I’ve been using the BlackBerry Z10 for a couple weeks now when people ask about what I don’t like about the device, I immediately talk about the “App Gap”. The fact that the platform doesn’t have Instagram, Skype, Netflix, Snapchat and other apps that people have come to love on the other platforms, is the most obvious downside to the device. The App Gap has got me thinking though, is this really a problem? After giving it some consideration, I’ve thought of 5 clear reasons why the App Gap is not as big of a deal as people will have you believe.
1. Apps come and go like any trend – Snapchat was really cool but interest in it is already dying. By the time BlackBerry 10 is in the hands of millions of people worldwide, there’s going to be 10 apps that have duplicated, altered and relaunched the Snapchat app in a variety of ways with varying uptake. It seems ridiculous, in a world where apps can gain 100 million users in a few years, to think that any app will be around for long. Apps are like any trend, they’re popular one day, but it’s only a matter of time until the next big thing hits.
Snapchat Interest on Google Trends
2. Porting is easy – I recently talked to a game publishing company that had made a Flash game for facebook and managed to port the entire game over to BlackBerry 10 in under 3 weeks. That’s an incredible turnaround time for a large publishing company. We also talked to Michael Schade of Fishlabs who said they ported their game Galaxy on Fire 2 from iPad to PlayBook in “one fucking day”. Many developers are ready to port their apps, but they’re waiting to see if the user uptake will justify the porting cost. The important thing to note though, is that the porting cost is low. So while a company might be waiting for 50 million Windows Mobile users to justify porting, it might take only 10 million BlackBerry 10 users to be able to justify a port.
3. There are commitments and talks – For those apps that we have come to love such as Skype and Netflix, it’s good to know that Martyn Mallick’s team at BlackBerry is “in talks” to bring those apps to the platform. Again, just give it time for the user base to build and the platform to mature a little more.
4. Where one developer won’t port, another will cash in – Remember Angry Farm? The guys at Smarter Apps knew that Rovio didn’t have any plans to bring Angry Birds to the legacy BlackBerry platform, so they cashed in and created a clone for those devices. It was probably the most successful game on BlackBerry, revenue wise, and all they did was fill the demand gap. There’s no reason why developers won’t be doing something similar for BlackBerry 10. Most big services out there have APIs just for that very purpose.
5. Games are bigger than apps – The App Gap is exactly that. It’s not a “Game Gap”. BlackBerry has done a great job of bringing top tier games to the platform and they’ve attracted developers from the big publishers and code bases. In the end, apps are but a fraction of mobile usage compared to apps. Instagram isn’t even in the list of the Top 20 Free titles and most of that list is comprised of games. So before you start talking about how crucial it is to have apps, realize that you’re not the norm.
So while it’s important to have all the apps, it’s more about focusing on a platform that makes it easy for developers to come on board and to build a solid base of loyal users. I think early reviews of the device are not taking a step back to look at how the app industry is playing out. Tech reviewers that are quick to say “it doesn’t have Instagram, therefore it sucks”, are placing far too much emphasis on Instagram being a killer app even 1 year from now. I’d like to think that the next billion dollar app will be developed on BlackBerry first. There’s absolutely no reason why not.