honest the world is going social, and with that you have 90% of what most people use daily, and what is driving apps:
  • Smartphones
  • Mobile social networking
  • Mobile networks driving point 1, but not necessarily directly driving point 2! MNO app strategy has to diversify post Vodafone 360, Blackberry app store, Ovi and other carrier and handset manufacturer and OS providers attempts to mimic an iPhone down approach rather than focussing on their strengths and a multilateral approach to enagaging data users.
  • Interesting apps and games by interesting people, this first revolution happened when everybody embraced iOS and then Android, but will skyrocket with HTML5 giving access to everybody, not just coders, to build great (and crap!) content

Original post from 2006 on "So what is driving mobile applications":
  • Personal Information Management (PIM), as we move from a world of "this is my laptop and I cannot work until I have Outlook and Office premium edition installed" to a world of 1gb Gmail and MSN, basically our info has become centralised. trying to access this info via WAP will be, well challenging, and if you do not know your pop3 settings for your PC, why will you for your mobile: the Gmail ODP is clearly the way forward
  • News/RSS/etc. lets face it; news WAP site are terrible, and RSS is that terrible combination of boring and complicated... get with it, I would download an ODP for The Register, the FT and the BBC tomorrow, and in doing so a) visit their site more often, and b) forget their competition forever!
  • Magazines; We all have our favourite magazines, some have tried to become MVNOs, most have email newsletters to capture our imagination mid-print. However, our consumption is changing, we now forgive print for being up to 2 months out of date for a monthly magazine because of all the glossy pictures and the ability to relax on the sofa on a Sunday or on a flight thumbing the pages... but at the moment we go elsewhere for the mid-week fix, in the form of different web-sites, weekly magazines, etc. The sensible magazine would reward and keep our custom with up-to the second info on what of their mag most matters to me, you and the guy in the lounge with the same magazine as me who will be sitting in seat 2C, but needs to know about the latest gadget as or before it hits the press releases.
  • Entertainment: Calling a number and going through an IVR system is no way to order a gig or cinema ticket, and there is no graphical means of representing the purchase, or a map, or any other potentially useful information. a cinema application, lets you browse gigs and events and even bars, see where they are, read reviews and, most importantly allows people to browse and make a purchase in their own time, as well as receive info and even original media (you only get this ringtone if you order via mobile) as well as the other keepsakes like the tickets, which can be sent in the post as usual. A mobile app also allows people to browse events after hours and on the weekends, when these kind of purchase decisions are made. If you have done your research on Channels to market by personality types, MBTI, etc. you will also know that IVR/telephone only appeals to extroverts in nature, which is OK-ish in the US, where 50% of your client base will make impulse purchases via an outgoing means, but in the UK and most of Europe that is as low as 30% of your market.
  • Travel. My problem with Lastminute.com in the late nineties, is the same problem I have with Lastminute.com, and every other travel provider over ten years later; who wants to browse holidays on their computer? Well quite a lot it seems, however, as with entertainment above, a lot of impulse purchases would be done via mobile. Moreover, more peripheral orders would be done via mobile, such as hire car, hotels, restaurants, tours, guides, etc. As the application already knows you are going to Rome on the 12th September. However, the other day I woke up particularly early on a Saturday and decided to see if I could get a ticket to Santander, which places you in the death grip of Ryanair only if you live in London... their website could not even sell me a ticket on the same, day. Instead there was a message to ring reservations... Reservations had another message that it was out of hours and to ring a premium number... I had to ring three times to get the number down (buying golden numbers to help your customers would just be a waste of money wouldn't it!). I finally rang an extremely expensive number 3 times to be told "the other party has hung up". You may argue that if Ryanair cannot even get their web and phone channel in order, what would they do with a mobile app? That is the glass half empty approach, the glass half full is: what is Ryanair, Easyjet and even the flag carriers like British Airways, doing without a way to browse, and buy tickets via mobile in order to gain a competitive advantage, or in the case of Ryanair, to actually have a same-day channel at all!
originally posted by Christian Borrman 22:19pm 20/12/06, updated 12:56pm 15/05/08