“Apps Come to Me” – What Benchmarking for Mobile Success Means

March 23, 2010

in General Interest

I’ve been enjoying a mobile discussion forum for the last couple of months. Surprised at how many people I generally knew that were there. Today a subject was around “Benchmarking For Mobile App Success”.  It started with a link to this post by Geoff Northcott. Tomi Ahonen adds his take on the numbers here. His point was five out of six iPhone app developers will lose money. Fact is many of those apps were developed in part-time to learn. Others are generated to templates, etc. Still the point remains… that without thinking it through your app is likely to fail and the budget for success has grown dramatically. All these things should be taken into account when developing an app.

These arguments all also fail to address the importance of “learning”. For most large organizations I’d still argue even at 6 figures + that an App is good research. Not any app – rather a program that helps the organization rethink how mobile, social, location will impact on their business. The app is a great way to focus this discussion. Whether it even sees the light of day may ultimately be irrelevant. That said… that discussion can’t be driven entirely by “developers” it requires a broader understanding and more strategic focus. Newspapers rushing development for iPad are a good example.

So rather than approach this as… trashing the app market (no sales, likely failure) and highlighting the barriers for success I’d rather point to another way that Apple (others could too although Apple has the leading app store by far) can spread and speed the uptake of apps. The part that bothers me is… people aren’t finding enough “useful” apps. The other is… too many users aren’t actually playing in the app market (inactive with iPhone). So they aren’t learning at the speed of the app market. They are stuck with the few they use. That’s an opportunity and certainly something Apple will address (if not this year by next year). Yes buried in the iPhone there is a “genius” (under featured) yet it give me little of any real value. It probably needs tying with my social networks as well to be useful.

So after writing my response I thought I’d post my forum comment here. It’s a little off topic, it focused less on the numbers and more on the problem and opportunity. More apps can make for a more powerful device… apps must work in context. I may not need a Starbucks app for weeks. I may then need it when I’m in a new place etc.  Key point… like much on mobile. “Apps Come to Me”. When stuff comes to me… that device becomes smarter, less passive. Smarts come when the mobile is working for me while on the move.

ForumOxford: Great Run Through Of Benchmarking For Mobile App Success

Like the stats and see many great points.

This discussion points to a need / opportunity to familiarize iPhone users more with Apps. We know apps are hard to find. Even if you are looking for them. Apple’s genius re itunes partially shows the way. The iPhone and other mobiles need a better way to expose users to new apps. Some of us may reject this yet as the base of apps grows the ability to “network” what I should be trying / using increases. Free apps are one way to generate trial… however unless they are popular the majority aren’t going to get to them.

There’s a zone between going to the App store and the App store coming to me with suggestions. I doubt it will be long before Apple makes that possible. It will create a new channel for promotion, may introduce new “trial” options etc. App stores also don’t work when we are on the move. Yet even location will make them smarter at offering up relevant apps. Maybe the car dealer offering a app as you walk through the door isn’t interesting, maybe the restaurant is… if you go there x times per week. The airport etc. Location for all those hotel and rental car apps may be next.

The mobile captures an increasing amount of our attention. Integrating the “apps come to me” paradigm is the real future. We’re getting to the point where the mobile is moving from a passive device to a “smart” “active” tool. It’s a little like that lean back lean forward discussion over the iPad. The device will have more value when it “adds value” to my life every time I take it out of my pocket. Those “flags” can’t be so invasive that they interfere with the task at hand. The trick is to add them to our peripheral vision.

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