Exclusive Feature: Predictions For The Mobile Ecosystem In 2013

This is a guest post by Badri Sanjeevi, CEO of Mauj Mobile and Mobango, the independent mobile app store.

At Mobango, we work closely with thousands of developers who engage with us, upload their apps and games for distribution to our global audience. We also attend several app developers conferences globally meeting hundreds of developers to have a constant pulse on the ecosystem.

From all our conversations, we believe that the following trends that are currently ongoing, will continue to see momentum in 2013.

OS Fragmentation – Android will be consumers choice:

Much has been written about fragmentation of the OS.  A recent report indicated that nearly 47% of Android devices out there are still on version 3.2 (Gingerbread) while another 30% is on the more recent ICS and Jelly Bean versions.

There are speculations that with Google releasing its own branded Android devices pitting it against leading distributors of Android like Samsung and Sony Ericsson, these vendors may start looking for alternatives including forking Android or in new OS like the recently announced initiative led by Intel and Samsung for OS Tizen.

Other brands in the market like Windows and Nokia continue to invest and together are already larger than Blackberry with a fast growing (albeit from a low base) time spent on mobile internet from their devices.  Blackberry is not behind with the launch of their v10 OS and new lineup of devices.  Asha series for Nokia continues to be marketed heavily at very attractive price point.   All is likely to add to significant customer confusion in the short term about which device / platform to choose from.  Similarly, developers already have to work on multiple versions of OS’s while developing their apps

At Mobango, we believe that Android will be the huge winner despite the fragmentation for a number of reasons. First, the handset vendors are investing in building great devices at all price points for users in the Android ecosystem.  Secondly, Android apps ecosystem is massive now with a huge preference to free / ad funded apps.  This works well for a large global penetration of the platform. At Mobango we continue to invest significantly in building a great experience for Android users and continue to add thousands of apps to our store on a monthly basis.

2013 will be year of HTML 5:

A recent Google survey said that 57% of users would not choose a brand or product if the mobile experience is not good. This is a huge number and one that brands are getting conscious about.

Most brands build a mobile experience starting with a right mobile optimized site and an app.  The usual challenge is the mobile app strategy – which platform and why – overriding other core business and user experience questions of delivery, user experience, content, use cases, etc.
HTML or HTML 5 provides a great way to side step the choice of platform question. Today most smartphones come with browsers capable of delivering full HTML functionalities and given that most app developers are clearly targeting smart phone users, the mobile journey starts with building a great HTML 5 experience.

It is becoming increasingly common for businesses to build apps for their power users  while keeping a great HTML site for their casual users.   This obviously may not apply for a large number of categories like gaming / messenger where only an app can deliver the experience.

Sure HTML are not without their own challenges – a feature rich HTML site may have sluggish response times as compared with a native app.  Famously, Facebook dropped HTML 5 in 2012 in favour of native app for their mobile site – and the app increased their engagement significantly over HTML variant;  having said that, Facebook also clarified that their mobile site still draws millions of MAUs – not just their app.

At Mobango we believe that HTML enabled mobile apps will be a strong trend that started in 2012 and continue to gain momentum in the coming year.

India mobile internet adoption will cross 100m users in 2013:

Mobile internet usage in India is expected to cross the important threshold of 100m users in India  by the last quarter of  2013.This is  tremendous growth despite the fact that fixed internet access will lag that number significantly.  Mobango is more optimistic than some of the other research that is put out given the pace of adoption of Android.

India will emerge to be the Number 1 market in terms of growth in smartphone devices in the current year with this country becoming the number 1 priority for all app developers globally to develop for.  When we speak to developers from Europe or the US, one constant question is how do we build a user base in India at a reasonable cost.

The cost of user acquisition in India is already falling rapidly for new app developers.  What started off at about US$ 60–70 cents is already down to about US$ 30-40 cents per user for most apps.

The challenge, however, remains that app engagement amongst Indian users is very small with high churn rates.   India app audience is not that different from any global audience – they demand very high quality products.  But app owners need to focus on customizing their products with relevant India content.

Mobango believes that more of the global apps targeting large user base in India will continue to customize their offerings for the Indian users.

Re-emergence of premium content monetization:

Globally Android has one significant challenge – its revenue per device is significantly lower than revenue per device for iOS. This is due to 2 key reasons – customers strong preference for free apps over paid apps and lower engagement levels with most of the apps, together leading to lower monetization on a per download basis.  Developers who invest considerable resources in developing an app are increasingly looking at either premium monetization or monetization through other routes such as in-app purchases, ads, etc. by publishing across multiple channels for distributing their apps   Google Play for android, while it is the single most important distribution platform, it is also a common trend for developers to publish across many other platforms to enhance reach and monetization.

Ability to distribute app on a pay per download basis, or using in-app purchases etc saw increased experiments in 2012 with several apps using not just advertisements but also premium monetization routes.   In India, premium monetization through the app stores, operator powered services, mobile internet companies and third party e-commerce players entering into content distribution show continued investment by various stakeholders in the ecosystem.   In turn, this is seeing operators investin platforms and APIs that enable service providers and app owners target their marketing more intelligently.   This works well for a number of categories of apps such as casual games, entertainment apps, utility apps etc.
Mobango expects 2013 to see significant growth not just in advertisement revenues but also in premium monetization of apps and games.

2013 will be Mobile for local;  local drives highest RoI for mobile campaigns

One area that should see greater investment is how mobile can extend all manner of services in local fulfillment.   We are yet to see a number of compelling services that make this happen.  Popular restaurant guide or classifieds apps are starting to invest in this direction.  One cab company in India has taken the technology route to inform users of exactly how far the cab is through their app.  There are numerous case studies of retail stores increasing footfalls by releasing a simple store locator app or mobile site.  With enough analytics in terms of how many store locator requests led to increased walk-ins or transactions, it is possible to get a sense of the value that the customer interactions on the app.

Local services won’t just be about mobile internet – it will be cross channel engagement with users – whether through calls, texting or internet bearers / platforms on the mobile.   One innovative company in India is using the concept of missed calls where the user does not pay anything, to receive brand updates, alerts, downloadable content etc.  These micro innovations are likely to all add up over time to make mobile the centre of customer engagement for brands at a local level.

A developer has a number of tools and APIs already available to enable localization – be it APIs from telecom operators, mapping companies, Facebook / Foursquare etc – it is possible to add a lot of local contextualization to the app experience without having to build out any of the infrastructure.  The key challenge is as always the analytics side of it and trying to put a value to customer engagement.  Most times we have observed developers look at incremental metrics at evaluating RoI on various user interactions.

Mobango believes that developers will see better monetization and engagement of their apps if they continue to invest in localization of their apps and not just adopt a broad global strategy which is actually very difficult and expensive to implement for most app developers.

Image Courtesy | Top image from gfktechtalk | Indian Man using Internet image and Map with discounts image from Shutterstock 

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