Growth in Mobile Ad Spending

April 9th, 2014

iab2.pngThere’s some research by PwC and the UK IAB that shows over one in four consumers now own a tablet. Mobile ad spend is accelerating and exceeded £1.3bn in 2013 and accounts for a sixth of all digital ad spending.

What might this mean for app developers? More ad spend, specifically on mobile, might be making ad-funded models more financially viable. There might be more scope for tablet apps that promote real products. Perhaps there are affiliate link funded app opportunities? I expect retail loyalty apps, such as the white label solution I created for Movanta might see a resurgence in interest.

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Android First

April 8th, 2014
techcrunch.gifThere’s an article "The fallacy of Android First" on TechCrunch. Emu developed on Android first, hit fragmentation problems and ended up on iOS. When developing an app, I think there are four main factors that affect Android fragmentation…
  • How an app is developed
  • The APIs required
  • The supported Android versions
  • The supported Android devices

These factors can also interact to compound the problems. It seems Emu mainly got tripped up with the APIs required. SMS is an especially tricky area on Android because Google have significantly changed the API over time. Most apps are just ‘information viewers’ and as such don’t hit such large fragmentation problems.

So what can others learn from this? First, I don’t think Emu did enough upfront analysis and research. They might have abandoned Android earlier had they known the difficulties earlier.

My advice to any new project is to get an experienced developer look over what you are about to do and advise if and how to proceed. They can save you a lot of grief. If your chosen developer won’t or can’t advise then move on and find someone who can. Do risky parts first to prove. If the app looks complex, think about a minimal proof of concept app before committing fully. All this advice goes for any app, not just Android or mobile.

Of problems, Emu spoke of…

"…difficulty of finding them, and of understanding them well enough to fix them. We can’t test on every Android device we support, so we get bug reports in the field that we couldn’t anticipate and can’t reproduce. And, plenty of bugs go unreported and, therefore, unnoticed."
 
People underestimate ongoing support and development (on iOS and Android). Nothing stays still. There are always new OS versions and new devices. It’s impossible to test everything. In complex apps, it might also be impossible to fix everything due to difficulties on specific devices. I have seen this on iOS as well as Android.

Android first? It depends. Take a deep look at your product’s technical requirements. Do some analysis and experimentation before jumping in. At the extreme end of the scale some projects are Android Only. Take a look at my fragmentation reduction tips. Additionally, plan for problems - on iOS AND Android. Also, don’t expect to be able to ship and forget.

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Single Use Devices

April 4th, 2014

android.gifI am increasingly seeing demand for apps that will be the only app running on a particular device. This is interesting because it takes Android to new markets and vertical uses. In my case my clients are re-purposing Android tablets for use in hospitality, high end camera phones for use in medical diagnosis and settop boxes to create new consumer devices.

I am also seeing colleagues and developers such as myself start to buy inexpensive Android hardware and use for a single purpose. For example, I have a client who uses small Android tablets as clocks in all his rooms. I know some people use old phones as web cams. Tablets can also be used as single-use permanent photo frames, used as home media controllers (with Chromecast) and single use media storage devices.

However the commercial opportunities are much larger. Think about single use apps that might run on AllInOnes, inexpensive single board computers and rugged devices.

Android makes a great general purpose ’single-use’ operating system because you can install an apk on any device entirely without Google’s intervention, the APIs are very deep allowing you to do almost everything you would want and devices (especially last year’s devices) are relatively inexpensive.

However, innovation should start with an idea or problem rather than focussing on the solution. Think about an industry you know a lot about and ask what are the current problems. Could they be solved using a single-use solution?

iOS and UIQ

April 3rd, 2014

apple.gifEvery time Apple starts a new patent trial I think how Apple wasn’t that innovative in that some aspects of iOS were found in Symbian’s touch screen OS UIQ. However, it’s my belief that Apple’s deserved success came through being able to cleverly commercialise the innovations when others had failed. 

I have previously mentioned how tapping on something such as a telephone number or address to cause an appropriate action isn’t new, was found in UIQ and is almost certainly prior art. In fact, actioning (as opposed to tapping - because we had no touch screens) an item and performing an appropriate action was an early Psion innovation.

Today, John Pagonis, an ex-Symbian employee mentioned on Twitter that Steve Jobs had a UIQ phone and even had a licence to the Symbian UIQ source for evaluation. This licence forbid Apple from pursuing its own mobile OS. John mentioned he knows this because he was sitting near the account manager who was responsible for the Apple account. This tends to explain how some aspects of UIQ ended up in iOS. Many innovations, whether from Apple or Samsung, are based on previous innovations.

UPDATE: As ex-Symbian Keith Playford mentions on twitter, UIQ owed more to Newton and Palm than iOS owed to UIQ. Symbian even had ex-Apple Scott Jenson on-board.

Kandar Interactive Smartphone OS Stats

April 2nd, 2014
kantar.pngKandar has a great new interactive web page that shows multiple countries and how smartphone OS market share has changed over time in your selected country.

 

kantarsmartphoneshare.png 

The data can also be viewed as a Word File.

RIoTboard Android 4.3 Board

March 31st, 2014

RIoTboard is a new board that supports Android 4.3 out of the box. It’s pitched as "revolutionizing the Internet of Things" but it’s really just a single board computer. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting platform for experimentation and perhaps commercialisation.

riotboard.png 

For more details visit the web site, the product spec, the data sheet, and the forum. Farnell, in the UK, have it available for £46.55 (about $76) + vat.

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Report on App Monetization

March 28th, 2014
idc.gifIDC and App Annie have a new free report on app advertising and monetization trends. Freemium continues to see the greatest growth with paid apps declining. However, your chosen method of monetisation should depend on both where you are and where your expected customers are located.

appannieidcrevmodelssmall.png 

In my opinion, too much emphasis is put on free vs paid and monetisation strategies. Very few people make money directly from apps and the ones that do are probably games.

The people making the real money are those that are supplying apps for free and instead selling or promoting something else. Almost every industry has opportunities to use apps as enablers of core business. For example, in my case, in the last year I have worked with companies using apps in healthcare, insurance, retail and hospitality. The retail solution was created so that it was white label to allow use by my client’s many clients. None of the apps I created over the last year for clients was sold, ad-funded or freemium funded. Instead, the apps support existing businesses to sell more of their core product or service.

I believe there are many opportunities such as these that go beyond the free vs paid mentality. Furthermore, if they are implemented in such a way as to be re-brandable via white labelling then this leverages the opportunity to make it even larger.

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Demand for Mobile OS Developers

March 26th, 2014
I have been looking at the demand for Android and iOS developers in the US and UK. US oriented WantedAnalytics has some stats on the most in-demand mobile operating systems for February 2014…

wantedanalyticsplatforms.png 

Their hiring scale, in range 1 to 99, scores skills according to how hard they are to fill. All of the above operating systems score around 80 signifying they are hard to fill.

Meanwhile, in the UK, ITJobsWatch  lists the top wanted operating systems for the 3 months to 26 March 2014…

itjobswatchskills.png

Here in the UK it’s extremely difficult to recruit experienced mobile developers for a permanent employee role. Instead, most work is done by freelancers like myself.

Two observations…

  • The situation has reversed from two years ago when iOS was in more demand than Android.
  • It’s interesting that demand for Windows and Linux developers still far exceeds, by an order of magnitude, that for mobile OS developers. I guess it’s due to all the legacy software out there. What with Mobile Eating the World, we can only expect the demand for mobile OS developers to increase and jobs become even harder to fill.

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