If anything became clear in London this weekend, it is that the apps business has grown up. Apps are no longer merely for mobile. More and more new platforms and devices are becoming available to developers who want to create neat – and preferably, useful – applications. You can write for in-vehicle entertainment systems, or use a customer’s car data to make life easier for them.
The scope for apps has become broader as well. No longer are we speaking about Smart TV apps, rather, we should offer customers a connected TV experience, where everything ties together neatly. As more and more devices are being connected to the Internet of Things, the main question is no longer how the smartphone apps to remotely control them should look. Rather, most talks focussed on how to make these connected devices aware of each other, and about how to let them learn about our behaviour. That way, they can control themselves – interconnected intelligence.
Further signs of the maturing of the business at AppsWorld were the many interesting workshops on Mobile Marketing & Advertising, tons of business use cases at the Enterprise track, and the many ‘app promoting’ businesses present. Just having a great app is not enough anymore to get noticed and sold in the many app stores. However, as Steve Wozniak pointed out, attention to detail and a good product is more than ever essential. Here are my key takeaways from the event:
If one thing was coming back, at each track, it was usability. To quote Steve Wozniak once more: “Technology works when it makes me feel like i need to work less. Machines should be easy to use and learn about the user. Users should not have to waste time learning about the machine”. So, always, keep the entire end-to-end user experience in mind.
The Right Device
Choosing the right device is part of being usable and useful. For example, it takes on average 400 clicks to send a 140 character tweet using your Smart TV and its remote control. So don’t bother making a Smart TV app for tweeting about your shows, just make one we can have on our phones. Your car, watch and coffee machine have become both a screen and data source.
Connected & APIs
Customers more and more expect devices to intelligently interoperate. You can’t integrate your product with all possible devices, but if you have a solid API strategy as part of your mobile and wider multi-platform efforts, and good developer outreach, you won’t have to do that all yourself. As a developer, there’s more and more data sources to choose from to create useful apps that people will love, and pay for.
Context beyond Location
Location isn’t just x/y coordinates on a map. Once you know a person’s location you can figure out if they are home, or at work. You can check what the weather’s like there, or what type of place they are at. We call that context, and it is not just relevant for mobile ad companies. Your app should be aware of some of these factors, and change behaviour and/or content based on that. And yes, a user’s connection (broadband, LTE, Edge, ..) is important context as well. Apps of the world, adjust yourself to users’s context when and where possible.
Content is still as important as ever. Especially if you’re into Media, TV and multi-screen apps. It is unlikely customers installed your app because of its pretty UI. Get rid off, or hide, menus as much as possible. In the US, people spend on average 19 minutes searching for content, for every 90 minutes of TV they watch. So get to know your users well, so you can throw out the loading screens by replacing them with recommended content. And do content discovery on the second screen (tablet or mobile phone), which works miracles compared to using the TV menus and remote control.
Publicity matters. It always did (dicto Steve Wozniak), but it matters even more today. Do store optimization, make sure to localize your app’s keywords and description, and look at what the competition is doing. Try first to break through in a small local market, and then move on to the bigger ones. Make sure to aim for quality users who are loyal, rather than for volume, as uninstalls do hurt your rankings. For KPI, take all your marketing costs, and compute cost per returning user, rather than per install.
Wearable Tech & Health
There’s a huge market for wearable technology and accompanying products, especially when it is health related. Just in the UK, there’s 8 million gym subscriptions. People care about their fitness and health, and are willing to spend money on this. The consumer market will be first on this, and will eventually push the health providers in this direction as well.
As apps (and the data they consume and produce) become more and more personal, privacy becomes more and more of an issue, in particular for apps that use the free-2-play model. New legislation in the US, and the upcoming Data Protection Directive in the EU are coming, so be prepared. Do things right from the start.
Other ‘hot’ topics at AppsWorld Europe, both with their own workshop tracks, were HTML5 and Mobile Payments & NFC. The event also clearly showcased that indie game developers are going strong, as there were lots of amazing – and entertaining – games on display. I wish there was time to try them all. Maybe in 2014.. . 😉