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Do we need another mobile OS?

Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry 10, Ubuntu mobile, Firefox OS, Jolla as well as Facebook Home and now Smartisan.

We live in a world where people enjoy choice and mobile OS developers are starting to offer this choice. Android alone has so many different variants from major manufacturers without even considering major forks such as Facebook Home and Smartisan. The question I pose: “Is there any need for another mobile OS?”

The business behind mobile makes a lot of sense to allow for multiple OS’s. According to some research by eMarketer mobile revenue is going to be in excess of $15 billion with over half that revenue going to Google. Of course Android’s adoption and their advertising platform help this but the “other” section are making a lot of money as well.

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For a mobile OS developer, if they could start helping to likes of Google or Facebook to grow their revenues even further by sending a decent amount of traffic through their OS there’s a good chance of an acquisition or even a revenue cut.

It’s currently a land grab, one that makes a lot of sense for advertisers and the platforms but no one seemed to consider the group that suffers: the buyers of these smartphones.

Look at Windows Phone 8: It’s a very good platform but it completely lacks in the apps department. This is due to devs not seeing the money trail and who could blame them? It’s a tough industry to break into and nothing would be more disheartening to a new mobile dev than if their app being download a handful of times. So how do small OS’s hope to compete? I have no idea. End of the day: the people using the OS will be stuck without a decent app store collection.

If I were a dev the opportunity to create an app on a big platform and be acquired makes more sense than an entirely new OS. Why bother reinventing the wheel?

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The magic of Rando

I recently got introduced to an interesting app called “Rando” for iOS. Normally I wouldn’t do an entire blog post on an app but the social constructs behind it.

It’s an extremely simple photo sharing app with a difference; you can only share a photo with a total random using the app and you can only receive a picture if you send one. The interface looks like this:

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You receive an image and then can tap on that image in order to see where the pic is from. There’s no way to comment, like or interact with that person ever again unless by some random chance your pictures match up again.

It’s a really stupid mechanism but for some reason I am totally entranced. The random stream of consciousness you receive is fascinating however the lack of any interaction makes it frustrating at times. I have something of a love/hate relationship with the app. I do think it could be improved:

  1. Allow for an image to be passed on
  2. Allow for you to choose a country or continent to send it to
  3. Links to your social profiles in order to continue the conversation

I suppose this would make the app more of a modern day penpal application but I think it would add to the interest factor. Go download it now for your iOS device; it’s strangely addictive.

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App store vanity URL’s aren’t going to help

While it’s great to have 800,000 apps in the iOS app store (and a similar amount in the Google Play store) it’s damn hard to find anything useful or really, really great.

Apple has now launched a new system using vanity URLs for app developers on its iPhone and iPad iOS platform. The URLs are linked after the address appstore.com/.

Apple already has distinct URLs for its apps so that users can look up the details on a website, but the new system promises to be much easier to access from a consumer point of view simply because it’s more memorable. Apple recently revealed that there are over 800,000 apps on the iOS app store, so app discovery is a critical part of the business from a developer point of view.

We’ve got a problem here, a vanity URL might make it easier for a consumer to type into an address bar but it solves very little problem for developers that aren’t Rovio to get users to find their apps. There’s been a study that lowering prices helps to increase revenue and this might push you higher on the iTunes lists but again, you’ll need to give a lot of free or nearly free versions of your apps away to make any dent on the iTunes bestseller lists.

The problem is discoverability not accessibility and neither Apple nor Google have worked out what to do here. As an app developer you could get a major blogger to punt your app or put money into mobile advertising but this is time consuming or expensive.

The solution to the problem is technically fairly simple: take the Pandora approach. Pandora uses a music “genome” to tag a song based on almost 400 different criteria and characteristics. This could theoretically apply to apps as well: an automated engine goes through your current apps and makes recommendations based on similar apps or apps that other users with your apps have downloaded. Yes, iTunes Genius is supposed to do this but there seems very little logic or consistency in how the apps are recommended. When an app is submitted to the app store the person who handles the submission can easily add these tags manually based on a certain amount of criteria they have been given. These criteria can be something totally inane such as a game that can be played with one hand or a productivity app that allows you to highlight text with a red colour; the options are endless.

Until such time as apps are easier to discover I feel sorry for developers trying to make a living off apps.

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iPad before print

Hearst Magazines, publishers of titles such as Elle, Esquire, O Magazine, Popular Mechanics and many more have made a fascinating change to their distribution strategy. They are now offering their titles on their respective iOS apps before they are seen in print. Obviously the delay in printing makes this possible but it’s clearly a move to get people to use the iPad versions of their magazines. The economics of this situation make it the most interesting bearing in mind you’re giving 30% of your revenue to Apple as part of the usual revenue split. Also, bearing in mind that digital mags are cheaper than their print counterparts the mind boggles at the costs of printing and distribution for regular magazines.

According to All Things D:

Looking for a reason to buy an iPad edition of a magazine? Hearst hopes this will do the trick: Readers who buy the publishers’ titles from Apple’s Newsstand will get them before anyone else — on or offline.

This feature appears to have popped up today, and there doesn’t seem to be any other details about the offer, like the number of days in advance that Newsstand buyers will get their iPad editions. I’ve asked Hearst for more information.

The length of Newsstand buyers’ headstart “varies”, depending on publication, and that the offer applies to single copy sales as well as subs. As far as the deal’s origins: “Apple suggested this initiative, and it’s a great offer they can provide to their newsstand users. We’re always working with our retail partners on unique ways to drive consumer sale and engagement.”

Right now, Hearst is the only publisher offering the option, for 22 of its titles. An Apple rep says it will be happy to let other publishers try the same thing.

The general consensus: Tablet editions are a nice revenue stream that in some cases brings publishers new readers, and in others helps them hang onto existing print subscribers, via online/offline bundles. But they’re not enough to save many publishers from the decline of their print businesses — a reality that Time Inc. staffers are bracing for as they get ready for long-reported and significant layoffs.

Print is going to be a niche, secondary medium soon.

Source (All Things D, Engadget)