File this under “Lessons Learned.” I’m not a programmer and don’t personally develop mobile apps, however I have completed design of one “game” and am nearing completion of a second for a “game platform”.
Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, some things it can do more easily than others, some things that it may not do as well as others, and so on – whether it is iOS or Android, HTML5, Java or otherwise. Some are better suited for new developers, others require more experience to get full performance.
Regardless of whether you are a novice developer or an experienced developer, the key factor for developing a commercial product is to stick to what you know works. Keep it simple. Everything you are not 100% confident about requires testing. Testing A vs. B is a simple matter, but if your routine generates multiple possible outcomes and branches out further – the more difficult that testing becomes.
For a programmer, some of this may sound ridiculously basic if not truly BASIC. In the game platform I work with, the most important components are handled by a wide range of IF/THEN statements. When trying to express a series of related events tied to one outcome, it takes on the form of something like:
If A and If B, Then C, but not If D or E.
That would require between 10 and 16 lines to implement. That’s a fairly simple example. Consequently, it is worth looking at what you are trying to do by finding something that it is common to A and B, but mutually exclusive to D and E. For my purposes, that would require only 4 to 6 lines to implement. It reduces program size and potential for error. This approach might look something like:
If A Then C but not If F.
Continuously expanding what you know will work comes from examining how other programs work that do things that close to what you have in mind coupled with continuous testing – preferably outside the commercial product you are working on now.
For as basic as all of this is, it stands amply evident in a wide range of product releases with broken features and functions. Whether operating systems, games or utilities, untested complexity frequently and severely impacts performance and popularity. Reducing the number of things you have to test for equally applies to being more confident about everything else actually working as intended.
The majority of the mobile world still uses older devices. Competition is fierce for the Android and iOS markets as they steadily pick up market share. How can you capitalize upon these two basic facts?
Developing Markets Is your strategy focused on selling apps or gaining loyal customers? The idea, of course, is to do both. However, it is the focus on gaining loyal customers that provides the best dividends. The difference is seeing an app as end to itself or as a means to collecting customer lists to support all of your future marketing efforts.
Emerging and developing markets represent hundreds of millions, even billions, of users. Many of these mobile users will eventually upgrade to newer devices. Where costs of reaching users with older devices is cheaper getting them aboard as your customers early will help feed your long-term upsales. It is also worthwhile to note that average income and GDP for most developing markets show established growth trends.
Developers do need to factor in the payment processors available within each market on a case by case basis. Likewise, developers need to become more sophisticated in their paid app and in-app upgrade pricing with better market segmentation – research the Big Mac Index for a good example.
Licensing Older Apps On the low end, a basic app can require up to 6 weeks and $8,000 in development. Higher end enterprise level applications may run up to 6 months and exceed $150,000 in development.
Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of apps out there which have fallen into the Pit of Abandonment. Some of these were really good and others showed signs of real potential. One man’s trash could be another man’s treasure. What if… What if some of these apps were picked up, refurbished and optimized?
One app might have suffered from poor graphics, another from a poorly designed interface, or perhaps the app wasn’t tested thoroughly. Plenty of others could be localized for new markets for having seen limited distribution. Stuff like this does happen – frequently.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for some developers purchasing the rights to an older app could be viable. Many developers of these apps would certainly be open to offers to recover some portion of their losses. Of course, you must do your research and due diligence investigations. If the bulk of the development is complete, refurbishing of old apps to make them “like new again” would cost less and apply to more “new” releases.
History… Eventually Repeats Itself There’s yet one more way to monetize for older platforms and old apps — bundles. The core factor here is download size. Mobile infrastructure in some areas makes it very difficult to download large files.
All we need to do is look at some older software is handled. The dynamics are somewhat different, but not completely. New software gets released at a premium price. Over time, the price is dropped. It gets moved to the bargain bin, and eventually stores offer 2 for 1’s, or a full series is released under one cover.
The Tortoise and the Hare The mobile market today is reminiscent of the old story about the plodding turtle and the rabit. Being first out of the starting gate doesn’t matter a whole lot if you don’t win the race. The point is that the mobile industry is still young. It became big rapidly, yet with the kind of initiatives like Internet.org – launched by Facebook in conjunction with Opera, Samsung and others, it stands to get a whole lot bigger.