Canalys Q2 2012

canalys.gifCanalys released their Q2/2012 figures while I was away last week. I take more interest in Canalys reporting because a) They are World figures (I dislike the way some other researchers quote US figures as if they are World numbers) and b) The numbers are based on shipments and not on something such as use of an ad network that is bound to have some geographical or mobile platform bias.

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Some observations… 

  • Android went from 47.6% to 68.1% market share over a year
  • Windows Phone is definitely a failure now
  • Blackberry has a low market share of only 5.4%
I believe we have now reached the stage where it’s not really worth developing new apps on BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone. It’s now iOS (for revenue from paid apps) and Android for reach.

Mobile Stats, Android and Fragmentation

gartner136.gifThe theme today seems to be mobile stats and different ways to view them. First take a look at Gartner’s Q1/2012 stats released today. The interesting part for mobile developers is the breakdown by operating system…

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Android has made a large gain in market share. Symbian is dying fast and Microsoft has less share than Bada that, according to rumour, will be retired soon. If the Gartner stats aren’t enough for you, take a look at the Google sponsored Our Mobile Planet, that allows you to create your own charts based on consumer stats. Finally, if your focus is Android then visit the opensignalmaps fascinating analysis of Android fragmentation and then read how Google is shifting tack to try to reduce fragmentation.

Graphics Download for Mobile Apps

imageformats.pngOne of the areas I commonly see startups underestimate is the download of non-photographic graphics. In its simplest form, download via http is trivial on all mobile platforms. However, the complexity manifests itself when you start to consider that different devices have different screen sizes and resizing graphics on the device is undesirable either because upsizing causes fuzzyness, downsizing loses small line detail in shapes and, in any case, downloading larger graphics for later reduction is extremely wasteful on both server resources and data.

Things get slightly more complex when you start to think about the server sending a particular size based on the device. The device type has to be sent to the server, the server has to keep different sizes of the same image and these images have to be created somehow, usually by a human if it’s a non-photographic graphic. What’s more, the server needs to know about all types of device and update these into the future. An additional problem on iOS is avoiding undesirably large downloads via 3G

All these things should influence your initial design from the outset. Keep the graphic design as simple as possible. Every dynamic graphic you add will increase the complexity. Where possible, consider using scalar vector graphics rather than bitmap-based formats. Possibly have different screen layouts for different screen resolutions so you can re-use a same-size graphic in different ways. Think about which devices on which platforms you wish to support as the more you have, the greater the graphical complexity. To spice up app, consider using fixed brand-coloured buttons, list backgrounds and other controls rather than insisting on dynamic bitmaps.

Gartner Q4 2011 Stats

gartner136.gifGartner have just released their worldwide smartphone stats for Q4 2012. Total smartphone sales in 2011 reached 472 million units and accounted for 31 percent of all mobile devices sales, up 58 percent from 2010. Of interest to developers is the table showing platform market share…

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These figures are interesting because they are world figures, not just US numbers as shown by some companies and analysts. The order of magnitude of the various numbers backs up those given by Canalys last week.

IDC Mobile Developer Report

idc.gifIDC and Appcelerator have a great new Mobile Developer Report (pdf) surveying the current  interest of 2,363 Appcelerator application developers.

Some of the findings…

  • Android had the best long-term outlook compared to iOS yet 91% said they are “very interested” in developing for the iOS compared to 82% for Android phones
  • Developers are showing enthusiasm for connected TVs
  • Four out of five developers said their users prefer native applications to mobile websites because of user experience expectations

Robotium for Android

robotium.gifToday, I came across Robotium for Android. It’s a test framework that allows you to create test cases for Android Activities, Dialogs, Toasts, Menus and Context Menus. There’s a great overview on bitbar.

It’s amazing how many new Android tools, libraries, code samples and tips appear every day. There seems to be a huge developer momentum behind Android. So much so, I question whether developers will have the time and incentive to start developing for newer Bada, Windows Phone 7, Symbian^3/Symbian^4 and MeeGo.

Vision Mobile’s Mobile Developer Economics 2010

visionmobile.gifIf you haven’t done so already, I’d take a look at Vision Mobile’s Mobile Developer Economics 2010 sponsored by Telefonica.

One thing I should say is that the term ‘developers’ is a bit misleading in all of this. Mobile developers are driven (employed by) by handset OEMs, carriers, companies, brands, marketing agencies etc. so the economic insights of the Visionmobile survey speak as much for the industry as a whole as they do for individual developer impressions.

On my first quick read through I started to connect a few things together. On the addressable Market and monetisation, the research showed…

"Developers care more about addressable market and monetisation potential than any single technical aspect of a platform."

yet…

"… felt that the best aspect of their platform was the large market penetration, even if the actual market penetration was relatively small."

Leading on from this, there’s a disparity between the device installed base and the number of available apps for each platform. The apps that have greatest installed base have the fewest applications and vice versa. Developers have flocked onto the new platforms resulting in huge competition and low revenues…

"The dubious long-tail economics are reinforced by our findings on developer revenue expectations. Only five percent of the respondents reported very good revenues, above their expectations"

Now, developers say the…

"key challenge reported by mobile developers is the lack of effective marketing channels to increase application exposure and discovery"

My thought is that while more success might come through better marketing and exposure, this can’t happen for all (or even a large number of) developers. There’s a limited number of consumers on each platform that have a finite amount of time (and sometimes money) looking for apps.

I question what will happen with the even newer platforms: MeeGo, Symbian^4, Windows Phone 7 and Bada. Will developers stay away because they have been burnt (financially) by iPhone and Android or will they move to them because of the poor long tail revenue opportunities on iPhone and Android? Is there a finite audience for mobile apps (or at least people who want to spend money on them) and has this already been served (and targeted) by the iPhone?

Appcelerator Developer Survey

Appcelerator has a great survey of ‘platform interest’ of 2,733 Appcelerator application developers taken during June 2010. The survey covers…
 
"the perceptions for each of the six major OS platforms: Apple (iOS), Google (Android), Palm/HP (webOS), Microsoft (Phone 7), Nokia (Symbian/Meego) and RIM (BlackBerry)."

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While reading the survey, remember historically, that Appcelerator’s customers were primarily iPhone developers and more recently include Android developers.

As a freelance developer, I am getting more interest in BlackBerry than the survey might suggest. Also, Windows Mobile (5.x and 6.x) still isn’t dead, especially for the enterprise and specialist applications. Windows Mobile will coexist with Windows Phone 7 for at least two years.

Finally, expect a big push by Nokia’s MeeGo, Samsung’s Bada and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 in the coming year as I know these companies are already committing large resources to try to tempt end-users and developers away from iPhone and Android.