Category Archives: apps

Apple uprising

Apple just released changes to their pricing structures, and are receiving a heavy backlash from larger publishers and from some smaller app creators who are crying “not fair”.

In essence this change restricts publishers from selling access to any portions of their app outside of the app store, and ensures that 30% of the sale price goes to Apple.

In the US there are rumblings of an anti-trust investigation, which I think I’m right in saying would be the first time that Apple have received this sort of attention.

I’m sure Apple are going to take this in their stride, and that publishers of all sizes will eventually just quieten down/roll over and accept the might of Apple, but there’s another long-term scenario that I imagine could be starting to play out here…

If you squeeze your eyes tightly closed, you could picture an Apple without Steve Jobs at all, and someone else at the helm who is not quite so controlling, and possibly still believes in Apple as the challenger brand, the benefactor, the champion of User Experience and friend of the niche markets. This new boss could start to be swayed by the weight of press and popular opinion and start to cave on some of these less popular issues. Maybe losing Jobs will have less impact on the inspiring products, but more impact on the business models that Apple chooses to put in place, resulting in a less powerful, more altruistic Apple over time.

Just maybe.

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Rise and Fall of apps Part 2 – Distribution channels

Once you’ve decided that an app is really required to do whatever it is you need (post to come on how to decide) distributing your app to your users is a bit of a minefield in itself.

App stores are appearing everywhere it seems, off the top of my head this is the list I’m aware of :

  • Apple’s App store (really a sub category within the iTunes distribution and charging framework – appears as as an app on the iOS platform, and as an app for Mac & PC)
  • Android Marketplace – newly revamped, as of January, appears as an app on Android handsets, and a website on the desktop.
  • Amazon are working on their own app store focussing on Android apps, and using their incredible customisation engine
  • Blackberry App World – appears as an app on Blackberry handsets
  • Nokia OVI – appears as an OVI app on newer handsets, as “Downloads” on older handsets, and has a web presence
  • Microsoft Marketplace – appears as an app on Windows Mobile 7 handsets
  • Getjar and other app aggregators – serving the Java handset market and moving into the Android space

In addition, its possible to distribute apps for most devices (iOS excluded) by simply putting them on a web server. This can be an attractive option if you are not worried about gaining exposure to the wide audience that visit the various app stores, don’t need to charge for your app through Google/Amazon/Getjar, or if you want to distribute your app only to a specific audience (for example if its exclusively for a companies internal use).

Apple is currently unique in that any apps submitted to them have to go through an internal Apple review. This is a famously opaque process – your app can be disallowed seemingly on a whim – however there are rules which Apple set down in their developer agreement which you MUST abide by, for your sanity as much as anything else, dont even bother trying to work this system.

Having consumers find your app within these stores is becoming quite difficult, and its worth following a couple of simple of rules :

  • choose your categories carefully. the games category takes up the majority of all of the stores, so simply chucking in another one is likely not to be seen. enter the app into more than one category if you can
  • make sure that the description, name and other data make your app easy to find, sound compelling and make sure you update the description regularly with information on how to contact you, new update information and anything relevant that will keep it sounding fresh
  • advertise in as many ways as possible. buy some keywords, distribute links to the app through social networks and generally just get it out there.

Part 1 – Cross platform development

Friendly advice – internet trends

A friend recently asked for some themes or trends that he could use at a work brainstorming – I knocked this list of thoughts & opinions out quickly and thought it was worth reproducing here …
1) Mobile internet is quickly overtaking the fixed internet.
The % of people who access the internet from their mobile phone/tablet (ipad et al) is accelerating massively as people buy more smartphones (mostly with big, touch screens, powerful web browsers and the ability to download apps). iPhone currently dominates, but phones running Google’s Android system, and Blackberry are not far behind. Nokia is rapidly losing its overall dominance and does not have a good hold on the high end market. They are using these phones to download apps at a massive rate (these apps often access the internet to do stuff), and they are increasingly visiting regular web sites – though the trend is to design apps and web sites specifically for smartphones. e.g. have a look at m.smh.com.au on an iPhone and see how it compares to www.smh.com.au on the same phone. People with smartphones (which are quickly becoming much much cheaper) have an expectation that they can do anything with their phones that they can do on their PC.

2) Apps are on a meteoric rise
Keyed in with (1), apps are the new way to represent your brand, and to engage with customers, but do not enter into this lightly as you will quickly alienate customers and they will tell you about it. Current stats are that each iPhone/Android customer downloads 8-9 apps per month.

3) Social Media is reaching saturation point. There is not a single demographic that is not deeply engaged with social media in one way or another. Facebook, Twitter and even “Like” on 3rd party sites are important channels. Some are even predicting that in the next couple of years they will supplant search engines and keywords – though I personally believe this is a way off yet. Social Media is overtaking Email as the base-case communication tool.
Twitter is an important one to get right, but check how your target demographics are using it – as there are differing levels of interest.
Stats : Facebook has 550million members (1 in 13 of the earths population). Foursquare went from almost 0 checkins in 2009 to 382million in 2010. 4300% growth – not to be ignored or thought of as fringe.
To get a social media strategy right you’ll need to consider how transparent you want to be with followers and friends, and what impacts this will have on your organisation. You also need to get the language and tone of voice right on your blogs, tweets, status updates etc.

4) Location and group based selling
Mobile : Foursquare is a location-based game turning into “show me local specials” – worth looking at.
Groupon is part of a massively growing group-buying site. Google just offered $4billion to buy it – the founder turned the offer down !
There are many of them popping up – there are a couple of Aussie ones.
Group opinion has taken a while to pick up, but think of sites like tripadvisor.com and the impact that user comments have on the hotels etc.

5) User generated video continues to grow exponentially.
Sites like YouTube and Vimeo are still growing crazily. Think of how many times you’ve seen a YouTube video embedded in a facebook posting. This heavily distributed approach has meant that YouTube is the defacto video site – even though people don’t visit the site itself. Having said that, I’ve heard that branded channels on YouTube are very successful. Have a look for Coke and Nike on YouTube and you’ll get to their channel.

hope that’s some use 🙂

The rise and fall of apps. Part 1 – cross platform development

Apps are everywhere. They do everything – apparently – better than anyone could have imagined before.

This is fantastic for now – apps are continuing on their meteoric rise , and the app industry is growing rapidly to meet the new demand. Every client assumes that they need an app for their project “just because”.

This simple demand reminds me a bit of that xtranormal video that was doing the rounds a few months back, which sees the hapless Evo salesperson trying to persuade a customer to buy something other than an iPhone … “I don’t care, just give me an iPhone” (language warning)

http://youtu.be/FL7yD-0pqZg

App developers are struggling with the simple demand to just build apps for everything and anything, particularly because each phone platform is so different, requiring different skill sets and a learning curve each time a new one appears.

As the number of platforms proliferate (iPhone, iPad, 2 Android, 2 Blackberry, 3 Nokia, Bada, 100 Java …), the effort needed to build and maintain the single app that the client requested grows exponentially, and the costs follow.

[Enter cross-platform development]

Several tools are entering the market which promise that a given app can be quickly and easily moved across to another platform with minimum changes – cutting costs and time to market for both the client and developer. Some fall foul of Apple’s restrictive policies and are disallowed for iPhone/iPad, but PhoneGap for one, has somehow gained Apple’s seal of approval and works for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others.

Just to be clear, Phonegap still requires that there is an app for each of the targeted mobile platforms, but in many situations, the app is really just a container for the web browser on the phone – the User Interface is all developed using HTML and JavaScript  which run inside the handset browser – and these parts of the app can be moved quickly and painlessly from iPhone to Android to Blackberry etc. with little if any change, though they do need a person who is familiar with deploying apps to each of the separate platforms.

In summary, Phonegap exposes many of the handset capabilities to the HTML & Javascript User Interface, meaning that many handset features normally associated with apps (for example the orientation of the phone, or the users GPS location) can also be used.

The output from PhoneGap is an app, which a user can download to their phone from the iPhone app. store or Android Marketplace, but much of the internals are actually web pages.

If you have experience or an understanding of Titanium or other cross-platform tools, please let us know by reply.

Parts 2 & 3 of this post will explore whether the web browser will rise to threaten the dominance of apps, and how to decide when you need an app, and when you don’t …

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