Posts tagged "analysis"

Reactions to Google I/O 2013

Unlike in 2012, this year’s Google I/O was not a distinctively Android-focused event and that’s telling: Google has realized that the key to mobile does not rest with Android itself. Google does not win mobile by competing against Apple and iOS. It wins by being Google, focusing on servicing its customers across platforms.

While there were some significant product announcements such as Google+ Hangouts—which launched on Chrome, Android, and iOS simultaneously—I’m going to highlight the interesting Android developments that caught my eye. For further details, check out Google’s wrap-up of the Android announcements on their blog.

Google Play Services

The big three here were new location services, Google+ sign-in across devices, and improvements to Google Cloud Messaging. Having worked on applications that heavily rely on location, I’m pretty excited about the low battery consumption aspect, along with the new activity monitoring that can detect movement type (e.g., walking versus running).

Making Google+ immediately more relevant as an identity provider, is the automatic sign-in to an app that’s been downloaded across your Android devices. This update is something that is extremely difficult to execute if you’re Facebook or Apple, without having to rely on one another.

On the Google Cloud Messaging side, there are some goodies for developers like upstream messaging and persistent connections. As a consumer, however, I’m looking forward to the fact that notifications are now synced across devices. Dismiss a notification on one device and that’s respected across your Android devices.

Google Play Developer Console

Thankfully, we’ve found a great localization partner in Applingua and they’ve helped us localize about a half-dozen iOS and Android apps. I believe that has definitely increased our success, which is why it’s surprising that more developers don’t take the time to localize their apps. That’s likely going to change with how easy Google’s making it to localize apps by submitting the strings file through their developer console to approved localization vendors.

I am initially concerned with this approach providing the right context to the translators, as a strings file alone won’t do that. We always give a build to Applingua and even when doing that, we sometimes have to tweak strings after a release. Provided that there is some level of interaction or quality checks involved, it’s a great addition.

Another welcomed update is the ability to do alpha and beta distribution via the console. I don’t love, however, that this seems wrapped up in Google+ itself by sharing with specific people or Circles. Hopefully it won’t be. In any case, we’ll still be using Hockey for the foreseeable future since it’s a one-stop shop for doing distribution across platforms.

One strategy mobile game developers have done for the last few years, is to initially launch an app in Canada to see how it performs, make revisions, and then tackle the U.S. market. With Google’s new “staged” rollouts, that might be a thing of the past on Android. Along with referral tracking, optimization to do’s, and the new revenue reports coming to the console, Google is finally bringing its algorithmic DNA to mobile app developers.

Android Studio

If you have spent any time around developers, you know they regularly complain about all and any IDEs. Thus it wasn’t surprising that my Android team members were immediately skeptical at this announcement. But within 10 seconds (literally) of Android Studio being demoed, they became very interested in it.

The verdict is still out obviously but Android Studio appears promising. Having an IDE specifically focused on Android is going to reinforce Android as a platform and at least in theory, reduce the learning curve and speed the development of Android apps. It’s a smart move by Google and the Android team.

TWTRCON DC ’09 and Twitter’s Future

“I don’t see where Twitter will get its next one million users,” chirped Steve Rubel at the final TWTRCON DC ’09 panel featuring him, Rohit Bhargava, Frank Gruber, and Clay Johnson.

Steve believes sites like Facebook are the ones that are prepped for larger growth. Yet, he has been surprised by the way that Twitter has been able to continue to innovate and grab attention, pointing to Tweetie 2 as a recent example. Of course, Tweetie 2 was not made by Twitter. It’s arguable whether or not the greatest innovations of Twitter are being created by them (e.g., their forthcoming lists) or by those using its API as a platform.

That, in some ways, is related to the main takeaway from TWTRCON DC. Ultimately, it wasn’t a conference about learning to use Twitter. Rather, it was one showcasing how people and organizations from different backgrounds and industries are actually using it. Twitter for business, non-profits, government, etc. are all possible because of Twitter as a platform.

Major destination sites emerged at the birth of the consumer web. Amazon is known for books (and now more generally, E-tail), eBay for being a secondary market, Google for search, and Yahoo! for content. A number of second generation “Web 2.0″ sites have also arrived. Facebook is the current leader in being the online social graph. Wikipedia is where people go to look up information. Craigslist is the definitive online classified listing and the strangest monopoly in history. Where does Twitter fit in the mix?

Clearly, Twitter represents a type of identity management and social graph. It allows people to search for information, although information of a different nature (real-time). Many organizations are using Twitter for recruiting and job postings. It’s touching on many of the strengths, features, and focus of these more traditionally established destination sites yet it was not built to replace them.

The future of Twitter is in how people are using it now – as a platform. Look at how the practioners of TWTRCON (i.e., not the pundits) think about Twitter. It’s a means for them to connect, market, serve, donate, analyze, find, employ, interact, and more with those who have a mutual interest in doing so. The future of Twitter is in it facilitating the pulse of the planet. Whether it can reach that point and overcome challenges like getting the next million users or if we should want it to are two topics for another discussion. In the meantime, TWTRCON held a great conference, highlighting how people and companies are using Twitter to currently transform the way we live and work both on and offline.

The Five-Minute Guide to iPhone App Market Sizing, Pricing Experiments, and User Trends

In both developing my own iPhone apps and in discussing with clients or prospective clients, understanding data and trends behind the App Store and apps is critical.

Jonathan Wegener provided a nice framework for market sizing. There’s also those in the community that have been kind enough to either due some homework or even share their own sales data. While the number of iPhone and iPod Touch devices continues to grow, meaning that this data will grow stale and less relevant over time, there is still much to glean from this information.

I’ve decided to share my synthesis of what iPhone developers and industry analysts have provided. The deck quickly highlights information about users and apps, meaning there are details ranging from how users discover apps to the number of downloads it takes to get to the top of the App Store. It’s by no means exhaustive and is purposed to function more as a reference guide. I’m only cherry-picking the data I’ve found most relevant and interesting.

Ramp Champ – Combining iPhone Play with In App Purchases and Virtual Goods

While it’s been stated that the iPhone and iPod Touch are actually not easy to use (or perhaps more apt, not easy to design for), clearly they offer a paradigm that’s resonated with 60M+ consumers worldwide. There’s no shortage of apps on the App Store, with last official numbers reporting around 50,000 of them. Apple’s looking at 8,500 new applications and updates every week. That’s mucho apps.

The point is that in a crowded market, there needs to be a way to standout. Iconfactory, maker of the once firmly entrenched Twitterific desktop client, has done just that with its new game Ramp Champ. Ramp Champ is a case study in how to (re)define a market and it’s going to be a huge success. For a review of the game itself, check out Touch Arcade’s post.

iPhone Play

Many iPhone games simply don’t leverage the touch screen or accelerometer to full capacity or do so in a way that’s annoying. One of the reasons Flight Control, Paper Toss, and Harbor Master have been exceptionally popular is because they’ve allowed the finger to be the controller.

Ramp Champ leverages the increasingly popular “flick” interaction in a skeeball-like environment. Unlike in skeeball, there are moving targets but like it, rolling or in this case, flicking harder or softer allows the ball to go higher or lower.

Of course, Ramp Champ wouldn’t be Ramp Champ without its carnival-type music or incredible aesthetic. Mixing all of these elements together creates a stellar iPhone “play” experience.

In App Purchases

Because of the way the game was built, with each game of Ramp Champ feeling like its own level, the developers have made it easy to offer in app purchases. Ramp Champ launches with two in app purchases already available. I’ve talked to some game developers about this approach because continuing to spin out new levels for free versus offering in app purchases can really transform the economics of a business.

Now, this approach is somewhat untested on the iPhone platform. But it’s not everywhere else. Upgrades for new levels often require customers to open their wallets. By developing an app that essentially uses the same programming but changes the design and scenery to create a sense of levels or different games plus having in app purchases available at the launch of the game, the developers have set consumer expectations. The result is that the lifetime value of a Ramp Champ customer will be considerably higher than other popular games.

Virtual Goods

The stats show that keeping users engaged beyond a week is difficult. Ramp Champ’s in app purchases is one way they’ll keep people coming back. The other is incentive to perform and not just in the sense of breaking records but in collecting goods.

Anyone who grew up playing in arcades was likely once swept away by collecting tickets and redeeming them to get toys and trinkets that would cost much less if they were bought directly. Virtual goods are big business and Ramp Champ plays to that obsession by allowing users to redeem tickets won in games for virtual goods in the “Loot” area. Users can also collect trophies.

Because the Iconfactory is well, good at making icons, there are some very shiny objects in there, including the Twitterific mascot Ollie.

Conclusion

I’m sure you’ll read or see 58296 other posts about Ramp Champ today. But it’s as important to think about an app like this one strategically, as it is to laude it being fun, creative, and well-made.

How to Build a non-$0.99 iPhone App

iPhone app developers are stuck on a number — $0.99. Do they like this number? No. They hate it. But they believe that it leads to the lands of the Top 100 and the promise of riches and glory. With around 200 – 400 new apps going into the App Store per day, betting on $0.99 is a huge gamble and one that can almost definitely ensure that developing on the iPhone platform is just a fun hobby.

So, how do you break the cycle of $0.99? Well, before I launch into my ideas, I need to point out that they are ideas. I’ve talked to many successful and not-so-successful iPhone app developers and done some price testing myself but these are principles and guidelines. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, here are the ways you can avoid going $0.99:

1. The Duh Route – Unique Product / Features

Why do so many developers price their apps at $0.99? Because they had what they considered a good idea and started building it. No market research. No App Store research. No discussions with potential users.

In a crowded marketplace, developers compete on price…only. They have to if their app looks the same, functions the same, and is the same as dozens of apps in the App Store.

It is critical to vet those “good ideas.” Keep a running list of them and then do some homework to understand if developing the app is going to add value to the marketplace and be a worthwhile investment of time and money. There are many tangible ways to do that, including leveraging frameworks and tools like:

Of course, even doing this sort of work can still mean entering a marketplace with competitors. That’s where features, user experience, design, customer support, and other factors besides price will still differentiate a product. Pricing your app at $0.99 basically says,

“I’m the same as every other app out here. I’ve spent the same amount of time developing it, have not really thought about why mine is better, and can maintain this app for you going forward at this price point.”

Spend some time and money up front thinking strategically about your product to reduce a potentially much larger and more costly investment. For the matter, get a product strategist involved.

While price is not the only factor, it is a factor. Price the app according to or in the range of comparable apps; comparables need not be direct competitors. If all apps are selling at $0.99, then unless yours absolutely destroys the competition, you probably can’t price it at $9.99. In that case, $1.99 or $2.99 are very reasonable price points and could make significant impacts on revenue.

2. Lite Plus Pro

An increasingly popular approach to overcome the cost of free and $0.99 is to launch a lite and pro version of the app. Developers typically pull out features or somehow limit functionality in the “lite” version, offering users the ability to experience the app without purchasing it.

Since the iPhone does not have the ability to support a trial period, this approach may most closely mimic that paradigm. That’s especially true because there is data that supports application “opens” generally decrease with time. If a user is compelled to continue to use an app over time, thereby overcoming this trend, there’s a likelihood that he’ll convert to the paid application.

The key to this approach is allowing the customer to get a complete sense of the application without removing the incentive to convert or upgrade to the pro version. How to break out these features is highly dependent on the category and use of the app. Do some research to see how comparable apps handled the feature break out.

To really make the lite plus pro method hum though, there has to be a very simple upgrade path. Many developers link to the pro version on the App Store from within the lite app. That’s not bad. A more elegant solution, however, could be an in app upgrade, which would allow the user to maintain settings and data.

3. Companions and Bundles – Web + iPhone / Desktop + iPhone

More and more web or desktop software have iPhone companions. In most cases, the iPhone apps are priced independently but will sync or complement the full app. These apps are almost always priced at or above $1.99. For example, check out Hog Bay Software’s WriteRoom and WriteRoom for iPhone ($4.99) or Simplenote ($1.99). Simplenote is particularly interesting because the website is actually a selling point for the iPhone app and not vice versa.

Another option is to price the web or desktop software with the cost of an iPhone app included. The benefit to this approach versus two separately priced apps is that the customer does not have to open his wallet twice. There are some intricacies to this approach, such as how to position the app on the App Store and designing the apps so that they are only useful together.

Conclusion

Remember that the App Store model means that once users download the app, they indefinitely get updates over the lifetime of the developer (YOU) maintaining it. Therefore, the way the app is priced should consider support costs and additional development time. If you plan on doing more than just bug fixes and investing in new features or if your app has long-term value (i.e., probably not a game), then it’s a no brainer to not price at $0.99.

Another benefit of not going $0.99 is that you will price yourself out of the customers you don’t want. Consider who your audience is and how, for example, a $9.99 app could ensure that you don’t get reviews from people that clearly don’t understand what your app is supposed to be doing. Talk with likely customers, use data from your customer development surveys, and look at the market to understand the non-$0.99 price that still makes purchasing your app fall into the “why not” bucket.

Of course, you can follow all or some of these approaches and the app still be a bust. So, be prepared to cut your losses and move on to the next idea. Keep engaged early on to understand if your app has the legs to be a longer term investment. Experiment with short-term price cuts to see how users respond — launching above $0.99 means that you have the ability to try something other than free.

Additional Reading —

iPhone Apps Aren’t iPod Songs
How to Price Your iPhone App Out of Existence
The Penny Gap
iPhone AppStore Secrets

Image credit to AppleDifferent