App Revenues to Increase… and Why it Probably Doesn’t Matter

GSMAThe GSMA is reporting that App Annie says “Global app store gross revenue will hit $51 billion this year and exceed $101 billion in 2020”. Revenue from the Play Store will exceed that from the iOS App Store by 2017.

I believe app developers shouldn’t get overly excited about revenue or projected changes in revenue. This only considers paid apps or apps offering in-app purchases. A very large slice of app development and return on investment (ROI) doesn’t come from people paying for apps but from free apps supporting paid products and services.

Messaging Replacing Apps?

Visionmobile has an interesting post Look Ma, No Apps, Just Messages where it’s said that there will be a move from apps to messaging. The “transition to a conversational paradigm” will be driven by Facebook.

I first read about this idea in UK Wired magazine but I am not so sure this will be the case. I see messaging apps are much like web (html) apps and notifications vs apps in that the limitations are such that they can’t be all things to all companies.

Take just one example. I have been on apps for iBeacons. How will these integrate? Will the messaging apps detect beacons? Probably not. However, assuming they will, where will the rules lie of what to trigger on and what to show? Facebook or some other messaging platform provider can’t extend this far to be flexible enough. This is just one such example. Think about GPS, SMS, using the phonebook, sharing data, branding and analytics. How will these be integrated in custom ways? Then there’s availability, security, data privacy and service longetivity. As someone recently said to me, “if you don’t own it, you don’t control it”.

I can’t yet see messaging platforms replacing apps even with Facebook pushing in that direction.

Winners and Losers in the Global App Economy

cariboudigitalCaribou Digital has new free research on the Winners and Losers in the Global App Economy (pdf). The report looks into who is making apps, who is making the money and in what markets by examining the top ranked apps across 37 national markets.

flowofapptrade

While the Internet and the app stores might appear to provide a level playing field for app developers, the report shows that app development and consumption is skewed towards the largest and richest economies. 95% of the estimated industry value is being captured by just the top 10 producing countries. The 19 lower-income countries earn an estimated 1% of global app economy revenues.

One of the main problems is that Google prohibits developers in many low-income countries from selling on the Play Store. It’s also more difficult than you might expect to successfully design and develop products for foreign consumers and markets.

top10countriesformobiledevelopers

It’s interesting that my home country, the United Kingdom ranks third in the World for developers producing the top apps. However, not all of the talent here is home grown. I have been aware for some time that an increasing number of people have moved to the UK or are trying to move to the UK to do app development.

Emerging App Markets

appannieAppAnnie has some new freely available research on “The Next Horizon of Emerging App Markets” (pdf). Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are driving download growth. Thailand, Vietnam, Argentina and Egypt are tipped by App Annie as the next countries to see growth.appannieemergingmarkets

For developers whose app audience is worldwide this means thinking more globally. Some things to think about include localisation (translation), pricing and in some cases re-designing for the target audience. Some apps might even benefit from a change of monetisation strategy based on the region. It might even be beneficial to think about apps only targeting the growth markets and their particular needs.

Tablet Sales Down – Possible New Opportunities

idcIDC has new research that shows that while tablet sales are declining, detachable tablet sales are growing fast “because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements”.

idctabletsq42015
This might provide opportunities for Android and iOS developers. Users will be looking to do more desktop-like tasks on their detachable tablets. There might be some opportunities if you can identify applications on the desktop not yet well-served on tablets and create iOS/Android apps that make great use of the keyboard.

Beacon Demonstrator App

beaconzoneI recently wrote about how many articles on iBeacons and Eddystone obscure or confuse what beacons actually are due to over emphasis of the (retail) business benefits or description of proprietary server side CMS features. I also mentioned I had written some articles explaining the basic concepts.

Following on from this I have created some simple Android and iOS apps for BeaconZone that demonstrate beacon triggering. The apps work with any iBeacons and allow you to set up triggering within the app itself rather than via a web-based CMS. The triggering settings can be shared, via a common ‘group name’ across phones and even across iOS and Android. If fact, it’s easier to set up on Android as you can detect any beacons but on iOS you can only detect predeclared ones. Hence, it’s easier to set up on Android and sync the trigger data with iOS. Both iOS and Android apps also trigger on beacons when the app isn’t running.

It has been a while since I last developed for iOS. As it happens, getting back into iOS development prompted an existing client to ask me to write an iPhone app for them. So it seems I am back into iOS development for a little while. I have been writing predominantly in Swift which I am enjoying but the change in syntax over time has broken many online code samples. I haven’t ever come across a language that breaks the old syntax over time. It’s very strange because languages are usually forward compatible in that old code never breaks but just becomes deprecated. The iOS app review process is still as onerous as ever and is particularly troublesome for iBeacon development. It took four times as long to get the Beacon Demonstrator app reviewed as it did to write it. However code signing, uploading and sharing beta versions is much easier than it used to be in the early days. Regarding newer iOS features, someone was having a bad day (or a joke) when they added auto layout to iOS, especially the Xcode tooling which is unintuitive and frustrating until you know the quirks. Apple should have taken some time to look at Android Studio.

The beacon ecosystem is maturing what with companies such as Estimote getting substantial funding and Nokia funding Sensoro. However, beacons are still only mainly being used in retail and visitor spaces. I believe they can do a lot more. The link between Bluetooth Beacons, IoT and sensors provides some opportunities and is an area I will be exploring further.

Thoughts on parse.com Shutting Down

parseIt’s less than a month since I posted about being impressed with Parse and talked about it’s “presumed longer-term continuity through being owned by Facebook” and yesterday parse announced it is shutting down.

I have always been cautious about using BaaS in production apps due to unknown service levels, uncertain longer term continuity, privacy issues and security concerns. Just as BaaS was getting my trust, it lost it again. Remember, take care if you are using a backend service provider, whatever their pedigree.

However, all is not lost. The closing of parse.com has caused the server side to be open sourced. This now provides a new way of providing for an easier server side. You get most of the advantages of Parse (no server side development and easy to use app SDKs) without the uncertain longevity risks of using a BaaS provider. I also expect a few ‘hosted parse server’ providers might surface to make the installation and setup easier and ease migration for the 600,000 developers using parse.com.

App Security as a Competitive Advantage

arxanAraxan has a new free 5th Annual State of Application Security Report (pdf) where they surveyed consumer attitudes to security and analysed the most popular mobile
health and mobile finance apps for security vulnerabilities.

arxanappvulnerabilities

82% of app users would change providers if apps offered by similar providers were more secure. At the moment, 50% of organisations allocate no budget for mobile app security. If you are in an organisation that ignores app security you have the opportunity to make security a competitive advantage. It’s possible to use security to attract and retain customers.