App Ecosystem Opportunities

App Ecosystem Opportunities is the leading source of research and analysis on mobile application trends, developer attitude, and consumer usage. The service provides in-depth analysis on platform performance, content owner strategies, and operators attempts to thrive in the app economy.

July 22, 2013 06:44 AThorwart

Gifts away paid apps to users

Apple who is notorious for paying out the most money to developers was once again in the giving mood, only this time iOS users were the beneficiaries. Upon turning 5, which feels 20 with the way trends change in the industry, Apple has selected 5 games – Infinity Blade II, Where’s My Water?, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, BADLAND, and Tiny Wings – as well as some other apps – Barefoot World Atlas, Day One, Over, and Traktor DJ.

With so many games available for free these days does a promotion like this even matter? The honest answer is, it depends. At the very least apps taking part in promos will see download numbers rise because it is app user’s nature to download free apps especially if it normally costs money.  However free/reduced price promos can also prove to be quite beneficial particularly for developers offering In-app Purchasing (IAP), which is the case for Disney’s Where’s My Water and Infinity Blade II.

Eric Johnson from AllthingsD reported that Infinity Blade II was a major beneficiary of Apple's promo receiving 1.7 million downloads alone last Monday. The boost in users to an app like Infinity Blade II has the potential to be very fruitful in terms of revenue because they offer In-App Purchases (IAP). For the last few years there has been a systematic shift towards freemium games where the game is offered as a free download and the developers capitalize on the users once they are in the game through the IAPs – in game currency, new levels, new gadgets, etc. IAPs are revenue generating machines

July 11, 2013 07:18 AThorwart

“Old guard” mobile games developers regain market share by embracing free to play

Since 2006, total consumer spend on mobile games has skyrocketed due in large part to the formation of App Stores (iTunes, GooglePlay, etc.) and more smartphones entering consumer’s pockets. However during that same time period, the more established mobile game developers (EA, Gameloft and others) which largely relied on carriers for distribution, lost the stranglehold on mobile gaming as the market opened up to many new companies. The big winners recently have been the new entrants like Rovio with its Angry Birds games.

Over the last year Capcom was the top performer in terms of growth in Strategy Analytics’ mobile gaming index. The latest installment - 2013 Q1 Mobile Gaming Index – shows that for the first time since the launch of Apple's App Store in 2007, the total market share of the mobile games publishers we track (EA, Capcom, Com2Us, G5, Gamevil, Gameloft and Glu) showed an annual increase from 16.7% in 2012 to 18.4% in 2013.

How have they reversed the downward trend? Certainly it took a while for those companies to transition from carrier distribution to embrace app stores fully, but the best performers are re-establishing dominance by giving away games for free. The basic principle is attract users with a free game and monetize that game later with in-app purchasing, and that seems to resonate with consumers.



June 21, 2013 07:29 AThorwart

Invites 3rd party developers to build apps for FuelBand

2006 marked the launch of the Nike+ platform and ever since then the company has been trying to motivate end users to achieve fitness goals via electronically enables devices.  Now that the wearable device market is beginning to heat up (thanks in part to the Google Glass announcement a while back) Nike is at the forefront with the FuelBand. Behind the scenes, the sportswear giant hosted the Nike+ Accelerator developer program for several startups. Over the last few days, each of the startups got the chance to present an app in front of investors at Nike WHQ in San Francisco.

The recent Press Release from Nike shed some light on the company’s Nike+ Accelerator program. The basis behind the program was to provide 10 start-ups $20,000 and three months to create the best app that utilizes the Nike+ platform. During those three months Nike opened up its API (aptly title Nike+ API) allowing the startups the ability to access and gather activity Nike+ Running app and the Nike+ FuelBand.

The Nike+ FuelBand is a wearable wristband that measures a user’s everyday activity towards achieving a fitness goal.  Nike is primarily a sportswear manufacturer, but they are beginning to realize the potential revenue burst that smartphone applications can provide.

The Health & Fitness space as a whole is less than attractive in popularity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an app won’t be successful.  Applications Ecosystem Opportunities’ (AEO)recent  vertical report installment, A Vertical View of Health & Fitness Apps, explains the landscape of the app space  and what Nike (and others) has to overcome– Challenges, Competitors, and whether or not anyone can capitalize on the wearable market.

Other fitness manufacturers are also in the space and thus far it is apparent that the iPhone is the main target. However, this move to open up the FuelBand to third party developers will benefit other operating systems who currently don’t have Nike+ FuelBand apps.

May 1, 2013 08:29 dmacqueen

Our developer survey gives us an unique perspective into the apps ecosystem, and sometimes throws up a few surprising results. While Android was the runaway leader in terms of the sheer number of developers creating apps for the platform, it wasn't ranked as the most important platform. In fact, it only came third in that race. The most developers creating apps for the platform, yet Android was only third place in terms of importance... can you guess the leaders?

Perhaps not surprising, the honor of "most important" went to Apple. No prizes for guessing that! But Android was pushed into third place by HTML5. Treat yourself to a pat on the back if you guessed this surprising result. Yet it's an understandable result if you consider that HTML5 is supported by all the platforms. Perhaps the result is a reflection more on the uncertainty surrounding which platforms will be the long term winners, rather than on the prospects of HTML5 itself.

Clients can read the full results and analysis in the research note, Developer Insight: Platform Loyalty.

April 29, 2013 06:35 dmacqueen

Launched with some fanfare only 10 days ago, and with over half a million installs already, Facebook Home is the company’s attempt to enforce itself in the mobile space. We wrote about it on the launch day – clients can read the report here.

With 1 billion active users, 680 million are using Facebook on mobile. Half a million installs is a pretty low percentage of those users – even lower than Facebook’s mobile revenues which are a remarkably low 23% of total, given that 68% of usage is on mobile devices. Can Home help raise the bar? Ten days’ worth of reviews on the Google Play store don’t seem to give much cause for cheer.

With an average rating of only 2.2, and a remarkable 53% of users giving the app only a 1 star rating, it’s becoming clear that Facebook Home isn’t resonating with users. Why is that? I took a look at the 100 most recent reviews and found the following top concerns:

  • 50% of all reviews mentioned increased difficulty using other apps and widgets (even some of the positive reviews)
  • 14% of reviewers used the word “uninstall”
  • 7% mentioned battery life concerns

Other opinions were generally quite mixed; concerns included privacy, problems installing or running on specific devices, increased data traffic, but none of these were mentioned by more than 3% of the reviews examined. Overall nothing compared to the feeling that most users had – Facebook Home takes over your phone. All widgets disappeared and were unusable, other apps were harder to find and use, and in some cases basic phone functionality became harder to access.

People use Facebook a lot on their phone, that’s for sure, but they don’t want it to become their phone. The phone is an intensely personal device and while Facebook may be a popular app, it's not the only app users want. The design philosophy of Home is thus flawed, in my opinion - it doesnt offer anything to enhance the user's experience of Facebook and hamstrings the other functionality of the device.

If it's to become a success, Facebook Home has to offer some novel services to lock-in power users and provide value in giving Facebook control of their most personal thing, i.e. their phone. Chat heads won’t cut it.

April 17, 2013 12:22 dmacqueen

Put on your Google Glass. What can you see? No advertising, at least not from anyone except Google. Probably precious few apps, either, I’d imagine, since Google has announced some “interesting” rules for developers – you can’t charge for Glass apps, and you can’t include advertising. So at the moment (and admittedly this is beta launch) there’s no way for anyone (except Google of course) to make money. So there’s no incentive for developers to create anything for a device which, with this set of rules, becomes a de facto closed garden. Quite the opposite of Google’s usual open philosophy.

Since this is still a beta there is of course scope for those rules to change in future. If/when it does change, then developers may receive a return on their investment, and at that point we may see a good selection of quality apps emerge. Until that point, there will emerge some apps, but they are going to be little more than case studies, interesting but underdeveloped ideas. Glass also links up with the smartphone, a platform on which developers can charge for apps. So in all likelihood the best apps for Glass are going to be extensions of smartphone apps; putting in front of your eyes information you would otherwise have to glance down at your smartphone to see. While this gives imaginative developers a chance at differentiation, the lack of any financial returns is likely to see the focus remain on the phone and not on the Glass.

Will a few underdeveloped ideas and smartphone app extensions be enough to drive a market for an entirely new product category? The device is already causing enough controversy, can it achieve success without a bunch of killer apps as well?


February 21, 2013 08:44 jmartin


Amazon launched its app store in the US amidst fanfare and hope in March 2011. The catalog quickly grew as the company expanded internationally (starting in the US in early 2011 then expanding to UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain in mid-2012 and Japan in late 2012) , extended its apps from Android phones to Kindles, and offered innovative new business models such as in-app purchasing of physical goods.

Despite this, Amazon’s store has suffered the same growing pains as other third party app stores. In order to better understand the current and long term prospects of Amazon we asked developers about their distribution of apps in our recent Developer Survey. The data herein focuses on developers that stated they were primarily supporting Android this year.  Of those respondents 25% currently distribute through Amazon’s store compared to 97% which distribute through Google Play.




According to the survey much of Amazon’s growing pains have been self-inflicted and can provide a lesson for Amazon and other third party stores on how to succeed.

1.       Freely share penetration information. The most cited reason (17%) why developers are not distributing through Amazon is the lack of insight into the reach of the store. Amazon has not shared download figures or the number of Kindles sold. The lack of clarity on market potential has clearly dampened enthusiasm for the store. Despite the ease of re-deploying existing Android apps via Amazon developers are still shying away from doing so because they need to understand the upside.

2.       Developer relations are critical to success.  While Nokia and BlackBerry have worked hard to build a global developer relations team, Amazon has been comparatively quiet.  In fact, 16% of respondents didn’t even know Amazon distributed apps while another 14% didn’t know how to distribute apps via Amazon. Couple the 30% of respondents cited above with the 9% of that felt Amazon did not have strong enough developer outreach and suddenly the pool of interested developers could quickly grow with improved marketing of the store.  

3.       Being global matters. In order to be a viable platform developers are seeking a broad audience. More than 20% of developers cited lack of a specific country’s availability or limited audience scope of the store as reasons they were not currently distributing via Amazon. Perhaps Amazon’s slow and steady global expansion could yield long term dividends but seems to be a short term detriment.

4.       Deliver Revenue. When developers were asked to cite from which store they were generating the most revenue, Amazon performed woefully. More than 61% of developers (again – those developers that said they primarily support Android today) stated that they generated most of their revenue from Google Play. Amazon earned just over 5% of respondents. Amazon is not offering enough financial upside to offset the time necessary to port apps and support updates.

However all is not lost. Of the developers not currently distributing via Amazon, a full 42% said they plan to support the store in the future. However after nearly two years in the market, a wealth of discovery expertise and e-commerce success Amazon should be a bigger player by now. Amazon’s  ramp up goes to show that a big brand name is a good start but clarity, developer relations and a broad audience that buys apps are critical to win developer support. As developers continue to strive to find ways to make money there’s hope for Amazon and there is hope for other channels but in order to win customers they first must win developers.

February 14, 2013 12:13 jmartin


On February 11th, Nike announced that it had ceased efforts to build an Android companion app for its FuelBand. With Google Play getting ever closer to Apple’s massive title library one company’s decision to ignore the platform surely isn’t a big deal – right?


As we move into the App Economy 3.0 – an era where less cutting edge consumers and a more mainstream market drives app usage – the importance of big brands (from Tesco to Nike to Gillette) will be imperative to making a platform a component of a user’s everyday life.

In fact, we will be exploring this in more in depth soon by evaluating top companies in various industries and their app strategies across platforms. For example, when American Airlines rebranded on January 23 it had new apps available on iOS and Android immediately. It has yet - as of 2/14 – updated its Windows Phone app and did not have an app available for the launch of BlackBerry 10.

But back to Nike. Nike has long been extending its brand beyond footwear and apparel – innovating  with Apple on Nike + for iPod way back in 2006 – which allowed users to track their runs on their iPod/computer. Even before apps were mainstream apps were critical component in Nike’s transition.

Thus, Nike’s decision to jilt Android after explicitly stating last summer its plans to support the platform is troubling. While Nike hasn’t stated their reasons for abandoning its effort idle speculation should focus on one of three possibilities:

1. Android Fragmentation simply made it too difficult/expensive to support Android globally (a reason – according to our forthcoming developer survey – why other developers are abandoning the platform)

2. Android fragmentation makes it difficult to provide a consistently high quality experience across Android devices, and all but impossible for Nike to support every Android device. Nike then can’t use a nice, simple marketing message saying “we support Android” in the same way that they can say “we support iPhone”

3. Android users are not as into apps as iOS users and therefore the ROI for building an app simply wasn’t there

To further frame the issues we should note that Nike earned $6B in its last fiscal quarter. The company generated nearly $400M in net income. And despite the billions in earnings the company has decided for whatever reason not to support Android. It certainly was the result of not enough return on investment. The abandonment comes despite having 3 other Android apps, including Nike+Running which has been downloaded between 1-5M times.  However, Nike has 11 iOS apps available.

As discussed in CES 2013: Apps Drive Billions in Revenue, Trillions in Value most companies that are building innovative new apps are focusing on iOS. Mattel, Lego, Nike, and others see the iOS ecosystem as a premium platform on which to reach the most engaged users. If this continues to be the perception than other platforms could be exiled to secondary status as Apple continues to improve its value proposition to end users and cement its role as a mobile leader.

Big brands are the future. Independent developers remain important but large brands will be the driving force behind the app market moving forward. Failure to win brand support will be a bigger blow to a platform than not having a million apps and if Nike is any indication of a trend those in the Android ecosystem should be worried.


December 14, 2012 04:40 jmartin

I am an iPad owner. I bought the original shortly after launch, I waited on line at Best Buy for the iPad 2, and I have been using an iPad 3 for several months. The iPad is a frequent companion at home on the couch and a best friend on flights.

When Apple released the iPad Mini I wondered as to its purpose. Why would I forego my iPad for a smaller version? Were they two different animals altogether serving different purposes or would one win out? After a few weeks of using the Mini I have come to the conclusion. But before sharing it, I think it is important to give a quick review of the Mini itself.

1.       The Mini is true to its name. The Mini is unbelievably thin and light. Much like my first interaction with the original iPad – amazed at how think it was - you have to see it to believe it. The smaller bezel results in a tinier package despite only losing 1/3 of the screen space. The smaller size also makes the iPad easier to use and hold. Many a night I have been sitting in a chair with my 14 month old but couldn’t use my iPad because it was difficult to maneuver with only one hand. I don’t have that issue with the mini.

2.       The Mini feels very personal. I’ve found that the smaller form factor makes the device feel more personal. I have tried and failed to read a book on the iPad – I prefer paper books (remember those?) – but the nature of the Mini is similar to those novels you read in bed and I can see myself downloading an e-book any day now.

3.       Battery Life. Last week I took a flight from San Francisco home to Boston and used the Mini practically the entire way to play games, watch some movies, and even download some things at the airport. After the 5+ hour flight I still had over 60% battery life.

4.       There is an abundance of apps. Apple has over 200,000 tablet apps. This is a benefit in and of itself but as an iPad owner it’s great that all the apps I have downloaded in the past can be used on the device without additional purchasing.

5.       Fit and finish. The Mini feels more rugged to me than the iPad. I’m not constantly worrying about scratching the back if I put it down on a table which any iPad owner will note is a real concern.

My only gripe with the Mini is the screen. As I have mentioned in past posts I am a retina display snob and frequently curse Apple for ruining my eyes for all lesser displays. While the screen on iPad Mini is good it’s not retina. I understand Apple did this for a reason – to lower the price - and they are very clear in presenting the device as exactly what it is. But if they want the iPad Mini to be perfect – for me – add a retina display and it would replace my iPad in an instant.

In short, I’m a fan of the iPad Mini. Its industrial design, the size, the weight, and the apps all make it attractive. But the size of the Mini and the many 7” competitors out there got me thinking about how I would use the various tablets and sizes.

To me, regardless of size the tablet – a tablet in its tablet form factor – is not a productivity tool on par with the PC (either laptop or desktop). When I travel for work I bring my iPad and my laptop. At home, I have almost exclusively used the iPad (Mini or regular size) as a consumption tool.


Now I know there are many options for creating content on a tablet – be it movies, photo editing, drawing, word processing, etc.  And while I have seen stories of users that have filmed and edited movies on an iPad, tapped out tomes, completed reports, and created music on their tablets I for the most part am not one of those people. When I need to be productive – which I often define as building excel models, PowerPoint slides or lengthy reports -  I need a computer. Yes, in a pinch I can crank out a few paragraphs of a report on a tablet but I still need more. I need true multi-tasking, a full fledged keyboard, and a larger screen to be truly productive.

So, for me a tablet is really about consumption and the 7” iPad Mini is perfect for that. It’s light. It’s small. The screen is still large enough to comfortable watch movies, browse the web, play games and I can hold the device for long periods of time.  It also takes up almost no room in my bag when I travel and I can use it comfortably no matter the situation. I feel that what I’m losing – 3” of screen real estate – is not nearly as much as what I’m gaining in ease of use and portability. We now have a choice over increased portability versus increased screen size giving consumers the choice of what best fits their needs.

November 15, 2012 09:22 jmartin

I have been using a Nokia Lumia 920 since Thursday November 8th when a box arrived at my office and like a kid on Christmas morning I tore it open, turned it on, and proceeded to spend the rest of the day – and several days thereafter – downloading apps and personalizing my home screen. The following are my experiences during my first week with the phone.

When reading a review I always scroll to the end to see the final verdict. I won’t make you wait that long. By Friday morning I had stripped my SIM from my long used and loved iPhone 4 and had officially replaced it to the Lumia 920. Clearly I’m a fan of the device and below are my impressions.

I was a fan of the Lumia 900 and used it for a good bit before the siren song of my iPhone 4 called me back. There were in fact just three major issues with the 900 that prevented my total commitment.

  • Display. Ever since I got the iPhone 4 I have become a retina display snob. Each time I perused the web and saw less than smooth fonts I cringed. While the display on the 900 was nice – it didn’t compare to the iPhone 4. The 920 banished the word retina from my brain.
  • Tiles. I love Live Tiles but the Windows 7.5 start screen was far too cluttered with those medium sized tiles. I found it hard to truly personalize the device and while you may think having three tile sizes doesn’t change much I promise you it changes the entire experience.
  • Internet Explorer. How a web browser exists that didn’t let me navigate forward or back without intermittently bringing me to the home screen was beyond frustrating. I hated IE9.

The 920

Many reviews are noting how big the Lumia 920 is. I admit, it’s big and I have had a few people note that it’s simply too big for them. That’s a matter of personal preference but the size isn’t an issue for me. The phone feels solid, is made out of high quality components, and feels great in my hand. For those with size concerns the 920’s little sister the 820 is a smaller device.

  • The Screen. The screen is beautiful and once I saw how smooth it was I knew one of the issues I had with the 900 were completed eliminated. The screen is sharp, bright, has great color saturation. And with winter coming I am excited it works while I’m wearing gloves.
  • Nokia’s Apps. Nokia has invested heavily in providing its users with great apps right out of the box. Some of my favorites include:
    • Nokia Music which is a Pandora like streaming service but requires no account. It allows you to create your own artist mixes and then save them to the handset for use while offline. In fact, I’m listening to one right now as I sit on a plane without WiFi.
    • Drive. Nokia devices offer free voice assisted turn by turn location. One of the great features – temporarily absent from the current Drive+Beta – is My Commute. You simply put in where and when you commute and the app will alert you to traffic conditions before you leave and re-route you if necessary to avoid traffic. It even has a Live Tile which shows you traffic and expected commute time.
    • Camera Apps/Lenses. Nokia’s acquisition of Scalado is already paying off with Cinemagraph and Smart Shoot. Cinemagraph allows users to easily create animated GIFs from photos they take. Smart shoot allows you to remove objects/people from photos to focus in on what you were taking a photo of. Both are fantastic differentiators.
  • The Camera. The image quality and stabilization on the camera are fantastic. In the past I often needed to use my DSLR to capture images of my active son but I have been able to capture images I never expected to before. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test the low light imaging but I have high hopes.

Overall, the device exceeded my expectations. It is snappy, I can use it outside in direct sunlight and I’m not worried about it scratching as it is white all the way through. I haven’t yet found a use for NFC but I’m glad I have it and I’m hoping my wife buys an NFC enabled phone so we can more easily share photos we take. Wireless charging is also nice and I plan on purchasing some wireless charging plates for my home soon. If the 820/822 is anything like the 920 I would whole heartedly recommend both as I made the transition and couldn’t be happier.

My impressions of Windows 8

As highlighted Here, Here, and Here I am a fan of Windows and the interface formerly known as Metro. But enjoying the idea of an OS and the reality of using it are often poorly aligned. Much of what I hoped for has been realized while some of what I feared is also a reality.

What’s great:

  • Resizable Live Tiles. As I mentioned in the opening, tile sizes completely changes how I use my phone and present endless opportunity for personalization. I was able to pin my phone, messages, personal mail and work mail to the very top of the screen – always handy. Then it was decision time on what’s next. A small, medium or large calendar tile? How about my Wife’s Live Tile. Small medium large? The options are endless and I believe Microsoft is right to say this is the first truly personal smartphone. Your home screen is really a reflection of what’s important to you and what information you need.
  • Personalized recommendations. Microsoft has added app recommendation based on which apps you have downloaded and searches in Bing (opt-in) to provide some exposure to new apps and developers. As developers remain challenged to get discovered this could help many break through the noise of 120,000 apps.
  • More Apps. It is clear that the app store has more apps than even just a few months ago and many of the top apps Microsoft promised are beginning to appear – such as Words with Friends and Angry Birds Star Wars.

What I hate:

  • Internet Explorer 10. After using IE 10 for 30 seconds all I could wonder was – dear lord how soon until Google brings Chrome to Windows 8. IE10 is better than IE9 but in my opinion it remains one of the most poorly thought out and implemented mobile browsers. Hitting back sometimes brings you to the previous page but could just as easily bring you to the home screen. Want to go back forward? Well even though you’ve been able to do that since the early days of Netscape you’re out of luck on Windows 8. Even bookmarking a page doesn’t mean it is easily retrievable in the omni-box. Many websites come up as PC sitesnot mobile optimized sites despite specifically requesting mobile sites in the settings.In a word, IE10 is BY FAR the weakest part of Windows Phone 8.
  • Promised Apps not yet ready. Microsoft made it clear that it had secured 46 of the top 50 apps. That’s great – but many of them are not ready yet. After preparing for the launch of Windows 8 for so long I would have expected more apps to be available at launch. Microsoft hasn’t helped its case by not even having its own Skype app ready for launch. A beta version was released several days after Windows Phone 8 launched. If Microsoft’s own properties cannot be ready at launch why should their partners be ready? Releasing the SDK to developers so late was a big miss.
  • What does a Live Tile Do?!!! Microsoft has updated its store to show which apps have live tiles and is making the case with developers to offer live tiles. Unfortunately that is not enough information for end users. Microsoft should create a field that shows what the live tile actually does and how different sizes impact its function. I know Ebay has a live tile but I’m still wondering what it does as it hasn’t gone live yet. Knowing what a live tile does would make personalizing my experience easier.
  • Voice   assistance. Many people knock Siri and I agree it had niche uses. However, I think it’s great for finding out what movies are playing and when, which restaurants have tables, etc. Microsoft has voice assistance – and has even embedded it in its apps with an API – but there is no easy tutorial to understand what it can and cannot do.

After nearly 1,500 words my conclusion: Microsoft and Nokia have winners on their hands. Windows 8 has a learning curve that will scare some users away but I implore people to stick with it. What I have highlighted here is the difference between an older model and an older OS but it doesn’t have information on everything a Lumia or Windows 8 offers. I highly suggest investigating Windows 8 and understanding how some of the features – people hub, groups, live tiles etc. – could change your smartphone experience. Will everyone love Windows 8?No. But I do.