Thursday, 31 January 2013

App size important?

2gb iPhone apps

As of January the 10th 2013 the maximum size of an app in the Apple app store is 2Gb, OTA still stays at 50mb maximum as of October 2012, up from 20mb... on the 20th of january Microsoft followed suit increasing max app size to 50mb and about a year ago Android upped the odds to 4gb! But why is this important?

App size important?

There are various reasons why app size is important:

App multi-platform homogenisation

Homogenisation: if you are a developer and want to develop across the main platforms: iOS+Android or iOS+Android+WP8 then you are going to want to reuse assets. while you can get away with a smaller app on wp8 due to the lack of fragmentation of screen size to date, fragmentation on iOS and Android is about the same despite what some developers with a bias to one platform or the other say (believe me, I have ported more variety of apps to and from more platform than anybody I know in the app business) - so if your iOS app is 50mb, then your android app is likely to be in the 40-60mb size as well, once you have factored in assets for everything from low-def screen and high-def screen phones to tablets of various sizes and resolutions as well...

App size user experience

Most important however is user experience! Yes that 3rd or 4th priority on your list after filling categories, how many apps, gross downloads and gross sales... and the trend towards bigger apps, which is following the trend to bigger storage (iPhone 3G = 4gb, 3GS 8gb, 4+ 16gb) what the apps developers and app store managers are forgetting is that there is a lot competing for this space and moore's law does not appear to be as kind to storage as it is to video and image size alone for example.
Where do you think a user will look to cut space first?
We all have had the dreaded "out of space, please delete..." scenario, and we go to this screen on iOS... what do you think the customer is going to do - ditch images at 2mb and 2 minutes an image = 30mb in half an hour, or just delete a data hogging app? Yep they will delete a data hogging app.

Data hogging apps

So all your app store work invested in getting a major houses apps on board, into a category and promoted can be ruined in one foul swoop as a customer goes in and decimates all the Moshi Monster related apps... and then tells all his/her friends that "can you believe I had half a gb of space..." I most recently had this issue on top of a mountain in the middle of Wales:
When faced with a view like this and no space for pictures - space hungry apps get deleted and never re-installed
with one of the best views bar none and a stretch of 400m descent, with a need to be at the front so as to not be caught behind slower friends on my one big downhill of the year... with no mobile coverage to cloud... yes I hacked the big apps ... an no I NEVER downloaded them again - worse, I now avoid that category of apps all together!

App Store category filling

Do all these apps have the same level of image richness?
What this means is; you could end up with entire categories of apps not being used / downloaded / spread by users just because they are too big. The apps above do not have the same level of image richness yet they are all the same size. A use knows what apps they can live with and live without, and half a gb of apps to keep their kids happy may get binned, unless they are of the "here, have my phone while I contemplate why I had kids before I was ready" variety of human that plague restaurants and bars the world over... I have now deleted all retail apps from my device an avoid the category altogether as the apps were all space hoggers. 

App space usage 

The final issue is app space usage. Autostitch at the top of the list (top image) is clearly storing images both in my images section and within its own allocation of space... this is OKish as its one of my iPhone killer apps but fusion stream at 106b (the key is in the "stream" bit!) is obviously going to go, when Twonky does the same at 20mb (top image and below).
When image rich apps like Warhol come in at 20mb, 50mb is OTT for most apps

App store quality vs quantity

So when you next update app store guidelines and up the max file size... think of the effect on your users: thee is no point having 500,000 apps in the store, when the average size of apps at 20mb vs 50m means the difference between only being able to have 50 apps or 20 apps on your phone before size becomes an issue... yes chaps, once again its time to focus on quality vs quantity in app land! allowing 2gb or 4gb apps means 1 or 2 apps alone can halve the amount of space a user is willing to use for apps, or can even obliterate a whole category(s) from your store in just a few apps... 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Segmentification: app store category strategy 2013

First the apps were the focus of attention; how many we have, how many we are adding; then the UE was polished and we now have a pretty slick UE in every major app store... the one thing that still strikes me as needing attention is: Segmentification.

Firstly, let's get the scientific diagram out of the way :)
Appus Evolutio - How We went from collection to segmentification in app stores 
So why is 2013 the year of segementification?

1) the categories themselves, their selection still seems random, copy and paste; if a category is empty "we must find content for that category" seems to be the rule rather than asking "do we need that category?"

2) the focus of these categories' content  has until now been base upon what was avalailable and what developers made, now there are 10,000 ifart apps, and we have moved from early adopter to mass market, we should now segment around usage, target audience and supply apps aournd a type of handset usage, not an app availability and not what developers create or where we can get content for.

Its getting the push-pull balance right in 2013.

In short, we have enough content, slick UEs; we now need to refine categories

While we still have some people saying "we are adding x thousand apps per day to our store" that process will get to the question I am asking quickly, and ideally will ask this question now to spend money more wisely and get a better user experience.

I have been looking at this for a few app stores and worked in this way for smaller app discovery portals / app stores that I have worked on for handset manufacturers to help specific customer groups discover content, and guess what: it works; uptake is quicker, wider and moreover, continues for longer. The positioning here has even broken down into different propositions and product groups, usually based around the handset manufacturer's own customer segmentation.

I was reminded of this when I saw a recent article on how people use mobile on HBR which showed used graphically on a "wheel" in a similar way to how I showed content vs downloads by category on a recent app store project.
Are your categories, and their content in line with how your customers use their mobile?
Diagram Harvard Business Review
And it struck me that this does not translate well to how categories are filled even in the most mature app store, like the Apple app store, and is not too dissimilar from what WAP was, and most mobile operators portals today. What is worse with operator mobile web portals, is that unlike apps, a lot of the content is paid for! Paying for content that does not match your customer... does this sound familiar? :)

So let's have a look. The chaps at 148apps have been logging appstore metrics since the heady days of 2008 when Apple had a then "incredible" 10,000 apps... presently it looks like this: category map of Apple app store at present. Read segments clock-wise from Games@16%
What we immediately see is that, with the exception of education, but we will come onto that later; the top categories that make up the majority are in-line with the "me time" in the top chart from HBR.

However, from there, not so sure, and even then, how much of the "me time" can now be done better via a mobile web page than via the app? for which customer segments Are "Games", "entertainment", "Lifestyle" and "ebooks" - "me time".

Then you look at productivity and getting things done, and we are somewhat "underserved". We could say the same regarding social and shopping, however the counter argument is that just one, two or three social apps do all the social we need, and the same for shopping.

So what?

As someone I used to work with used to say: "the so-what of that is" 
  1. are we addressing the right customers with the right apps, are we attracting the right apps to our platform and how should we influence?
  2. should we "segment" the app store by customer type

Attracting the right apps

The first point is looking at trends like gaming and the dreadful word that was "gamification" (I do not know if its worse in the tech or culinary world), and is it evolving the right way into more "me time" or is it becoming social. You could argue that these categories move with a life of their own, however if you promote one type rather than another on your store you can influence the way developers prioritise their roadmap of updates and how you sway your content.

From the other side, its clear that people are using their mobile more to accomplish things, however are the utilities and productivity categories innovating to match this? I think not, and this could be where we should be devoting our app store evangelisation, developer resources, competition and other developer incentives to nurture this hitherto neglected category even for app stores like the Blackberry store, which brings me to my next point....

Segmenting the app store(s)

A product that recently caught my attention was a "Hello Kitty" tablet, I hasten to add not for me personally, and it caught my attention in two ways:
  1. it was "not that bad" (7" screen, Android 4.0) and only cost £80
  2. it had its own app store and music store, you guessed it: focussed at its target market, as well as the de rigueur hello kitty wallpaper, theme, UI skin, etc.
We can easily make the education category the only section of the app store that is accessible during the week, for example, to attract the parent buying for the child market, the question is: do we have enough content here.

A second question was raised via a colleague in the industry who bought a kindle hd for his son, and did not even consider a nexus 7, for example. His view was that if you are going to get an ebook; more or less get an ebook with frills, not a frills-pad with ebook... And when we look above at the frills-pad stats and see books at only 7%... he has a point...

There are many more of these examples, from cameras with android in them, to....

"Segmentification" is among us

So the segmentation at the device level has started, the customers have started diverging, the question is, are the device manufacturers, mobile operators and developers ready for "segmentification"! or will it sneak up on them like every evolution so far???