Category: Mobile App Markets

 The following data is drawn primarily from the ITU – International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) on information and communication technologies.

The top graphic includes North and South America, which really should be segmented into North and South.  The second graphic covers all of Africa.

It needs to be stated that these numbers count subscriptions, not exactly “absolute people” – some people have multiple devices, multiple subscriptions.  The American market demonstrates that clearly, there are more devices than people.   It shows what saturation looks like, though it would likely look even more “static” if the South American data was sectioned out.

Americas - Mobile Subscriptions



For Africa, we still see signs of growth in mobile subscriptions, a trend likely to continue for several years yet.

The disparity in GDP and PPP is probably the number one reason why the African Mobile Market does not get anywhere near the attention of the American, European or even Asian market.

VisionMobile’s  new data about the state of the mobile app development industry based upon a survey of 10,000 mobile app developers indicated that developers could make more money developing enterprise apps than focusing on end users.   Those with the skills and experience likely will gravitate to these better paying opportunities.

While it can be argued that some markets are saturated, the global picture is not – only 40% or so of the world’s population has internet access, many of these via mobile device.   Zuckerberg’s initiative with aims to bring the Internet to the rest of the world, where he relates on

Today, only 2.7 billion people are online — a little more than one third of the world. That is growing by less than 9% each year, but that’s slow considering how early we are in the internet’s development. Even though projections show most people will get smartphones in the next decade, most people still won’t have data access because the cost of data remains much more expensive than the price of a smartphone.

Everything considered, 8-9% growth per year is really sort of fast.   It implies a doubling rate every 8 to 9 years, a task that would be nearly complete in about 20 years.  But… and there is always a but, that is a linear projection and does not consider the Law of Accelerating Returns.

The “mobile Internet” as we know it is far younger than the “PC Internet”.  Every day, mobile devices tend to get a little more like mini-PC’s and PC’s are getting a lot more like mobile devices.  Ultra-light weight and ultra-thin laptops vs. tablets.  Technological Convergence is an ongoing process that will continue as it always has, except increasingly faster.  Add Google Glass, 3-D Printers, and all manner of new technologies, along with new applications.

So, that’s a huge digression without ever getting to the point I was going to make today about emerging markets.  Instead, just look at the different data points on the two markets detailed above and consider one thing.  Would you be better off spending $1.00 in a market with plenty of potential for growth or one that is already showing signs of saturation?

What I won’t say is that making money in developing markets is any easier than making money in developed markets, but we will explore this further next week.


Our friends at Xsolla just posted about Game Site Essentials.  The article by Josh Bycer underscores the importance of having a web site – for informational purposes, to support direct sales, customer support, developing community interaction, and more. The goal is not just to have a web site, but a good one. Sounds expensive, and it can be if you go about it wrong. Otherwise, a web site can provide an awesome ROI.

We’ve been through this cycle numerous times since the 1990’s. The original problem with web sites not providing an ROI is that small business owners (and developers) thought if you build it, people will come. Building a web site is only the first part of the equation. The second part is making the web site an active part of your business. It’s an ongoing effort, but it need not be a major effort.

Let’s get into the details of cost, benefits and perhaps a few tips.

Domain Name – The number one reason to have a web site is that it gives you a simple address whereby anyone else in the whole world can find you! Easier that than trying to explain how they can find your app in a mobile app store. The aim is to keep it short, sweet, easily associated with who you are – your business or the name of your app, aiming for a .com. Domain name registration is renewed yearly. The first year often comes free as part of a hosting plan with many internet hosting services. Thereafter, it will run $10 – $25 a year depending upon hosting service.

Web Site Hosting – The most important thing is to research customer reviews of different hosting companies paying special attention to complaints about technical support, server speed and server downtime. Then you want to look at features and benefits, whether they allow you root directory access, storage limits, automated installs of web-based software like WordPress, etc. Most hosting services also offer discounted rates based upon your payment plan allowing you to save significantly on paying upfront for a full year of service vs. monthly or quarterly billing. Your mileage may vary, but most purposes can be served by accounts ranging in the $99 to $199 per year range.

Other hosting notes – Most hosting services will give you a basic amount of traffic per month. If you go over it, you will incur a small per Mb or Gb charge. When that begins to be a regular occurrence, you can usually upgrade your account to accommodate extra bandwidth. Storage is only likely to be a major factor if you use a lot of multimedia. If you are just starting out, aim for a streamlined approach being frugal with the number of videos, large downloads and graphics you employ. Storage, too, can be bought on a per Mb/Gb basis, and there are a variety of file sharing services that you can use to supplement your site – usually for free.

Web Site Design – Back in the 90’s, companies were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on custom web site design, millions on extra functionality. Today, there are several customizable web site packages and platforms for a “plug-n-play” experience. WordPress is a very popular free program with thousands of free and commercial templates available. Other options include content management systems like Joomla and Drupal. Cost is free unless you go for a commercial template. Commercial templates vary widely in price from $10 or less to well over $400.

Graphics – If you are looking to spice up your site graphically, there are an abundance of free clip art sites, a large amount of free stock photos, and sites like that offer professional multimedia at very reasonable rates. If you are or have access to a graphics designer or make use of screenshots of your own software, you are in an even better position to make a great looking web site.

Content – The main cost of developing content is your time. It need not take a lot of time. The core essentials of a web site include an “About You” page, a “Contact” page (with your press kit), and then a page for each major component of your business (your team, partners, clients, projects, products, services, etc.). You have millions and millions of web sites as examples to draw from.

Statistics – The first thing to do once you have a web site is to set upa Google Analytics account so you can get deep statistics on your visitors – where they came from, what they look at most, how long they look at it, etc.). Most hosting services will also provide you with some basic statistics software like AWStats and WebStats. Note that different analytics systems measure some things differently so if you employ multiple tracking systems you won’t always get the same results. Variances will typically be in the 5-20% range.

E-Commerce Capability – This could just be a free Paypal account or you may take advantage of more comprehensive services like, woocommerce, etc. These services tend to charge monthly and per transaction fees. For many small businesses, this will likely run $25 – $50, monthly. On this, it is best to scale to growth, implementing better ecommerce capability after the site is already more than paying for itself. It would be something to look at after your site is netting at least $500 monthly – if you are starting with a budget. If you have a higher profile, then you may need to include this right away.

SEO – Optimizing your site to generate a high volume of organic search traffic is good to aim for. It can also augment the effectiveness of any paid search advertising you may do. In many ways it is too often overstated and overrated. It is not something to be paying for right off the bat, it tends to develop over time and is amplified by the quality and effectiveness of your backlinks. SEO is really its own topic and could be the basis for several articles.

These are the main things that tend to come up with a web site. More bells and whistles can add to the cost, complexity and functionality of a site. If you are starting with a budget though, you scale to growth by keeping it basic and adding only after the site (or the products/services it is promoting) becomes profitable.

I would add that it is very important for your site to show signs of life – to leave no question that you are active and in-tune with your customers. This is best to show on the front “home” page of your site. Add a Twitter feed, include links to your social networking pages. Include short news updates – that include the dates. Try to change something on your home page once every two weeks.

So, a bit lengthy, but a basic web site should cost you less than $200 per year. That $200 can technically support several web sites. In return, your web site provides you a 24 hour – 7 day a week – 365 day a year advertisement, customer service and technical support representative, sales person, recruiter, and press agent – that will do exactly what you tell them to do.

A web site is more an investment in time, but it is also a “virtual piece of property” which appreciates in value as you build upon it just as a vacant plot of land does.

Apps on Opera Mobile Store are downloaded in 230 countries and territories. Make your app available to millions of customers around the world – Free, Fast and Easy, Sign-up here!

If you are needing to bootstrap your mobile apps, the following articles can provide you additional tips and perspectives to help you maximize your efforts:


Xsolla — Billing + Payments designed for publishing games globallyOur partners Xsolla had a nice chat with representatives of Opera Mobile Store — one of the biggest independent app stores in the world. Opera Mobile Store manager Viacheslav Shybaiev and Mobile Store Front at Opera Mediaworks sales director Sandra Ilyina shared their insights on the advantages of advertising in alternative stores and shared some insights of the successful app-promotion through Opera Mobile Store.

What does Opera Mobile Store do and what platforms does this store support?

Sandra Ilyina, Sales Director, Mobile Store Front at Opera Mediaworks

Sandra Ilyina, Sales Director, Mobile Store Front at Opera Mediaworks

Sandra Ilyina: Opera Mobile Store is a cross-platform mobile store distributing apps and games for J2ME, Symbian, Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices. It also offers access to online mobile games for the above mentioned OS. For app developers the Opera Mobile Store is an effective distribution platform and one of the marketing channels of Opera Mediaworks, the world’s leading mobile advertising platform.

What are the main sources of profit for Opera Mobile Store?

Viacheslav Shybaiev: Last year, we experimented with different distribution models for paid content — one-time purchases, day-passes, and subscriptions. Today, we distribute paid content by subscription — which has proven a very effective model. Of course, advertising is a much stronger source of monetization.  more

Early last week, we had an inside look at – an upcoming app that provides real-time facial transformation for social video. Victor Shaburov, CEO of Looksery (founder of Handster which went on to become Opera Mobile Store) called me on Skype to let me know he launched a crowdfunding project for Looksery on Kickstarter.


Looksery app brings face tracking and transformation technology for video chat, video selfies and photos to mobile devices.

You will be able to download Looksery from Opera Mobile Store  when it is released (anticipating late July, 2014).   We will be the first to carry it – at least 24 hours before it becomes available on Google Play.

By contributing to Looksery’s campaign on Kickstarter, you will be able to get it earlier along with a variety of other cool prizes including free storage, premium filters, hoodies and more – relative to your contribution level.

This lends to a perfect opportunity to help promote his new project while at the same time elaborating further on crowdfunding campaigns as a funding option for mobile app developers. You get to see the real thing – in progress, now!


Non-equity Crowdfunding Projects enable anyone with an idea to approach people to help them launch it. In its most simple context, crowdfunding is a pre-order marketing mechanism. Most of the projects launched on a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Rockethub, etc., are in the early to mid development stages. Crowdfunding is an option to running up high interest credit card bills and an option to traditional funding sources (i.e. banks and small business loans).

Equity crowdfunding is a different ballgame altogether, more tightly regulated, more formal and correlates to contributors receiving some kind of “share” or equity in your endeavor.

Not so with non-equity projects – where the incentive to the customer is a “prize” – of some sort. Typically, the “prize” is the product that you are developing, often with other marketing components.

Looksery Crowdfunding Prizes

With Looksery, the prizes are well-defined and perfectly proportional to the funding level to which they are associated.  The prize packages run from $5 to $1500, though anyone can make a $1.00 contribution, too.

Prize Options?

  • The app itself, for one or two platforms
  • Online storage
  • Paid/Premium Filters
  • 5 minute, 10 minute and longer video capacities
  • T-Shirts Black or White (Unisex)
  • Hoodies (Male or Female)
  • White Caps
  • Glow-in-the-Dark Frisbees
  • Pen – USB drive 8GB
  • Hall of Fame Listing
  • Early Beta Test
  • An exclusive video filter

The majority of the prizes are directly associated with the Looksery app. The accessories are all in the purview of useful marketing tools, the kinds of things you want to have on hand for a product launch. In short, Looksery provides a good example of the kinds of prizes you would want to look at for your crowdfunding project.

Getting the Word Out

Anyone going into a Crowdfunding Project, especially an All or Nothing style Kickstarter Project, needs to go all-out – just like you would and should do when formally launching your app. What applies to crowdfunding applies to product launches and vice versa.

Crowdfunding is an excellent approach to ramp up pre-launch buzz by getting more people interested and vested in your project. Your crowdfunding backers are all potential evangelists for your product.

Media – Since my last post, Looksery has been featured on Tech Crunch, Business Insider, C-net, Kickstarter, Marketwatch, among others.  It is clear that the Looksery team has focused heavily on getting exceptional media exposure. That is very important. You want to do your best to get the same kind of coverage when launching your app. Don’t be disappointed if you are not quite as successful as Victor is a high-profile tech personality with some very successful start-ups backing him.

End-Users – Media’s not everything though – it is a building block. The more you can get, the better. Ultimately, you need to reach end-users. That will rely much more upon e-mail campaigns. Most crowdfunding projects realize the majority of contributions from people who know the project owner or people who are on the project’s crowdfunding team.

Crowdfunding is not easy.   Most people do not go to Kickstarter or other crowdfunding platforms to do window shopping for products that are not available “now”.   They go there because they know someone who encouraged them to take a look at something they might have an interest — or to support someone they want to succeed.  That is a large part of the crowdfunding paradigm.  Really good products with mass appeal can and do go viral.

Email marketing is a huge component of any successful crowdfunding campaign.

For now though, I will wrap this up as I find the more I talk about crowdfunding, the more there is to talk about.   We will continue to follow the Looksery Project.


Or… enough money.  Let’s take an honest look. You have the advantage of seeing your statistics, so you will need to use them to help you define why. The reason why is probably easier to define than we might like to think, if we are being honest. The vast majority of the reasons for not making money on your work relates to one of the three following root causes:

1.  It doesn’t compete with other similar apps

  • Poor graphics
  • Poor interface
  • Poor game design
  • Poor game dynamics
  • Poor payment interface
  • Too large for many to download

2.  You are not marketing your app “enough”

  • Not on every store that you could be
  • Little or no advertising
  • No web site
  • No social networking
  • No media engagement
  • No newsletter
  • No business relationships

3.  Your app has too narrow of a market

  • It is designed specifically for people who make quilts while skydiving… or scuba diving It is too localized – serving a specific town of say 5,000 people.
  • It is too complicated
  • Limited payment options

If we are honest with ourselves, we  have a very good idea why our app is not performing to expectations. At the very least, we can narrow the root cause down to the most likely root cause candidates.

I would clarify that this effort is not necessarily to define “exactly why” we are not competing with the #1 best app ever. Going into that involves much of the same kind of analysis, only exponentially more detailed and probably with a nice budget to start with.

For the average developer looking to make a livelihood from their app development, you know what you do best. You know what the people on your team do best. And odds are pretty good you know where the gaps are on both sides of your marketing and development operations.

There are two things that you need to do:

One – study and make time for what you do not already know OR find someone who already knows it, for the purpose of assessing…

Two – bringing on someone willing and able to do it OR at least enthusiastically willing to commit to doing it.

You probably already know someone or can network to find someone who can help you evaluate prospective candidates. You don’t necessarily need to hire them outright, provided you can broker a commission of your future sales based upon their work. If your graphics are “okay” – extra effort by someone who can make them “great” will show in every screenshot of your product. If you aren’t spending time marketing your app, find someone who will.

Once the root cause is defined, the means of addressing it is usually fairly straight-forward.   I will likely expand upon this with Ishikawa (fishbone) diagrams in the near future.

The Big Secret that is Not A Big Secret.

This resides outside of the three common root causes as it is probably the Single Greatest Root Cause of Business Failure – Not engaging to Develop your Business.

Often times we are focused on one project at the exclusion of virtually everything else. When one app – and your vision of it, consumes the entirety of what your business or team is doing, you will take a hit. You might do well this quarter, but what you are doing now won’t matter a year from now.

It is necessary to see your app in a true business context.

  • Is it a one-off project or will it serve as the basis for future projects? How many?
  • Are you and your apps specific to mobile?
  • How much of what you do can be allocated to brick-n-mortar or internet-based activity? In example, if you develop travel based apps, do you work with local travel based companies?
  • What cross-promotion opportunities are readily available?
  • Can you offer specialized services to your app customers?

Just because your business may focus on mobile apps does not mean its revenue must come exclusively from mobile apps.   Take a look at your local coffee shop – does it only sell coffee?  Odds are it probably sells some pastries, probably some sandwiches, too.  Find the areas of compatibility and products with a sympathetic relationship to what you do and add them to what you.

Wednesday, we will take a look at one more thing you should spend 1% of your day doing every day – 1% being 15 minutes.