Tag Archives | Blackberry

How Long Does An iPhone App Stay Fresh?

For all of you mobile app developers who dream of creating the next hot iPhone, Blackberry or G1 application, a key question to ponder is this:  once you’ve conceived, developed, tested and launched your killer app, how long will it remain killer?

Well, TechCrunch highlights the answer from a recent Pinch Media presentation, and it’s not the cheeriest news for mobile app developers.  It turns out that, for free apps, less than 20% of users return to an app even one day after downloading it.  And by day 30, less than 5% of users are still utilizing the app. And for paid apps, the drop-off is even slightly steeper.  Grim.

The moral of the TechCrunch story is this:

It answers the eternal question that all iPhone developers have: Should my app be free or should I charge for it? For all but the most successful apps, the free route does not make much sense because there is not enough time to recoup the costs of developing the app from advertising.

Free apps tend to be run 6.6 times more often than paid apps, but even with that increased usage, it is not enough to make more money.

Yardley estimates that less than 5 percent of all apps would make more money right now with advertising than charging for paid downloads. His advice: “Unless there is something inherent about the app that screams free, sell it.”

I completely agree with Yardley’s math and logic, but I think there’s another important lesson to be learned here.  He addresses the issue of maximizing revenue, but ignores cost containment as a means to profitability.  Said differently, another powerful driver of profitablity is the cost and speed in bringing your mobile application to market.

By finding ways to develop, test and launch mobile apps more quickly and for less money, developers extend the money-making window, enable themselves to launch more apps per year, and decrease their break-even levels.

What do you think — what’s the secret to profitability for the creators of iPhone, Android and Blackberry apps?  Drop a comment and drop some knowledge on us.

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Buggy Software – A Strategic Choice

Buggy products can be a real customer turn-off.  Witness the recent release of the BlackBerry Storm, Research In Motion’s response to Apple’s iPhone.  The Storm had tremendous promise as a great new touchscreen phone, but customer response has been limited because of early bugs in the device’s software.  Here’s a quote from one Storm customer in an article from the Wall Street Journal:

“I found myself wanting to throw it in the ocean due to my frustration with its overall usability,” said Steven Golub, a longtime Verizon customer from Morristown, N.J., who bought the Storm the day it was released, but returned it a few weeks later.

That’s pretty damning, but let’s stop and give RIM some benefit of the doubt.  Buggy software is a customer turn-off, and undoubtedly bad reviews will dampen customer enthusiasm.  But here’s a quote from the same Wall Street Journal article:

Verizon and RIM, determined to release the Storm in time for the holidays, rushed the device to market despite glitches in the stability of the phone’s operating system, according to people close to the launch.

RIM had a choice to make – release a buggy product in time for the holidays, taking bad reviews on the chin, or wait until the Storm worked better and try to gain market share during the traditionally slow Q1 made even slower by a bad economy.  We really can’t know for sure if RIM made the right decision, but there are some lessons other companies can learn here:

1.) Know Your Limitations – We all have limitations in our planning: not enough time, not enough people, or not enough testing.  Maybe your budget is limited or maybe you need to hit a holiday launch date.  Either way, it’s very important to be aware of your limitations early in the process.  If you have a tight schedule and a firm launch date, then you should make sure you have enough resources for last-minute development and testing.  If you don’t have enough people, then you should evaluate different contingencies for alternate launch dates.

2.) Work Smarter – You may feel like you have to cut corners to overcome your limitations, but the Internet can make it easy to expand your efficiency on-demand.  There are many companies that can help you add capacity to overcome bottlenecks and release a better product on time.  The uTest software testing service is perfect for helping companies improve their testing, but solutions exist for everything from coding to graphic design.

3.) Have Good Customer Data – If you’ve already passed the point of no return, then you will have to make a tough decision.  In this case, nothing helps more than really good customer data.  In RIM’s case, they had to decide between weaker customer demand because of timing or because of bugs.  Between the two, they chose to cast their lot with a buggier product over a late product.

RIM still sold 500,000 Storms over the holidays, and that’s not bad.  This is also their first touchscreen device and it holds tremendous design potential.  While Storm Version 1 had a rocky launch, Storm Version 2 may take the world by, well, storm.

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