I got an opportunity to attend the Mobile Developers Conference held in Bangalore on 22nd Janurary organized by silicon India (http://www.siliconindia.com/events/siliconindia_events/index.php?eid=MDC_Ban2011).
Despite a Karnataka Bandh called by the political parties it was almost a houseful!!!
Lot of well- known technologists in the Mobile domain was invited as the speakers in the conference.
I have always found such conferences as a great source of understanding the market trends and to do a reality check on where I stand as an individual. I don’t feel that a person can learn a new technology by attending these conferences but he can get awareness of what is happening in the industry and what are the current buzz words which he should be aware of.
Some of the key points that came up were:
1. The Platform war is on. Every platform (Symbina, Android, Iphone OS , Blackberry) is today trying to capture the market
2. There are 5 main drivers that will guide the future of Mobile:
a. Connectivity: Broadband. 3G, GPRS, Wifi
b. OS: Symbian, Android, Iphone OS
c. Smartphones ( todays smartphones are equipped with the fast processors, high end cameras, GPS , sensors)
d. Mobile Apps: The key differentiator for the success of the mobile platform
e. Developer Community who is producing the Apps
3. The Mobile Apps are as important for Mobiles as the websites are for the internet. Just like without the websites the internet is of very less use for the people similarly without the mobile apps there is very less that can be achieved from the high speed mobile networks.
4. Mobile apps are also very important from the fact that in smaller cities in India where internet is still restricted to cyber café, the people can be connected by using the mobile versions of the social networking sites, news sites, emails , cricket scores etc.
5. The ease of development on a particular Mobile platform is the key determinant for the growth of the mobile apps on that platform
6. There has been a change in the CTQs of the consumer. Few years back the main criteria was music, camera , colors. Today the customer asks about Mobile OS (Platforms), Services (3G, wifi) Mobile Applications. The phone retailers have also changed their marketing strategies and advocating that buy android since you will be able to download 300000 mobile apps and don’t buy Nokia because the number of apps is less. Nobody talks about music player or camera resolutions
7. Nokia, the key OEM player is now focusing a lot on the mobile apps and is taking steps to make it very easy for the developers to submit the apps (ovistore). Nokia is trying hard to keep up the pace with the Android popularity.
8. The Developer community is getting respected from the OEMs a lot since the popularity of the platform is largely dependent on the mobile apps that the developers are producing and if the developers are developing the appications for the platforms they are supporting then they are at the advantage
9. The UI/UX plays a very important role in the popularity of an application
10. The shelf life or the time frame for which the user is going to use the application is important yardstick for the app
11. People are globally downloading the apps. Today a developer can look for huge monetary benefit if the people are downloading his app. There are millions of users for a particular platform. Even if the cost of the app is just 1$ then millions are at stake
12. Some of the key factors that will help in success of mobile app
a. UI/UX is the primary. If the application is not appealing the people are not going to download it
b. Distribution channel. Basically the app stores. How easy it is to search an application and download on the mobile is very important since the demographic of users is very wide.
c. Consumer Awareness. Is the user aware of the existence of the app stores?
13. Operator Integrated Billing: The user generally has to shell out 30-100 RS to buy a mobile app, which makes it very affordable. But the payment mode is little challenging. Credit card which is the most popular payment mechanism on internet is not that attractive when it comes to the mobile. The simple reason is the user demographics is different. The internet users are who are buying the stuff online are mostly from a middle to upper income group while the mobile application buyers can be from any income group and from various age groups. Also not everyone has got the credit card to buy (specially the college students which are among the main target for the mobile apps will not have a credit card). Even the credit card holders are sometimes reluctant to provide the credit card details online. The more preferred way is to buy it through the service provider. So I can tell Airtel to charge the amount in the bill depending on the application I have downloaded. Nokia is trying to tie up with various operators to allow users to pay through the operators on the Ovistore. Similar model is very popular when it comes to download a caller tune.
14. The number of applications that are already created are so many that its difficult for an individual developer to get noticed on the app stores. You give a problem statement and there is a app for it”. Its important that the application should have something new in it and should not be just copy paste
15. Some of the trends that have been seen in the popularity of the apps
a. Social Networking apps like facebook, twitter are popular since they provide one more level of connectivity.
b. Content Based Apps: The search apps like burp, trip advisors, just dial
c. Utility Apps: Banking applications (SBI is encouraging the account holders to use the Nokia mobile apps for the banking services)
16. Just like web 2.0 changed the face of the internet. For the website to sustain it became important that it gives user to participate in adding/modifying the content of the website similarly in the mobile world there has been a shift in the ownership of the mobile apps. Previously it was the OEMs responsibility to provide some apps and the user was only the consumer of it (Nokia’s Snake game). But now user/developer wants to develop their own apps or download some others app and use them on the phone. The phones have become platform (just Like Web had become a platform)
17. A new set of companies have come up who are just developing the Mobile Apps for various platforms. (Similar to web development companies who are involved in creating the web sites). Today every popular business wants its Apps and guess what its again the Indian companies who are taking such assignments. There are lot of start-ups who are developing apps for some of the leading brands like Levis, IBN, Star News etc. Just like businesses advertise for more details log on to www.xyz.com they are now saying download the app that will help you to browse the latest and greatest stuff on mobile.
18. There are 4 major drivers which are guiding the mobile App economy (To monetize the apps)
a. The Developer who is developing the App on its own or for a company
b. Content Provider (News channels, Sports Channels are trying to provide their content on the mobile)
c. Content Delivery Mechanism (3G, GPRS, Wifi. With the 3G connections ist possible to stream the videos on mobile. Expect IPL season 4 on the Mobile soon!!!)
d. Market place: The app stores where you can sell your applications. The App stores owners (Nokia’s ovistore, Apple Store) they are trying to come up with the Amazon like experience where the user can get recommendation for a app and based on the purchase history the apps are shown etc. It’s all about the experience.
e. Stay updated on the technology. You cant expect to sell a J2ME app now. People want the apps that are based on QT, Objective-C or Android
19. Cross platform compatibility is very important when it comes to apps. The same app should be available to run on iPhone , Android phone, and Symbian phone. The user can switch the platform but still want to use the same app. I want to use the same twitter app on my Iphone as well as on my Nokia C7. Its similar to the websites that should be compatible for all major browsers.
20. Customization in Apps will make that App stand out. If it is a cricket app I should be able to choose the stadiums, day match or day-night match etc.
21. Some of the factors that have helped in the popularity of the mobile apps:
a. Proliferation of smartphones: Now they are everywhere. There are some 50 odd OEM who are making smart phones. They are available for a wide price range (6000-36000 Rs)
b. Enhanced Lifestyle Quotient: People want to be connected. The facebook mobile app is helping them to be connected even when they are not at home/workplace
c. User Experience
d. High Utility Quotient: People find the mobile applications providing solutions to some of their daily needs like emails, local search, travels, news.
Just like integration of Digital Camera, FM radio became an integral part of the mobile hardware similarly the mobile apps will become an integral part of mobile usage.
22. Since there are millions of applications already developed from wide variety of domains for a new developer it’s very important to take care of few key things before getting started on a new app:
a. Is it solving genuine real life problem. For e.g. Banking app which help you to monitor yoru account, Stock trading apps are some of the applications that have simplified the real life workflows and are therefore very popular
b. Check for the existence of similar application. Do not waste time in reinventing the wheel
c. In case of the existing application try to collaborate with the developer and help in creating a higher utility quotient for it. Try to add more customization options etc
d. App should be easy to download and install. There should be 0 user manuals
e. You should be able to rapidly prototype the app and launch
f. Healthcare, telemedicine are some of the areas with huge potential for innovative ideas.
g. Education sector is very promising given the fact that today almost every college student has an access to mobile.
h. Real estate businesses can be another good choice to explore
23. Why is that people are running after Android?
a. There are many players in the market who are launching the phones on Android so as a consumer I get a variety of choice for phone and as a developer I have more potential customers to download my application
b. Developer Friendly: The Android Applications are Java based. If I know java learning the Android application development is quite simple (smooth learning curve). There is a huge java developer base who can start writing the applications.
c. There are many android markets unlike Ovistore and Apple app store. There are many local android markets which makes improves the chances for my application to be noticed . Also with the local markets(Indian Android market) I can get the apps that are more suitable for the local needs.
d. Most important that Android platform is not only restricted to the phones. Google TV is based on Android, Huawei is making set top box that are based on Android, GM is using android in Cars. So the scope of writing the applications is very wide.
e. With Google supporting the platform there is a trust that the platform is there to stay.