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A Guide for Mobile-Web Developers to Smartphone Apps Stores

apps store icon With the emergence of the iPhone, new opportunities emerge with the long tail economy for the mobile-web entrepreneurs and developers with respect to the mobile smartphone apps store. While there is a choice for a lot of mobile-web development platforms from Google Android to iPhone OS 3.0, most developers are not sure about the market reach, coverage and how many devices that their apps can reach to. Here is a guide on the 5 most well-known mobile-webs store: Apple iTunes Store, Nokia Ovi Store, Google Android Market, BlackBerry (RIM) Apps World and Microsoft Windows Marketplace.

  • Apple iTunes Store: For Apple iTunes Store, you only develop on two devices which are similar: iPhone & iPod Touch. Till date, there are 2 billion downloads of apps from the iTunes store, and 25K apps on the store. The APIs for iPhone OS 3.0 allow micro-transactions related activities, for e.g., in a game app, where the gamer can purchase additional virtual gifts or goods and avatars. The revenue model for the sales of the apps is split between the developer (70%) and Apple (30%). Usually, the approval process for international apps takes about 14-21 working days. The SDK is available, and the developer signs on either the standard program (US$99) or the enterprise program (US$299). The maximum reach to the iPhone devices out there is about 30M devices split between 17M iPhones and 13M iPod Touch, and the apps store is available in 77 countries. Do take note that it is important to indicate which country the app should distribute to. For developers, the resources can be found in the Apple Developer Centre. In Singapore, you can join the CocoaHeads Singapore to meet up with other iPhone or Mac OS X developers. The most notable apps produced in SG are: Foyage, BuUuk, PieceHunters and Chordica.
  • Nokia Ovi Store: The store was launched in June 2009 worldwide. Within 3 months, there are already 10M downloads with both content and apps from the store. To develop apps on the Ovi Store, you have a lot of handsets to tackle, but the most notable one is the Nokia N97. In addition to the Symbian OS 9.4 Series 60 release 5 for the development of the app, the developer has to work with the SDK pertaining to the handset. The revenue model for the developer and Nokia is still 70-30 split except that it is taken from the net refunds after subtracting credit card sales & fixed operator billing depending on the telco operators. Although there is no grassroots developer groups for Ovi Store, there are notable apps that emerge: 2C2P, Cell City and BreakDesign. If you are an incubatee under the iJAM scheme funded by Media Development Authority Singapore and under the Future of Mobile scheme, you can work along with Nokia person in charge of developer relations to fast track the approval of the app in the Ovi Store. The developer fee is 50 Euros and you require to have a registered company. The maximum market size for Nokia smartphone devices is about 50M, and for resources regarding developers, you can check it out here.

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  • Google Android Market: Of course, Google Android is a favourite among the geeks. With a selection of handsets, for e.g. HTC Hero, Lenovo OPhone, LG, Motorola and Samsung Galaxy. Although Google has not released the figures on the amount of downloads in the Android market, the approval process for Android is the shortest among all the apps. The developer needs to pay US$25 for annual developer fee, and the payment model is done via Google Checkout. In any case, the revenue model for the developers to Google is 70-30 split with Google using the 30% to pay the operators and billing settlement costs. For resources on Android development, the developer can go to this site for references. The grassroots group for Android development in Singapore is Code Android Singapore, which organize monthly meetings for android developers. The most notable Android apps in Singapore are BuUuk and Foyage in Singapore.
  • Blackberry Apps World: Very little is known about the Blackberry Apps World, but we know of the examples for the handsets: BlackBerry Storm and BlackBerry Curve. The operating system inside the Blackberry phone which is catered mostly for business executives is the BlackBerry OS 4.7. The revenue model is the most enticing with the developer getting 80% per sale. However, the annual developer fee is US$200 and it includes 10 app submissions. The maximum reach for BlackBerry users is 21M subscribers and the payment model which the developer and consumer used to pay is PayPal. For resources, you can go to this site for development of BlackBerry Apps.

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  • Microsoft Windows Marketplace: The last of the five platforms is Windows Mobile, with a maximum market reach of 18M users sold to all handset vendors that runs Windows Mobile as the OS, for example, HTC, LG and Motorola MC Series. The operating system is Windows Mobile, and they can sell applications without going through a store, unlike the Apple and Android. Once the Windows Marketplace is up, developers can ride on it to promote their applications, but the revenue model is the developer getting 70% per sale. The developer needs to pay an annual developer fee of US$99 for listing of the app, and the reach is global all over the world. The mode of payment is via credit card and the resources for developers for Windows Mobile can be found in Microsoft website.

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A common strategy chose by good developers and entrepreneurs in this space, is to select one platform first, work on all the kinks and gather feedback from users, then start scaling to other platforms. Foyage and BuUuk are the two examples in the adoption of such strategy. It is important to pick the platform where the competition for the downloads against similar apps is minimal. The highest downloaded paid app in Nokia Ovi Store is Gravity, a twitter client which costs US$7.95 while Twitterific Premium costs about US$2.95 in the iPhone store and has to contend with the other clients such as TweetDeck and Twitter app which goes out for free. Hence pick your battles well if you are planning to enter into this space.

Author’s Note: This post is written in preparation for a part of the talk I am giving for 16th InfoComm & Media Horizons: Quad Play Services – Maximizing Opportunities on this Wednesday in Fusionopolis. You can see the slides and read about it in my blog.

Update and Thanks:
[1] Ziyong from Code Android Singapore updated me via email about the Android Market. Free apps market is available everywhere, on devices that signed licensing fees with Google (to get Android Market app on the device). Paid app market are in 7 countries: Austria, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, UK and US.
[2] Daniel Tsou sent me some additional information, making the distinction between Windows Mobile (which is catered for mobile developers), Windows CE (the operating system) and also the newly launched Windows Marketplace for developers to list their app. Have made some modifications to the Windows Mobile section.
[3] DK, An Update on BlackBerry Apps World: It is now available in Singapore. Some of the apps available in the BlackBerry App World includes Facebook, Flickr and Windows Live Messenger and local apps like iCabSG Dialer and Foyage. (5 Nov 2009)

Featured image courtesy of sharpneil.



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