App Stores and Beyond – Part 1

Today we are all getting to use to smart phones and download applications from App stores. Apple started popularizing this innovative app distribution model to start with. They enabled developers to publish the application as free application or paid application under a specific category. They also enabled to discover apps and download application to their mobile (making payment for paid apps). Apple and developer shared the money collected from the end user for app discovery and app development respectively. Apple App Store has created a new economy that nurtures an ecosystem ultimately aimed at selling more devices and has evolved into a brand that spans two platforms (iOS and OS X), three different iOS devices (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad).

We also see some more application stores from OEMs like Google Play, BlackBerry World and Windows 8 AppStore. App Stores provide support to distribution of  application.

  • Apps in the app store may contain screen shots, descriptions, user feedback and ratings, release notes
  • Apps are distributed over-the-air with badge alerts for users.
  • Update policies may also be applied to apps to force updates.
  • The app store is secured with a user name and password.
  • Ability to list apps under categories
  • Ability to collect User Review Comments and User Rankings
  • Ranking algorithms to rate apps within category.

Let us look at pros and cons of some of the popular app stores today.

  • Apple App Store has the challenge that this is only method a user can install apps in their iPhone and there are duplication of apps. iTunes is biggest advantage of Apple and no other store had offered users this facility.
  • Google Play has the challenge that lot of apps desire the desired quality and the fragmentation of android devices does not support positive user experience. The advantage is that apps are available at low costs too and there are methods  to download and install apps outside the app store
  • BlackBerry App World can be accessed only in some countries of the world.They are the only app store that supports Paypal billing
  • Samsung Application Store has very few apps in the store and is accessible only in fe countries. The good thing is that all apps are thoroughly tested before they feature on the app store
  • Microsoft Windows Marketplace for Mobile has challenge of being laggard in coming with app store. The good thing is all apps are well tested and the app store manages to feature about 400 apps in a single month. I like their approach of creating consistency between PC and the mobile.
  • Samsung Store pays attention to the quality of its apps and has a strict verification process that scrutinizes apps for malware and device-compatibility; users can be rest assured that Samsung Apps Mobile apps are safe to download.
  • Amazon Store helps you to find higher quality apps and the store accepts HTML5 Web apps.

Let start with reminding that the OEM’s main goal is to create profits for itself, not developers. This is like raising prices of apps will benefits developers and not necessarily consumers.

Today the biggest struggle with the apps stores is that  there are sea apps in each category. Customers can’t find what they want – even evaluating the various option is overwhelming and the combination of lack of a trial , no-refund policy and  keyword spamming does not make it  easy to buy app with confidence.  No innovative step has come along to improve a basic feature for the customer to find new apps. The average mobile user( relies on creator of App Store) fails to identify the right app due to some of the below challenges.

  • There are a good number of apps, not updated or maintained by their developers. They are  forgotten by their original creators due to lack of resources or attitude of developers to see app store as an opportunity for “quick hits” to “sell once and never support again”.
  • The ranking algorithms had positioned downloads above ratings and this makes older apps to rank higher, being in the store for longer time. If  older app developer do not update app for new iOS compatibility, the rankings has risk to puts the incumbent (but not necessarily better) apps above new entrants.
  • Fake reviews and downloads are created to game the ranking algorithm leading to ultimately bad software for the end user.  Though necessary actions are taken to prevent fake data, any lapse in monitoring leads to end users downloading fake software.
  • Categories have become too broad ranging over a variety of different functionalities and apps collected under the same category differ only by slightly descriptive moniker. The user selection is not made easy when there are  too many possible choices, classified through a category system unchanged since years.
  • Developers  generate revenue when they put apps on sale. This further encourages consumers to avoid expensive apps and some times people may  ignore your app forever waiting for a sale that never comes.