With WES 2010 just around the corner, you can bet RIM are going to make some announcements about App World and the number of applications currently in their portfolio. Mainstream media are constantly quoting app numbers, and comparing the major smartphone platforms purely based on these numbers, without any real understanding of the value that the smartphone user is getting from these apps.
Personally, I think smartphone app value comes from its ability to solve a problem. Can I do something faster or more efficiently with the app? Great, then that app provides real value. Am I saving money with this app? Excellent, sign me up. Everything else, be it games, themes or entertainment, is important to a good app economy, but I’d like to make the argument that it’s not where the real value is in smatphones.
Lets take a look at the top paid apps in Android, BlackBerry and iPhone, to get an idea of the tangible value that these smartphones are providing their uers. By taking the top paid apps, we get an idea for where the users are spending their money, and what they’re getting out of it. I’ve only listed the top 10, but I’ve linked to where the rest of the apps can be found, and I’m trying to be as general as possible.
Game – Abduction! World Attack
Utility – Power Manager
Game – Baseball Superstars 2009
Theme – Open Home – Full
Game – Jewellust
Utility – MyBackup Pro
Game – Tangram Pro
Theme – aHome
Theme – dxTop: Home Alternative
Game – Aevum Obscurum
Out of the top 10 paid apps, 20% are utilities, 50% are games and 30% are themes. This ratio of productivity to entertainment apps seems prevalent throughout the Android market and represents a nice mix of applications. You can’t deny that Android have done a great job making their platform easy to develop for and this has resulted in a nice adoption by developers. Android could do a little better when it comes to themes, and their top utilities don’t seem to provide as much value as what we’re seeing in App World.
Utility – BeBuzz – LED Colors and Audible Reminders
Game – Druglord Wars 2
Game – Hangman
Utility – MemoryBooster
Theme – miPhone 3G
Utility – MLB.com at Bat (news reader)
Game – Tetris
Utility – Mobile Checkbook
Utility – Calorie Tracker by LIVESTRONG
Game – Bejeweled
In App World, the top 10 apps are broken down to 50% utilities, 40% games and 10% themes. Going through the top paid apps, BlackBerry offer significantly more value than the other platforms. This mix of applications is generally consistent throughout the top paid apps in App World, and demonstrates that users want real value and developers are providing it. There are a few BlackBerry apps that are classified as utilities, but don’t necessarily provide much value to the user. For example, memory boosting apps are dubious in their ability to provide value to the user, but they’re very popular for BlackBerry. We try and educate the users as best as possible here on BlackBerryCool, but not everyone reads the blogs.
Game – Crash Bandicoot
(Game?) – Koi Pond
Game – Enigmo
Game – Bejeweled 2
Game – iBeer
Game – Moto Chaser
Utility – Pocket Guitar
Game – Flick Fishing
Game – TETRIS
Game – Texas Hold’em
The App Store is unique in that 100% of the above titles are games. In fact, if you look at the whole list of top paid apps, there isn’t a single utility. I find it very relevant that a smartphone that boasts having the most number of applications in their store, doesn’t have a single top paid app that aims to give the user any tangible value. While I respect the iPhone’s ability to create visually rich and entertaining games, it isn’t where the real potential for smartphones lies. It seems iPhone are moving more towards being a portable gaming device, and less towards a computer in your pocket.
There are many reasons why the top paid apps might not include utilities focused on saving time or money. It might not necessarily mean that they don’t exist, but rather the demographic using the device is more inclined to spend their money on entertainment versus productivity. Also, marketing dollars spent on a platform may be geared towards entertainment more than productivity, which could skew the numbers as well. In the end, I’m going to go to the smartphone that has developers making apps that save me time and money. A brief look at the above smartphones tells me BlackBerry leads in this respect, with Android in close second. Apple have yet to convince me that they can create real value for their users, and take advantage of what modern smartphones are capable of providing.
In the end, the numbers are meaningless. It doesn’t matter how many applications are in your portal. What matters most is where the value-added application developers are going.