Sep 12, 2010

Angry Birds was fun but where is the real business??

Having a laugh at another funny comic on The Oatmeal the other day got me wondering about mobile applications and how they really are still in their infancy.

The gist of the strip was that while we fork out our cash readily for mobile devices, data plans, accessories and so on we spend little on apps. Why is this the case?

For other hardware we gladly spend on software. In fact it's a necessity in most cases. I'd suggest it's because most apps don't offer much utility in our lives.

If you have a smartphone you might have five or ten apps that you use regularly. They help you stay in touch with friends and networks, manage your day-to-day and provide a bit of fun. Most of what is out there is fluff though.

$4.99 for this app? Yup, I'm angry. Where's the lite version?

I suspect we may be on the cusp of something bigger in the application market though.

The value of application downloads in 2010 is expected to be $6.2 billion. This will be for almost 4.5 billion applications though. That's about $1.37 per application. Total downloads will more than triple by 2013 and be worth $29.5 billion in sales. The interesting thing is, 87% of those are expected to be free downloads (Up from 82% this year). The average cost of apps will rise to about $2.70 in 2013.

I think if apps (for phones and tablets) are to grow share of wallet with consumers they need to become more indispensable to us. I'd be thrilled if they can find a better way to sync with the other tech in our lives and do some of the thinking for us.

I'd be happy to pay $10 or more for apps that make a real difference in my life. And there is potential at the top end of the app market.

Outside of work hours I'm quite happy to chug along with little thought to what needs to get done. I'd love a series of apps to take charge and get things done for me during the week. An app to pay all my bills and handle any admin type emails? Great. If I never have to speak to another call centre or bpay another bill I'd gladly pay $20 for the application.

One that organises meals for me each week? Sweet - I'm feeling kinda tex mex/Spanish this week. Maybe ingredients for three meals plus a night out with Facebook friends in my tex mex group? Pina Coladas on Friday night would be nice. Up to you phone app - sort it out for me.

$20 for iMeal? Glad to pay it.

Phone, you know I love Taco Tuesday.

The interesting thing is, it looks like Apple might not be distributing these apps to us.

They have been the leader in mobile applications for a while now but research suggests that could rapidly change. Mashable recently looked at Appcelerator, a development platform, and asked about the breakdown of its app development:

"As of right now, 70% of apps are still created for the iPhone and 30% are for Android. There is also a growing slice of developers who create an app for both platforms.While iPhone development is still the first stop for most developers, Android is quickly becoming the second platform."
In fact, recent research by Gartner suggests that Android will be the dominant mobile OS by 2014. Symbian and Android will share the majority of the market with about a third each while Apple will own only 14% of the space.

It's going to be an interesting jostle among the big players. Maybe Apple will maintain a niche for the best, most user friendly apps and leave Nokia and Android to duke it out for the largest share of mobile customers?

I'm not fussed who gains the acendency, so long as the ingredients for a Pina Colada are in my (internet) fridge on Friday night.

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