Distimo April Report

distmo.gifDistimo have a new report that compares the various App stores. 

Extrapolating current numbers, Distimo predicts the Google Android Market "to have only 40,000 applications less than the Apple App Store for iPhone by the end of June 2011, and will close the remaining gap before the end of July 2011."



PhoneGap Build Initial Impressions

phonegaplogo.gifOver the weekend, I gained access to the PhoneGap Build beta. As previously mentioned, it allows building of apps via a web interface rather than having the respective SDKs and PhoneGap on your desktop PC. I gave it a try. Here are some observations…

  • It’s currently working for Android, Palm, Symbian, BlackBerry but not iPhone. This is unexpected because PhoneGap was/is most popular on iOS. Apparently there are technical problems (getting certs to the build server) and there might be legal problems (as it involves Apple!).
  • It works with you first uploading HTML, CSS and JavaScript etc to the server. You run the build service and then download the apps. There’s a summary of this process on the PhoneGap build site. When I tried a build, it showed the apps building ‘forever’. However, refreshing the page showed they had completed. I managed to successfully download and run the Android version (haven’t yet had time to try the others).
  • Everything is tied together with an uploaded config.xml file based on the W3C widget spec. It’s great to see PhoneGap migrating to W3C specs. It’s also possible to load the files from a public or private git repository. There’s a useful project phonegap-start that provides sample files to get started.
  • As for costs, the "PhoneGap Build service will always be free for open source projects". This implies closed source will probably have to pay a usage or license fee.

When Nitobi have ironed out the build problems and have got it working for iPhone, I can see it becoming useful for some kinds of projects – those that have to be developed quickly and don’t integrate deeply into the phone features. As mentioned in my previous post, there still remains the problem of easily creating a UI with cross-platform native look and feel.

What Mobile Platform? Consider the Market

distmo.gifPeople often ask me what mobile platforms they should support. My Mobile Development Primer lists the main considerations…

  • Geography – Some platforms are more popular in some countries than others
  • Capability – Some platforms can’t do some things
  • Demographics – e.g. Some platforms are used more by enterprise than consumers
  • Your Capability – What can you program and have a passion for?
  • Market – Some platforms have better routes to market
  • Timing – Some platforms are more for the future than for now, some are for now, others are reinventing themselves

In terms of the market, it’s best to look at the reports such as Distimo’s latest Report for July 2010.

Distimo lists the highest ranked paid applications across the major app stores. For some reason, different genres of application are popular on different platforms. Here’s what I concluded…

  • Productivity, News, Lifestyle, Business -> Develop for iPad
  • Games -> Develop for iPhone or Ovi Store
  • Themes -> Develop for BlackBerry
  • Tools, Multimedia -> Develop for Android

However, the data might also be viewed in a contrarian manner. You could say that there are already too many apps (and competition) with these genres on the respective platforms and there might be opportunities in not doing what everyone else is doing.

The big question is why these types of app have become successful on the various platforms. For example, it might be because the platform best suits the genre (I expect this is so on the iPad) or that the type of person who buys that platform buys that type of app (this may be so for Android at the moment) or that certain types of developers have been especially attracted to top grossing platforms (e.g Electronic Arts Games on iPhone).

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."


"… 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?

Branded Mobile Applications

attentiondigital.gifIf you are interested in how applications are being used to promote brands then you might be interested in Johnny’s spreadsheet. It lists current iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm applications that explicitly promote a brand.

Notable by their absence in this study are Symbian applications. In other news there’s a rumour that Samsung will be dropping Symbian.

One Device Easy, Subsequent Devices Difficult

I have previously written how easy it is for new entrants to the device market to create the first device but increasingly difficult to maintain compatibility and multiple versions of an OS over time. It seems that both Google and Apple are starting to feel these pains and are passing them on to developers.

A few days ago I wrote on my Android blog about Compatibility challenges with respect to Android 1.5. Today we hear of developer anguish over iPhone OS 3.0.

In some ways, Symbian and Microsoft have an advantage here. They have established rules, processes and developer expectations.

Phone Market Share

A recurring theme in many feasibility studies I do is what devices to support. This depends on factors such as what geographic region(s) you wish to distribute, the technical requirements of your application and the currently popular devices.

The latter, the current device market, can be difficult to quantify. Here are some free sources I tend to use that I have mentioned in previous posts…

I came across a new information source last week. GetJar distribute over 33,000 separate applications and see 5,297,136 downloads per week. GetJar has downloads for Java, Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Palm, iPhone and Flash Lite. Hence, they have a great view of the devices adding applications. Statistics are available at mobref.com.

When I last looked, the statistics had images and data on 1302 devices. These are ranked by how new they are and their market share. Looking at the statistics, it’s interesting to see the top 19 phones are all Nokia…


If you are considering mobile development, you might conclude that Nokia S60 and S40 should be the first devices you might support. Another observation is that there’s a large long tail of phones. i.e. A large number of phones with less than 1% market share.

The ‘newest devices’ listing is particularly useful for developers already shipping applications. It gives an early indication of what new devices you might need to support.

One surprising statistic is that the most popular phone is the ancient Nokia N70-1 running S60 v2.8. This shows the latest phones may be sexy but not necessarily those adding most software. This also echo’s my experience of companies still wanting pre S60 3rd development. Older phones are cheaper and gain more market share with time, especially in developing countries (By the way, the next 4 most popular phones are actually S60 3rd).

I’d advise not looking at one set of statistics in isolation. Take a look at the other information sources at the top of this post. Each set of statistics has some skew based on the position of the particular information provider in its own market. For example, GetJar doesn’t include many iPhone applications and no Android applications both of which tend to be downloaded direct via an on-device application.

Handango Yardstick H1 2008

handango.gifHandango have just released their Yardstick for the first half of 2008.

The Handango press release says…

"Palm OS has not released any new devices in 2008 and therefore, Palm OS devices have fallen out of the top 10 list of smartphones adding content."


"There are no Windows Mobile Standard devices in the top 10 list of smartphones adding content in the first half of 2008… Three Windows Mobile Professional devices made the top 10 list of smartphones adding content in the first half of this year"


In conclusion, if you want to sell applications (at least via Handango) then you should be targeting BlackBerry. If targeting Windows Mobile then you might do well to write for the Pocket PC variant (touch screen) as opposed to the Smartphone variant (non touch screen).

The observation that (Palm OS) application sales are linked to new device sales is something that I found when I used to sell consumer Windows Mobile software. People mainly buy software when they set up their phone immediately following their phone purchase. I believe there are currently many unexplored opportunities for exploiting this time when people are very amenable to customising their phone.