App stores, time to revolutionize again

By | July 6, 2012

Not all positive trends are necessarily positive. According to the latest report from ComScore Google’s mobile OS, Android, is still the top smartphone platform [1], owning 50.9 percent of the market (as of May). Apple’s iOS follows suit with 31.9% of the market, having grown 1.7% since February. This is all very impressive. Yet I cannot help but have mixed emotions, considering that these are also the two mobile OS with which we at Melon Mobile have the hardest time being noticed and actually selling some apps.

Statistics show that the most popular smartphone activity is texting, followed by Internet browsing and playing games. Using applications is a very close fourth place. Smartphones would be much less useful, entertaining and overall sense-making without the apps that turn them into a vast array of other devices, from flashlights and calculators to your own personal assistant. Many people consider the availability of applications when choosing what smartphone device to buy.

And here is where the not so positive trends appear – Android and Apple keep growing, more developers are turning to them because they want to be part of this growth, and the app stores are flooded with EVERYTHING. Like what YouTube used to be before they tweaked the categories and started giving personalized recommendations. Yes, they are trying to limit the chaos with new categories, featured apps and the new lists, but… It’s not really working. So what happens is that many developers are doing some fine work without getting the much needed payout in the end.

Just to be clear, I am not trying to complain – our business is very innovative and insanely dynamic. Of course not everyone can survive this. However, good-quality production is something every market needs – there is definitely demand. What I am concerned about is whether this demand has reasonable access to the supply or we and our potential customers have taken diverging roads on the way to each other. Our customers largely look at the top apps list because everything else takes more effort. We, being unable to influence the choice of featured apps, are reaching out to them (you) via web tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, our websites and this here blog. As you may already be guessing, it does not always work out.

Let’s look at our experience. We make good apps – not hype material, or at least not so far – but we are a developer with a lot of experience, we test our apps profusely and we take a professional approach at this business as a whole. So far we have been unable to get almost any traction on the abovementioned top two platforms, whereas using the same marketing tools we have achieved much better results on Windows Phone. I think we are not a unique case – if you are a developer with a limited marketing budget and limited media connections, your sales on the App Store and Google Play will be less than dreamy.

So as long as iOS and Android continue to grow, and the tools they offer their customers to discover quality apps remain more or less the same as four years ago, there will remain the risk that professional developers will be moving away to more profitable, albeit less popular platforms. Until they become crowded, too. So far no one has come up with a fresh, viable solution. We have all but paused our iOS development, except for custom projects. And we greatly enjoy the more open Android OS, but there our situation is not much different. Perhaps this time the solution can come not from the app stores, but from the customers, who will get tired of seeing the same apps in the top app lists week after week. Or maybe it is time for us developers to take our turn to revolutionize the industry? Whatever it is, action should be taken before the negative consequences of positive trends start outweighing them.

What solution would you see as an alternative to the current app store order?

Oh, and this was Nora, Melon Mobile’s marketing something (we aren’t very particular about titles). If I have to describe myself in industry terms, I am a Windows Phone user with iPhone envy (as most great apps launch on iOS first). I am about as tall as RIM shares lately, or maybe a little above that, and as open-minded as Android. Perhaps also as fragmented because I am curious about everything and find it hard to say no to new opportunities, be it salsa dancing or a course in game theory.

‘Till next time,

Nora


[1] Total U.S. Smartphone Subscribers Ages 13+

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