It’s no secret in the industry that mobile app developers prefer Apple over Android, and a recent report by OpenSignal provides some insight into why this is the case. OpenSignal makes an app (for both platforms) that allows users to manage their data connections, and it culls data from its users that allow it to dabble in app analytics as well. The recent report shows that the Android operating system is currently working on an astonishing 11,868 different devices, and that number is only going up. That’s a very long tail indeed.
This is both a blessing and a curse for Android developers. On the one hand, Apple CEO Tim Cook positively loves to gloat over Android fragmentation and opines that it’s “terrible for developers.” Several versions of Android’s operating system, some of them quite old, are still being used by a great many Android customers, which means that many developers can’t put their best foot forward when coming up with products that have to work on older machines with fewer features.
Screen size is another major issue plaguing Android developers. While iOS developers only have to work with four different screen sizes (iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone5, and older iPhones), those creating for Android can’t optimize for a small number of devices without significantly reducing the size of their customer base.
It’s not all bad news, as CNET (among others) reports. Although proper testing for Android apps might take considerably more time than it does for iOS apps, with Android devices available at a wide range of price points, there are an awful lot more Android customers than there are iPhone users. Granted, market share is something of a flawed metric in the mobile economy (considering that Android hardware manufacturers are competing with one another as well as with Apple), but the fact of the matter is that Android users can get a device that’s exactly right for them, right for their budget, their usage needs, and so on. The gap is only going to widen over time; foreign markets are exploding, especially in many developing countries who will probably skip having landlines altogether.
In short, OpenSignal’s report demonstrates that developing for Android can be a headache, yes, but there’s also considerably greater potential for reward.
One of Android’s greatest strengths lies in its open sourcing, but this is also one of its greatest weaknesses. Just about anyone can submit a mobile app to the Google Play store, after which the market gleefully sorts out who succeeds and who fails.
The list of things that can get your app removed from the Google Play store is therefore a short one, but it’s certainly not impossible. Highest on that list is malware. Google is fairly
thorough when it comes to keeping malicious mobile apps out of the store, and if any of those should make it through, they’re removed as soon as they’re discovered.
Google’s not too keen on apps that are designed to block mobile ads, as it demonstrated with its recent removal of AdBlock Plus. The move generated a great deal of criticism from Android consumers, but it’s worth noting that ad-blocking software is very unkind to Google’s bottom line. Of course, Android being Android, users can still download those apps elsewhere, but Google wants nothing to do with them.
More recently, however, Google’s taken to removing apps that are of low quality. The precise criteria for removal are unclear, but last April Google removed as many as 60,000 apps from its virtual shelves.
the mobile development company Appcelerator arrived at the conclusion that Android’s popularity among mobile app developers has fallen lately. Of the developers surveyed, 89% say they’re “very interested” in the iPhone (88% in the iPad), while 78.6% are “very interested” in developing for Android smartphones (66% for Android tablets). These numbers certainly don’t seem game-breaking, but what’s alarming is that they represent a 5% decline from last quarter.
So what’s going on? Much of it has to do with Android’s fragmentation problems, which are an inevitable by-product of Google’s open-source model. Android’s operating system has been updated a total of seven times since 2009. The first of these, Cupcake, is still functioning on a significant number of devices. The Gingerbread OS, released at the end of 2010, operates on a much greater number of Android devices than the newer Ice Cream Sandwich. With so many different operating systems still active, developers are uncertain as to which they ought to be optimizing their mobile apps for.
Android monetization is another significant
factor in its diminishing popularity. Some (mostly unreliable) data suggest that iOS apps earn more than Android apps, but what is certain is that Android monetization models are significantly different than the more straightforward iOS. iTunes has been around for a while and iOS users are comfortable with the interface where they purchase their digital content. Android doesn’t benefit from the pre-existing sales architecture and thus relies more heavily on freemium, in-app purchase, and advertising models. While these models profitable, they are not quite as simple to quantify.
So what can Google do about it? As we recently reported, Google has high expectations for its Jelly Bean OS and it will likewise have to look at the security issues inherent in the in-app advertising model. In any event, Google is a creative and innovative company, so it’s unlikely that it will allow Android’s popularity to go into freefall.
Last week we revisited the nagging question that lies at the heart of the mobile app industry: “How much does it cost to develop a mobile app?” Bearing in mind that the answer to that question is and will always be “it depends,” this week we’re going to discuss budgeting strategies for mobile app start-ups, in the hopes that ample preparation will help soften the blow.
There are a couple approaches you can take once you’ve decided your mobile app idea is appealing enough to be taken seriously. Those approaches will rely heavily on the amount of investment capital the app will require. It breaks down like this: either you know how much you’re willing to spend, or you don’t; either you know how much developing the app will cost, or you don’t. In any event, you’ll need to have at least one of those questions answered before proceeding to the development itself.
Your first step, of course, is to have as precise an idea as possible as to what you want your app to do. The key word here is “precise.” You won’t necessarily need to have any grasp of the technical specifications involved, but you should be able to describe in detail exactly what it is your app will accomplish, how you want it to look, etc. At that point you can contact a service like ours and get three free app development quotes before you make a decision as to whether you’re willing to shell out the necessary start-up money.
If your budget falls short of that number, don’t despair. Remember that the development cost of a mobile app is directly proportional to its level of sophistication, so if you can’t afford the development costs for the app you have in mind, try and determine whether you can accomplish the same objectives with a lower level of sophistication.
In any event, services like ours allow you to minimize the initial risks by ensuring that you’ll know exactly how much the app development will cost before you have to spend a single dime. So drop us a line, and we’ll help get you started!
“How much will it cost to develop my mobile app?” is a question we hear from time to time, and by that we mean “several times a day.” The fact that this question doesn’t have a satisfactory answer is one of the more frustrating sides of the mobile app business, both for entrepreneurs and developers alike. There are far too many factors involved to quote a precise and accurate figure, so the best answer we can give – the best
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answer anyone can give – is “it depends.”
We realize that’s not terribly helpful, as far as answers go, but to get a better sense of the development cost for a given mobile app, it’s helpful to know on what that answer depends. Those of us in the mobile app industry love to break things down into categories, whether we believe there are two kinds of apps, or seven, or seven hundred. This isn’t always useful, particularly when those categories lead to a price range of anywhere from $1,000 to a quarter of a million dollars. The complexities of development cost can however be effectively distilled down to a fairly simple formula: the more sophisticated the app, the more it’s going to cost.
It’s certainly possible to develop a static, information-only mobile app for $1,000. Bear in mind that what we’re talking about here is an app with Pong-like levels of sophistication. Beyond that, every added feature will increase the total development cost, often significantly. Will the app be able to store all its necessary data on the platform on which it’s installed or will it require an external database? Is it a game that will require sophisticated pathing algorithms and 3D functionality? Will the app need to make use of the hardware on which it’s installed, the microphone, the camera, the accelerometer? Will the app’s look and feel require the participation of a professional graphic designer, in addition to the app developer? All of these factors contribute to the total development cost of any given mobile app.
We’ll discuss development budgeting in a later post, but in the meantime, if you’re considering developing a mobile app, let us hear your idea and we’ll set you up with three free quotes from experienced developers.
With hundreds of thousands of mobile apps available for the various Android platforms, high quality is no longer enough to ensure success in the marketplace. The Android operating system is only going to grow in the future – eMarketer projects Android to have a 37% market share by the end of this year – and to be competitive, you also have to make sure your customers can find out about your product. As a group of mobile app entrepreneurs meeting in Chicago recently agreed: “discoverability is the principle obstacle to success.”
In addition to an aggressive marketing campaign, one of the best ways to get a quality Android app on the charts is through an intelligent manipulation of SEO, or search engine optimization. A detailed explanation of SEO is beyond the scope of this post, but simply put, it consists of organizing your product in such a way as to ensure it’s found by those who are looking for it. Take, for example, Durango Mountain Resort, shown in this picture. (Our being domiciled in Durango doesn’t make us biased; DMR is in fact empirically awesome.) Without any help from a good SEO strategy, a DMR app would fall into the “weather” category, along with tens of thousands of other apps. In order for it to be found, everything from the title to the description to the website content would need to be laden with app-specific terms
… in this case, “Durango”, “Colorado”, “resort”, “ski”, “hiking”, “vacation”, and so on. This will go a long way to making sure that any user looking for resort-related apps will find that particular one on page one of their search.
A solid SEO strategy is important for any mobile app development project, of course, but it’s especially so for those developing on the Android platforms. According to Brafton News, 71 percent of Android users have used Google mobile search in the past 30 days prior to the poll being taken. It thus becomes supremely important for Android apps to target their SEO specifically at Google’s algorithm to maximize a product’s exposure to the users inclined to buy it.
Of course, if you need any help getting your own Android app to the market, just drop us a line and we can help set you up with a developer.
If you’re new to the mobile app industry, the process of developing an app and putting it in the app store might appear to be a simple one. In addition to the sheer volume of apps in the various app stores, the fact that mobile apps are usually cheap and usually provide a fairly simple service might suggest that not only is everyone doing it, but that everyone is doing it effortlessly and all the time.
Of course, nothing about mobile app development is as easy as it looks, but one would think that coming up with the app’s name might be a no-brainer. There are, however, a number of factors you need to consider before choosing a name for your mobile app and making it available for download.
- Uniqueness: If you submit a mobile app to with a name that’s already taken in Apple’s app store, it will swiftly be rejected. For Android apps, however, you won’t be able to submit it at all; Android package names must be unique for the app store to allow submission.
- Is the .com name available? You’ll need to bear in mind that if your roll out your app correctly, the app store isn’t the only place your clients will be exposed to it. For branding and marketing purposes, you’re going to need a web site, and ideally you’ll want your app and your site to share the same name. The same applies to Facebook and Twitter, and any other social media forums where you’re hoping to advertise your app.
- Brevity: Take a look at the apps on your telephone; you’ll notice that all or nearly all the names fit snugly beneath their icons. A brief and catchy name will likewise go far in ensuring that your app is memorable; brevity is the soul of wit, after all.
- Form and function: This is perhaps the most difficult factor to quantify, and the most important as well. Your app’s name is the first thing that prospective customers are going to see, so you want it to express as elegantly and concisely as possible what it is that your app is designed to do.
If you need any assistance getting your mobile app developed, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help!
If you think you’ve come up with the Next Big Thing in the Android mobile app market, then naturally you’ll be concerned with protecting that idea lest some unscrupulous developer passes it off as their own. There is something of a catch-22 here, of course; unless you possess the technical skill to code the app yourself, you’re going to have to share your idea with an app developer before they’re going to agree to develop it. How do you protect your idea? We hear this question rather a lot, so much so that we’ve decided to provide you with the four things you need to know to get your Android app safely into the stores.
- Hire a reputable developer: Services like ours are designed to connect you with experienced Android developers, but in your initial conversations, it’s important to consult their references, their web site, and test drive other apps they have in the store. If they have no references, no web site, or no apps to show you, then you’ll need to find someone else to shepherd your idea through to completion.
- Hire an attorney: If you have the resources at your disposal, it’s a good idea to engage the services of an intellectual property attorney to safeguard your interests. If your app really is as good as you think and we hope it is, this will very definitely be money well spent.
- Get a non-disclosure agreement: Usually referred to as an NDA, a non-disclosure agreement is a contractual agreement between you and your developer that prevents him or her from sharing your idea with any third parties, or from profiting from it themselves. Good developers will appreciate the care you’re taking with your own idea, and will generally have NDA’s ready for you. On the other hand, good developers are also busy people, and they’re unlikely to want to go through all the motions of drafting, negotiating, and signing an NDA if they don’t think they can take you seriously. It might be prudent at this point to provide them with a “bird’s-eye view” of your idea to get the ball rolling. Not enough detail to give away your idea, but enough that they can intelligently discuss with you feasibility and costs to develop your app.
- Don’t sweat it: This may sound like odd advice, but if you followed our first point – choosing a reputable developer – then it’s unlikely you’ll have anything to worry about. One thing to keep in mind is that coding the app is just the first step in Android app development and marketing. The practical problems (including all the other costs involved in getting an app idea from the idea stage to working product) will generally deter most would-be thieves from stealing your idea. Is it possible they would? Sure. Is it likely?
Finally, when you think about protecting ideas, the conventional wisdom is that “great” app ideas are a dime a dozen; whether a particular idea becomes a hit Android app is all in the execution of your idea. This includes design, coding, implementation, and marketing). Still, theft of your idea is a concern, talk to developers signing an NDA or talk to an attorney.
If you have other thoughts about protecting Android app ideas, leave a comment.
Fall is here and the aspens near our home base in Durango are starting to show it. Like any one of the beauties in the stand of aspens in this photo, it can be hard to stand out in a crowd. If you’re thinking about developing a mobile app, one of the first things you’ll need to consider is which platform will appeal to the broadest possible consumer base while helping you stand out from other apps like yours. The most common platform choices are iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and Blackberry, with iOS and Android leading the pack. Today we discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of choosing Android for your mobile app.
Although Android’s OS has fewer applications than iOS – just over 200,000, according to the May 2011 Distimo Report – its wide variety of available platforms give it a commanding lead in the actual number of smartphones owned and thus the number of subscribers who own them. According to the most recent figures, Android phones constitute 36.4% of the total U.S. market, leading Apple by a comfortable ten percent, and while Android has yet to best its competitor in terms of web consumption, there is certainly room for growth.
The bad news is that while Android has more available free applications than Apple, its subscribers are more skittish about paying for applications. This does not mean Android is not a viable choice – Google recently introduced an in-app billing system for Android applications that will render the freemium model more attractive to developers. Android’s in-app billing system has already begun to yield decent returns, particularly for game applications.
Apple’s app market insists on consolidation, which can be both a blessing and a curse; the same could be said of Android’s embrace of versatility. First, Android developers are “free to take advantage of the device hardware, access location information, run background services, set alarms, add notifications to the status bar, and much, much more.” In other words, to experiment with the device’s infrastructure without jailbreaking the phone and canceling the warranty. However, Google’s allowance of third-party apps has led to security concerns; in March 2011, Google had to pull fifty-eight malicious apps that collectively had been downloaded over 260,000 times. The good news is the security problems might not have been as bad as they were cracked up to be and most Android developers consider them merely a minor annoyance when compared to the freedom to develop without having to clear Apple’s vetting process.
We recently discussed the initial costs of developing an Android app. With that unpleasantness behind us, we can now get to the good stuff: how to turn that investment into profit. There are in fact a number of revenue models that app vendors use to monetize their products, and deciding which model to choose depends on a number of factors, such as category, functionality, and, of course, platform. What works best for the iOS apps isn’t necessarily what works best for Android apps, and below we’ll consider the various models to help you select the right one for your app.
- Paid Download: This is the most straightforward of the mobile app revenue models, payment for services rendered. However, when it comes to Android apps, it’s unwise to be seduced by the simplicity of the paid download model. According to a recent Distimo report, over 80% of Android apps using the paid model have been downloaded fewer than 100 times. You’d have better luck at the horse track.
- Freemiums: A combination of “free” and “premium,” this model essentially uses a “lite” version of itself to entice customers into purchasing the more sophisticated version of the app. This particular model is gaining traction in the marketplace, as developers seek more innovative ways for marketing their wares.
- In-app purchases: Primarily used in game apps, this model involves selling upgrades – virtual currency, armor, weapons, et cetera – to customers who download a free game and get hooked. The in-app purchase model is becoming increasingly popular for Android game apps.
- Advertising: Hillel Fuld of GigaOM recently predicted that the sale of advertising space in mobile apps will rise as high as $5.4 billion by 2015 in the U.S. alone, and concluded that “mobile advertising is the way to go.” Depending on the nature of your app, the advertising model is definitely something to consider. Even the world-famous Angry Birds makes use
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of this model on Android devices, where the app is free, and much less so on iPhones, where it is not.
Got a great idea for an Android app? Send me an e-mail and we’ll get you started on developing your app right away.