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Mobile : Which platform to go for? As a developer.

24 Aug

xcodegraniteincon

P.S. – This post was inspired by this post on Mashable which made me think on this topic.  Since iOS and Android are the dominant platforms I am only bringing these two into the discussion for now. 

In my earlier post I had covered about which platform to go for as a consumer. But from a business perspective, stakes are more high when you are a developer and thinking of extending your existing software or creating a new one for the mobile devices. Making mobile apps and a good one at that takes a lot of time, energy and money(tangible, intangible) so its important to figure out the canvas before you start building.

Choosing that canvas is what I would delve into.

Just to share, I am not a mobile developer, at-least not yet, but I am interested in technology, the mobile space and being a very heavy user of apps on a everyday basis I am very inquisitive of the business side and the scope of innovation it has to offer.

The world of software is rapidly getting replaced by Apps be it on Mobile or on the Browser as extensions.  And more and more people are moving away from Computing on their desktops/laptops and using their mobiles/tablets for all their computing needs.

So its imperative for software developers to also think of having presence on mobile or else their relevance in today’s fast evolving technology will rapidly fade. And it’s no mystery that all things be equal among software providers, it the value addition, its who gives you more value for the buck, which ultimately decides which software provider will be in business and thrive, or even survive to begin with.

The question is fairly simple – iOS or Android?

Sub-question even more simpler – Mobile or Tablet or Both.

I think once you have answered the main question, the sub-question shouldn’t be very difficult.

From my point of view, I would require the following to even begin contemplating to answer the first one,  iOS vs Android, should I choose –

  1. Target market region – continent, country, state : This will help you get some idea of which platform your customers or potential customers are on or will be. For example, if majority of your customers are already using iOS on at-least one device, building an Android app will exclude them right from their start and vice-versa.
  2. User Personas of your existing customers  : These will give you some idea of what devices they are on and whether they own multiples devices such as tablets and if yes then which one.
  3. Your plans of the extent of presence on mobile/tablet : You need to be reasonably clear as to how much are willing to invest in building your app and to what level. If all you want is basic functionality to extend the existing PC software, then there is a chance that you can build on multiple platforms right from the start. If something deeper then you should have as much clarity as possible in choosing a platform.
  4. Your team as it stands or are you willing to outsource the development work(part or in full) : If you plan to build your app in-house then you must assess which platform your developers are comfortable on and why. Since they are ones who will be slogging it out, having their consensus is critical. Even if they are not well versed with the platform being chosen from a business perspective, you may want to have some kind of training sessions to get them going. If you plan to outsource a part or a chunk of it then you need to do some homework on existing developers and shortlist a few to start a conversation. Their history of building apps, coding capabilities, support capabilities need to be looked into before bringing them on-board.
  5. The latest trend as far as usage on mobiles go :
    • Dominant mobile platform region wise along with version statistics – This is to further breakdown which version is in use. Whether majority in iOS are on the latest version or not. If Android then there are multiple versions still running. Why is this important is because, if you are building on the latest version of any platform but if your customers are using old versions then chances are some functionality which you spent so much time on may not even usable on their versions. This needs to be correlated with the regions as per your customer profile.
    • Paid vs free app usage stats on each platform – Which platform is able to sell more paid apps than free ones. You can also have a category wise breakdown, say your category is Arcade Games, then whether more people are ready to pay on iOS or Android for a particular game. It may also help to have usage statistics, for example, whats the % of people who have downloaded the app, but have not come back in terms of using it. How many % of them are on old app versions even when you have updated your app. Whether people update paid apps more frequently than free ones.
    • Developers statistics – Are developers earning more on a particular platform, compared to other platform, is there any particular category where earnings is more even though overall earnings may be less. Like for example, in Games category Android developers are earning more, but within Games, Arcade games developers are earning more on iOS.
    • Commerce statistics on the platform  : Reflects spending habits. A lot of transactions are taking place on mobiles. Whether it is buying movie tickets, shopping, buying travel tickets packages etc. This gives an indication of the user persona of the platform customers. If more transactions happen on iOS, then this info can be useful in certain decision makings viz-a-viz your app. For example if you want to have in-app purchase or your app is a paid one, this info can be very useful.

These are fairly comprehensive data to help you in your decision making.

Some other decisions you will have to make at some point or pivot as need be –

  • Start with Phone or designed not scaled for Tablet or both at the same time.
  • Free or paid ?
  • If paid, should we start with promotions.
  • When to have promotions if at all?
  • App road-map, how often to release updates, release notes.
  • Ads or without ads
  • Marketing the app(a whole new subject of discussion all-together and may be a blog post)
  • Other topics like UX, UI which is more of going into the blueprint, design etc.

Hope the above info gives helps you in some way to start your app journey to the mobile/tablet. Let me know if I have missed something or if something needs to be fixed/updated in terms of content.

Anirudh

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Mobile : Which phone or rather which platform to go for? As a consumer.

22 Aug

ios5-vs-android

P.S. – Since iOS and Android are the dominant platforms, I am only taking these two into the discussion, for now. Also since I am an Apple fan and love every moment of my iPhone, there is a very reasonable possibility of bias, but I would do my best to be as objective as possible. 

I like technology and I like the word of mobile phones. Now I also like the world of mobile platforms as it creates so many new layers of devices. Android being open offers ton of scope for innovation for various manufactures(Samsung, HTC, LG, Nexus, etc)

On and off I get a lot of similar questions personally and also similar questions crop up on many forums/twitter/facebook etc.

  • Should I buy iPhone or should I buy S4?
  • Should I go for Apple or Samsung.

For me both questions are flawed and if your basic premise of question is flawed, no matter what the answer be it will flawed.

The very first question one should ideally ask should be –

Which platform should I go for? Should it be iOS or should it be Android. 

That’s the question Ladies and Gentlemen which will make sure you don’t feel cheated on spending on your smartphone and that it meets your usage requirements.

It is not only the manufacturer/hardware which is responsible for what you get with your smartphone, it is primarily the platform which provides the experience on your phone.

If your choice is iOS then you have just saved yourself from decision fatigue and all you need to do is decide between the latest model(iPhone 5) or the one previous(iPhone 4S) to it.  I wouldn’t really go to the 3rd level of iPhone 4. Once you have chosen that its literally choosing between black or white and storage capacity, These are fairly easy decisions to make compared to what you will be making if you choose and the plethora of brands and models they offer.

Now I am not saying that you go for iOS. This is where it gets interesting. When advising/suggesting/advocating mobile preferences, people get personal and start defending the one they own, which technically applies to the majority of us. But then if you are looking for advise, you would want a rounded one and not the bias of the person giving the advise influence the advise and eventually the decision making you will have to do based on that advise.

Frankly, I don’t care what mobile others use as long it they don’t start shouting on how awesome it is. Mobile is a very personal device, its usage is very unique to each user and what may work for me may not work for others and vice-versa. Also appearance plays a crucial part and since its nothing but design which is obviously very subjective, enforcing what you feel is beautiful is stretching it too far.  Same goes for the experience or user experience in tech jargon. So may want how iOS functions, some may like Android.

So if its not iOS and Android for you, you need to decide on a budget. If budget is not an issue, then you have less of choice as I would not look below the top 2-3 models of each brand. If the budget is an issue and you are looking at the entire spectrum right Rs. 5000 to say Rs. 20000, then God bless you as a roller-coaster awaits you.

Thanks to Samsung’s $300 million ad-marketing budget, its easy to go for their flagship phone which at present is Galaxy S4. These ads are everywhere and specially on full front page ad on major newspapers. Add to it the offers(free this, free that), the EMI scheme and this is easily getting Samsung the numbers it wants.

But do seriously look at other Android phones in the top range like HTC One, Samsung Note-2 , LG Optimus G-Pro E-988, Nexus-4(brilliant VFM) as these are worthy contenders as well. Make sure these are all on the latest version of Android and get a look and feel in your hands. This is super important.

You can also go for “stock” edition of S4 and HTC One, which means the software/os updates comes directly from Google and the user experience is by far the most in sync with Google’s own Nexus range of devices.

Considering everything be equal in iOS and Android, there are two major differences –

  1. iOS experience is same across all devices including Tablets. Whether you buy iphone 5 or 4S or 4, majority of the user experience is same. And the updates come directly from Apple once or twice a year. No erratic updates, no faulty updates. A major issue in Android is that besides their Nexus range, its in the manufacturer’s arena to roll out the updates. So even if Google has brought out a latest update, there is absolutely no guarantee that the same will be available on your top-end phone. And this dilutes the user experience from device to device. Also since Android is open platform, manufacturers play with the interface to differentiate from other manufacturer’s.
  2. Quality of Apps. If you remove apps from the smartphone, its hardly smart and basically just like any ordinary phone. So Apps are very very important. This is the only reason why I am not talking about Blackberry and Nokia. Apple controls/monitors/restricts what goes in the App store like a bank to ensure its users gets the best experience. No faulty apps, no bugs, no fishy stuff, no virus etc. But Android anyone can upload an app. And this is a key difference. On iOS the app eco-system is much superior, way better apps in every possible way than Android. Though a lot of say top-20 apps are present on both platforms, going down the app quality in Android gets messy, very messy.

I can go on and on getting into the details more, but it would be diluting from my main intent.

So to repeat, think about the platform before getting to the brand.

Anirudh

Eco-system Stickiness

9 Jul

If you are using a smartphone/tablet and dont have any paid-apps(assuming paid by yourself), you can ignore this post, but if you have paid-apps, well knowingly or unknowingly your cost of switching to any other platform is not just the cost of the device. Confused? Read on…

Lets say you are using iPad (iOS). You have a ton of paid apps. So if you move to another device within iOS –  say iPhone – all your apps follow you and you can access them for free of cost.

But if you decide to change your platform all-together, to Android or Windows or Blackberry, your cost of switching is Device + the cost of Apps you will be leaving behind. Unfortunately, apps are not platform portable and you will have to buy the apps on each platform separately.

Honestly, I never though it this way but then stumbled across an article and found it profound.

So ideally, it makes sense to decide what platform to switch to with a bit of a foresight so that you don’t end up switching. But then there are people who don’t have any paid-apps, enjoying their current platform and can switch in an instant if they find more value. So if you are one of those who keep buying apps, think whether you will be on the platform in the near future or does it make sense to hold on if you are looking to change your platform.

Also it makes sense to have the phone and the tablet on the same platform so that you can access the apps interchangeably and thanks to iCloud(if on Apple) all your data are synced even without you knowing!

Having got an iPhone recently, now I need to think what can I do with my Blackberry Tablet and how to get my hands on a swanking new “new ipad” !!! Rob a bank  perhaps? 🙂

 

 

Is this the future of books/magazines? Highly interactive and engaging!

1 May

We(Indians) are grabbing Tablets, Smartphones like never before!

16 Apr

So, yesterday I was at Croma at Oberoi Mall, Goregaon(E). For those who are not familiar with Croma, its a retail chain from TATA Group for Consumer Electronics and Durables. I simply love going to these stores, since they are quite huge and have probably every Consumer Electronics all under one roof, be it Laptops, Desktops, Peripheral, Mobiles, Cameras, Tablets, TVs, etc etc. They are quiet spacious, well laid out and unlike many other stores, the salespeople don’t become your shadow just so that they can”close” a deal.  In-fact I have never bought anything from Croma so far, as I found their prices a bit higher(5-10%) than what I may get outside. But its about the experience of getting a “feel” of the product you have in mind before actually buying it.

This time I had gone to inquire about iPhone4 and iPad2. As expected they had no clue as to when either is coming. Though the fault lies with Apple and to their hyper-secrecy about product launches and their release dates. And since Apple has a only-hate relationship with India, it doesn’t make it better.

The other reason I went was to get a feel of  iPad-1 and Samsung Galaxy Tab(since I really want to get a Tablet and thinking seriously about it) and also to check out the latest Android-powered Smartphones which is flooding, literally flooding the Indian market.

I was in the store for about 45 minutes and had an experience which I couldn’t have imagined a few years or even months back. So lets begin –

  • There were 3 demo-iPads for customers to experience it. The entire time I was there, I couldn’t get to even one. There were people drooling over it and many more crowding awaiting their chance to get a feel of this gadget which didn’t even existed and no one heard of a few months back (Yes iPad-1 was officially launched in India only in Feb 2011, almost after 10 months since it came out in US). I was sure it will take a long time for my chance to come and hence decided to move on.
  • I went to the section of iPad/iPod accessories. As I was checking out, I over-heard few conversations people were having on their mobile phones. And no I was not eaves-dropping, neither had the intention of doing it. Just that people were talking reasonably loudly and with so excitement, it was difficult to not pay attention. Each and every conversation was about people asking their friends/tech-gurus as to which Smartphone they should buy, but more importantly whether they should buy a Blackberry or an Android ones, whether they can sync it with their Outlook, whether it has a Google App so that they can be in touch with their emails, maps, calendars and so on! Wow! I was so proud to see my fellow countrymen being up-to date with latest technology and everyone wants to make their life(work, personal) more efficient, more exciting, more moving with the times. I also heard one guy talking about whether Gingerbread is the latest from Android or is it Froyo! Super-cool!
  • Now before people caught me listening to them, it was time to move on. Now I was just walking casually with no particular section/product in mind to go to, when I noticed many people carry something which very closely resembled diary/notebook. I thought may be they were part of the same corporate crowd, who have just come out for some conference or going to one. But when I see youngsters(in casual attire) and many women also carrying it, I felt not all could be attending conferences. And then one women opened her diary and there it was – Samsung Galaxy Tab! So people were actually carrying their Tablets just like they carry their mobile phones! Very very interesting! Though I have to say I didn’t see a single i-Pad, everyone who had a Tablet had a Samsung Galaxy Tab! Tablet didn’t exist not too long ago and it already gained immense popularity that it has become a part of their being just like a Mobile phone! And keep in mind that Samsung Galaxy Tab is not really cheap at around INR 24k($520). So in-spite of the high entry barrier, many people are actually shelling out so much signifies the change in consumer mindset, buying preferences and that if a product is new, exciting, innovative, even if not for the masses, people would buy it if the product/marketers(think of Steve Jobs, he totally makes you believe that you HAVE to buy Apple products and how it will change your lives or make it far more interesting and fun) can create a need for them! Its a very dynamic time to be in, as far as Sales/Marketing professionals are concerned!
  • Now it was time to head to my last section of Smartphones! Even though I don’t change my phones regularly I love to be updated as to what new phones are coming out, what platform they are on, the features and the price bracket! Before there used to be just one section for mobile-phones and within that section a handful were smartphones. But now there is a separate section just for smartphones and the no. of models on display far exceed the non-smartphones. And not a single person was at the non-smartphones section! While I was checking out the Samsung i9003(which is the successor to the immensely popular i9000, but which has been discontinued as the demand far exceeded the supply and the SAMOLED screen which gave it the best display ever was in deep shortage), 3-4 people came and instead of checking out the models themselves asked the sales-person as to which are the models which are 3G enabled, which are the models that support video-calling, which are the models that are Android based and whether the Android version was Froyo or something else! The last query the sales-person was slightly less informed but apart from that he was well aware of the products, which goes on to say that he gets these types of questions every single day! A lot of credit goes to the manufacturers who have been consistently dropping the prices and now you can get an Android Smartphone for under 10k($220)! People clearly don’t mind shelling out a few bucks more if they can get a fully-loaded phone! This is not to say that high-end phones are not worth, as a lot of factors come into play which dictates the price of a phone! Interestingly there was just one iPhone 3GS on display priced at around 30k($650) and expectantly no body seem to be interested in it! Well if you can get a similar phone for half the price, is unlocked why would anyone go for the overly priced iPhone! But then Apple is not known for its reasonable pricing and some may say that, it is exactly what makes it exclusive.
  • My last experience is a beautiful reflection of the Indian culture. There was a family checking out few smartphones(Father, Mother, Daughter and Son). The boy must be around 10-12 years, the girl 15-18. The father and son were busy checking out the phones. The mother and daughter were engrossed spectators. Now 2 models were short-listed(I assume it was a family day out for the son to get a new phone!). Not surprisingly the son liked the model which cost slightly more than the model his father liked! Now came the climax! The son wants the one he liked. The father clearly wants to save some money, but at the same time doesn’t want to disappoint the son by dictating what to buy! As you can see its a very complicated situation! Enter the mother! Even though she has no idea about phones, she magically says something(as they were not speaking in English or Hindi, I couldn’t catch the magic-words of the mother) to her son, her son thinks for sometime and then happily agrees on the model his father had in mind! A difficult situation has been solved rather effortlessly! The entire family is happy!
To sum it up – 
  • People may spend a lot of time trying out Apple products but when its time to buy, to shed some fat off the wallet, very few people buy Apple!
  • Tablets are selling like hot-cakes! Though Samsung Galaxy Tab is easily outselling iPad!
  • The time is in favor of Smartphones and more on the Android platform! Blackberrys are too boring, too outdated, iPhones are too expensive! Android are fun and cheap!
  • There are still families, where the parents decide the gadgets for their children or at-least have a say. This group may be diminishing, but it still exists!
  • There is a demand of 3G and Video-calling is very high. If the service providers can improve their infrastructure, have a reasonable pricing, people would happily pay!
  • There was a time in India, when if it was priced lower it would sell. But not anymore. Price is not the only criteria where buying is concerned.

 

Surfing the net is the #1 activity people do on their Tablets, but there was no Wi-fi or rather not one available for public use inside Croma. So at-least on the Tablets, Wi-fi should be hooked up for to be able to see how the browsing experience is on a Tablet! And the reason Smartphones are gaining popularity is because of apps, this is the primary reason why still iPhone rules overall and where Android is catching up. So even while buying Smartphones people may want to see the App market and the apps available before zeroing in on a particular phone. Wi-fi is must!

 

One more thing, few people asked the sales-person as to which is the latest model from Samsung and repeatedly the sales-person mentioned Samsung Galaxy Tab! It can be used to make calls, but I don’t think it should be categorized as a smartphone for obvious reasons(Size!). Its primarily  a Tablet!

 

Adios!
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