Six Numbers that Matter, Five that Don’t for Mobile in 2011


No, it’s not a predictions post. It would be too late for that anyway, right (this year, they got started in September!)? Instead, I want to focus on some key numbers to pay attention to throughout 2011, as well as some not so key ones. Please, do yourself a favor…pay special attention to the ones that don’t matter and any time you see an article about them, don’t waste your time reading it.

Do Matter

1. Two U.S. carriers for the iPhone.

It’s important news for iOS developers, regardless of location. Conservatively, iOS app sales could increase by 5-7% over the next year based on how quickly Verizon is likely to ramp up sales.

2. The number of Windows Phone 7 devices that get activated.

I’m not sure there are any reliable data points on this one right now. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t know anyone with a WP7 (other than developers) and that’s still the case. It remains to be seen if WP7 can become an alternative to iOS, Android, and RIM…and if it gets enough traction to entice developers to build for it.

3. Android 3.0, Honeycomb

Android tablets—but possibly not one that you currently own—are finally going to have an operating system designed specifically for them. The update looks promising, as seen in Google’s sneak peek video.

4. Sales for “iPad killers”

In my opinion, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is still the only other option to the iPad but the Motorola XOOM appears promising. Neither are truly iPad killers but with the tablet craziness at CES this year, the numbers will inform us of the true iPad killers alternatives.

5. Benchmarks for In App Purchase conversion rates.

Both through my discussions and other industry data points such as Urban Airship’s 2010 developer survey, it’s obvious developers are hot on In App Purchase and the freemium model. Interest for In App Purchase as a way to monetize an app has swung from 8% to 31% from 2010 to 2011. What’s needed, however, are benchmarks that provide industry standards for In App Purchase conversion rates or developers are still just guessing that this model is the best for their applications.

6. The percentage of developers building for one more than one platform.

Developers try to follow the money trail. Should there be large percentage shifts in developers, especially iOS developers, who also begin building for other platforms, that’s a key indiciator that other platforms are picking up momentum.

My take on this one: even with Android 3.0, fragmentation still presents serious problems on Android (especially due to carrier control). WP7 also would have to ship a ton of devices to make it enticing for developers. Overall, even if the numbers show building across platforms is picking up interest, I don’t see it being a breakout year for Android or WP7 consumer applications.

Don’t Matter

1. Android leading the U.S. smartphone market share.

That was known all along because Google’s strategy is about advertising, meaning it needs volume. The surprise was how fast it achieved that volume…but not that it was achieved. Remember that market share leader does not equate to most profitable or best opportunity for mobile app developers.

2. The number of apps in Apple’s iOS App Store.

Short version: there’s a lot of ‘em.

Slightly longer version: What’s the difference to consumers between 300,000 or 500,000 apps? Critical mass has been reached.

3. iOS 3.x

It’s time to retire supporting iOS 3.x, especially with iOS 4.3 on its way. Apple will do it soon enough and many developers have already made this decision.

4. The number of pundits on each side of the mobile web versus mobile native debate.

This debate should have been over in 2009 but it got revved up again in 2010. There is no single winner. We need both and both are here to stay.

5. Total value of mobile app market.

There’s been several waves of the mobile app phenomena at this point. I see the next being focused on business-to-business, enterprise, and generally more “internal” tablet applications. If mobile is not a priority by now for any organization, the ever changing total value of the mobile app market guesstimated by analysts is not going to suddenly make it one.