Which Mobile Platform to Develop For

Mobile-OS-Market-Share-2012While this site has focused on developing apps for the iPhone, iOS is obviously just one of a few different mobile platforms that are available to develop on. In fact, it is not even the biggest one, as the chart on the left shows (image source). So should you be developing just on iOS? Which other platforms should you also develop for?

If your goal is to maximize your user audience, then of course your goal should be to develop for all platforms. However that requires significant development costs, since most developers are only proficient in one (maybe two) platforms. If you’re just getting started, then start with one platform. If you find yourself succeeding, then you can use the profits you earn to expand to other platforms later.

So which platform should you begin with?

iOS versus Android

Android iOS App Sales

Right now, Android provides the biggest platform in terms of users. However the percentage of users who pay for apps is a lot lower for Android users than it is for iOS users.

So even though Android has significantly higher marketshare than iOS, the app sales generated on iOS are still a lot more, than what is generated by Android.

The moral of the story is that if you’re planning a free app, then Android is an excellent choice. If you’re planning a paid app, then I would suggest going with iOS initially, since developers tend to make more money from app sales on iOS than Android.

Other Platforms

BlackBerry 10Considering that Android and iOS control more than 80% of the mobile market, is it even worth considering one of the smaller platforms like Windows Phone 8, or Blackberry 10?

Surprisingly there are indeed a few advantages for developing for these other platforms:

Competition is MUCH lower: Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10 provide a unique advantage in that although they have much smaller user bases than either Android or iOS, they also have much smaller app stores too. This means you have a lot fewer apps to compete with. Therefore it’s possible that you could make more Windows Phone 8money from these smaller stores, just because more users will find you there, than they would in the crowded market places of Android and iOS.

Development costs COULD be cheaper. In many cases, Microsoft and RIM have been known to woo developers with contests and promotions, where they can provide you with tools, marketing opportunities or even contribute towards development costs. Certainly there’s no harm in researching what promotions are going on at the moment, and whether it is worth developing for, or porting one of your existing apps over to these other platforms.

What Platform do You use?

At the end of the day, if you are just starting out and want to keep costs low, I would suggest starting with the mobile platform that you are already using and already familiar with. This way you’ll save money on purchasing new devices.

You will be the one testing the app, so it makes sense to choose a platform that you’re familiar with, that you already own devices for.

App Localization and Language Support

App Store International

One aspect of app marketing that many developers are not aware of, is how much bigger the world outside your own backyard is.

Most apps are developed in English, for an English audience. For most developers that is fine, since the audience of English users is so huge. However there is an independent app store in more than 150 countries with 40 different languages. What does this mean for you?


  • If a user in a non English speaking country has a choice between two apps – one in English, and one in their local language – they are more likely to choose the local language version.
  • If you do make a non English version of your app, then you may have less competition in the country that you target.

It is expected that countries like China (where iPhone sales are booming) will one day eclipse the US store in app store sales. So why not be a part of that growth today?

Where to Begin?

So should you translate your app into a different language? Which language should you start with?

The best place to begin would be to look at the markets where your app is already successful. Are there any non English markets there? If so, develop for those markets first.

App Sales by Country

In the above chart, you can see that France is the 4th most popular country for this app. So a French version could be beneficial. As could an Italian, Dutch and Chinese version.

Different Levels of Localization

Depending on the type of app you have, and the resources you have available for it, you can start by just translating the meta data – i.e. the app store description of your app. This way, someone using the French version of iTunes would see a French description of your app. Your app itself might still be in English, but at least the sales copy would be in French, which could be a good start.

If you want to translate the actual app into multiple languages, then make sure you have the following elements covered:internationalize-meta

  • Button and description text
  • Error messages
  • Speech audio

Apple provides a lot of resources in these areas to allow your app to automatically conform to the user’s device language settings, so take advantage of them.

Don’t forget to track what effect the localization changes has on your downloads and profit from those countries. This way you will know if the effort was worth it, which will help you plan your strategy for future apps.

App Store SEO – Increase your Discoverability

With 775 000 apps on the app store, how do you get your app discovered? There used to be a time when each time you released an update or a new app, your app would showcased on the front page of the latest apps released in a particular category page. As a result you could expect a sales bump from being showcased on that page, until other apps moved you down that list.

However nowadays, with thousands of apps being updated or released each day, any promotion you get on that page is short lived if any, so additional work is required, to increase your discoverability on the app store. Here are a few methods you can use:

1. Keyword Research. 

App Store Keywords

This is the most important tool at your disposal. Apple allows you to enter a limited set of keywords totaling up to 100 characters. Additionally, you can only change your keywords when submitting an update to your app, so choose wisely!

So how do you know what keywords to select from? There are multiple ways to do this.

  • What problems does your app solve? List the keywords related to the search terms that users might use to find apps that solve this problem.
  • What apps are you competing with? Run searches on the app store using the keywords you have in mind now, and see what apps show up now for those keywords. These are the apps you will be competing with. If the apps you think you should be competing with don’t show up in searches for your chosen keywords, then you will need to experiment some more. Maybe they are using a different set of keywords than you are? Decide if those are the keywords you should be using.

Apple uses its own algorithm to determine what apps to show first, when a user searches for particular keywords. Keywords in your app title probably count more than keywords just in your keyword list. Additionally, app results may show based on popularity – so if a competing app that is more popular has submitted the same keywords, then it may show higher in the list than your app.

After your app is live, search for the keywords you have specified in the list, and see where your app ranks when users search for that keyword. 3rd party tools are available that can provide you daily results of your appstore SEO rankings to see how you compare with competing apps. Here is the key: If you are not ranking significantly for particular keywords, then don’t use them in your keyword list. You only have 100 characters of keywords available to you, so might as well use those for keywords that you actually rank for than ones that you don’t. Try switching to a less competitive keyword that you do rank for instead. It is better to show up in the search results for a less searched (long tail) keyword, than to not show at all for a high volume keyword. So search for all the keywords you have specified, and remove the ones and replace with alternate versions for the ones where you do.

2. Get Ranked

If your app shows up on any of the top selling lists, it is more likely to be discovered and then purchased / downloaded. So when deciding what to price your app at keep in mind that a lower price usually leads to more downloads, which means a better chance for your app to rank in its category. Also, keep in mind that the app store ranking for each country is different, so just because you don’t rank in one store, doesn’t mean that you can’t rank in a different store.

3. Get Recommended

App Store Also bought List

When users are viewing apps they are interested in, Apple provides a list of similar apps below that. The algorithm for what apps show here has not been made public. However, this is another benefit of having more downloads, in that there is a greater chance that your app will be recommended, when users download similar apps.

4. Get Featured

Apple Featured Apps App Store

Apple has many curated lists of apps in each category, such as New and Noteworthy and apps that highlight different features of the phone. There is no direct way to get onto these lists, other than to have an app that is already generating some buzz, well rated with a good design and an eye catching icon. Again, note that it is possible to get rated in some country specific app stores and not others.

5. Run Promos

Not happy with your rankings? Want to increase the number of reviews you have? Want to generate some overall buzz? Want to increase the chance that your app will be recommended when users view a similar app? You can do so by running a promo on your app. Temporarily have a sale or even make it free to coincide with a time of year, or pick a random reason to. Promote these deals on your social media sites. Additionally, there are a lot of 3rd party sites that automatically highlight apps that are on sale. Users on sites like that can even choose to be notified when apps they are following are on sale. Take a look at what running such promos did to app downloads for one of my apps sometime back (2 promos were run that year – can you tell when they were run?).

STL Sales

6. Offstore Marketing

In addition to the efforts you make to increase your discoverabilty on the app store – make sure you also focus your efforts outside the app store. Submit your app to review sites, run targeted ads, write guest posts on targeted blog sites, post your promos on social media etc. All of these can link to your app on the app store, increasing its downloads, thereby helping your discoverability.


App Store Downloads – Be a Small Fish in a Big Pond

Small Fish in Big PondApple announced that all time iOS app downloads just crossed 40 billion, with 20 billion of those coming in 2012 alone. What does this mean for you, the app developer?

Yes, that’s a lot of downloads, but part of the reason is the number of apps out there, which is now estimated at 775 000. A little math shows that is still a healthy 51613 download per app. Still pretty good, right?

However a lot of these downloads are skewed towards the most popular apps. Temple Run for example had 75 million downloads by itself last year. So even though Apple has paid out $7 billion to developers so far, most of that money has gone to top tier publishers, who are making millions, leaving less for the average developer.

So what can you do to compete, with so much competition out there?

The good news is that with so many apps out there, this also opens up many niche markets which would otherwise be too small to compete in. You could create a very targeted app to a very targeted type of consumer and still have a big enough market to make good money.

Start doing your app store research to find out which categories have hot selling apps that you can tap into. If you haven’t done so already, sign up on the right sidebar to receive your free copy of my eBook – How to come up with a killer idea for your first iPhone app.

10 Golden Rules of Mobile App Success

Golden RuleFred Wilson, a famous Venture Capitalist from New York recently posted a video of a talk he gave a few years ago detailing his list of golden rules for web apps. These same principles also apply to mobile apps.

Essentially, this is a checklist of items that he looks for, when analyzing a potential investment. Whether you are looking for investment or not, it is still worth taking a look at these rules to see which ones your app follows and which changes it could benefit from.

1. Speed

In this day and age, the attention span of users is much lower than it was in previous generations. Users expect results instantly. Apps that take a long time to launch or pages that take a long time download affect the usability of your app in a big way. If there is a way for a process to be done offline, it should, in order to minimize slow internet disruptions. In addition, find ways to minimize the number of steps required to complete tasks in the app.

2. Instant Utility

Related to the previous point, users expect to be able to start interacting with an app as soon as possible. Apps that require a user to login or create an account, even before they are able to try it out risk losing users at an early stage. If your user is going to be rewarded for performing a task, make sure you provide the reward immediately and not make them wait.

3. Voice.

Try to create some personality in your app, to make it fun and engaging rather than dull and corporate.

4. Less is more.

Great apps are known for their simplicity. Start with doing one thing really well, and only add more features when you’re successful with that one thing.

Clean App Design

5. Programmable

Want to grow big really quickly. Let others build on top of your app. Let them add more value by submitting their own content. This will bring you more users, data and richness which will help you scale bigger much faster (make sure your backend can handle the growth though!).

6. Personal.

Let users add their own personality and energy to your app. This could be by letting them customize their own avatar, background, description etc. Let them make it feel like their own space.

7. Share

Make it easy for users to share as many aspects of your app as possible. This could include scores, progress or other updates that end up promoting your app usage with the users’ social networks.

Social Share Buttons

8. Discoverable

Is your app easily discoverable? What features have you implemented to help it grow viral on social networks. Are there search terms that potential users would use to discover your app on the app store?

9. Clean

Keep the user interface clean. Each page should have a clear goal and purpose. Try to keep a lot of open space and use large fonts where possible.

10. Playful

Make your app playful and fun to use. Incorporate game dynamics where appropriate, such as follower counts, badges etc. that encourage users to contribute and rank themselves among their friends.