Fragmentation of mobile platforms is a significant obstacle for developers looking to gain traction in the mobile app market, Ilja Laurs, founder and CEO of app store GetJar, told Mobile Apps Briefing ahead of a forthcoming exclusive Focus article. While some developers are choosing to focus on one or two platforms, which enables easier development, it makes it difficult for an app to scale meaningfully – “unfortunately, fragmentation today is a given, so developers need to adapt to it,” Laurs says.
Some apps available on the store have “over 200 versions, each compatible/optimised for a specific platform/class of devices,” and that in some cases developers are looking to simplify functionality in order to support the “least common denominator” handset. “High development and porting costs and simplified user experience is the price that developers need to pay for supporting multiple platforms – but this is the only way to reach scale,” Laurs says.
There has also been a shift in the profile of mobile application developers, although “it doesn’t change so much as it extends”. Initially, the majority of mobile developers were one-man operators or companies specialising specifically in mobile development, primarily games, whereas two years ago web brands such as Google and Yahoo! started to look at the mobile space, expanding their web services to mobile. “Last year, traditional media companies (CBS and the like) moved into mobile as well, viewing it as a next big media, after print, radio, TV and the Internet. Also last and this year we saw consumer brands (Coca Cola, Adidas, etc) becoming mobile developers as well, as apps have become an interactive brand extension to mobile for them,” he continues.
Users of mobile social networking services account for 80 percent of all mobile app engagements, Laurs says, driven by the increased use of services such as Facebook and Twitter. Social networking apps also lead the way in terms of downloads from the store, accounting for around 50 percent of GetJar’s transactions, ahead of games (15 percent), productivity apps, reference tools and others. However, in terms of the GetJar catalogue, the most populated category is games, which accounts for 30 percent of the total, followed by entertainment and productivity apps. This means that a large number of games products are competing for fewer downloads, while fewer social networking products gain a higher share in terms of both download and use.
According to Laurs, there is also evidence that free trials are an effective tool to drive users toward paid products, with a “see-try-buy” model generating results “2–10 times on average” better than a “see-buy” model. “There’s also an interesting correlation between price and effectiveness of try-before-buy model – the more expensive the app, the better trials work compared to straight purchases,” he notes. Significantly, the availability of a wide range of free apps has not led to reduced customer loyalty: “stickiness is purely a function of app quality – concept, user interface, etcetera,” Laurs believes.
GetJar claims to be the second biggest app store after Apple’s App Store, with a cumulative total of more than one billion downloads, and daily download rates in excess of three million units.