Developers: Should You Support Anything Lower Than OS 5?


blackberry OS

It seems RIM doesn’t want developers making apps for anything before OS 5. With OS 5, developers can take advantage of the newer APIs that make for more elegant and engaging applications. As pointed out by Ebscer, RIM likes to point out that 90% of paid applications were downloaded by users running OS 5.0 or higher, and therefore there is really no reason to have your app running on any OS lower than 5.0. There is also a bit of a hidden agenda in telling this to developers, as RIM is trying to shed the notion that there’s fragmentation in the platform.

But should you follow and forget about old OS versions? There are still a few developers who choose to make their apps available for OS 4.5 and 4.6. Take Foursquare for example - the Foursquare app runs on devices as old as the 8700 and 8100. Ebscer on the other hand says he’s moving on and recent applications only run on OS 5.0+.

I recently got out of a meeting where we talked about what browsers to optimize for on our site. Our site gets most of its traffic from browsers with a Safari user agent, which could mean OS 6 devices as well as Mac, iPhone and Android. But there is also a heavy amount of traffic from older devices going as far back as the 8330. This got me thinking that while the vast majority of paid applications come from OS 5 devices, free apps and websites probably need to consider much older operating systems. If selling an app and making revenue is your primary goal, then consider only OS 5 and above. If building a user base and gaining critical mass is your objective, then consider older OS versions.

Do you have an app or a website? What OS versions do you take into consideration?

  • Midnight

    I already got the hint to upgrade and I think its for the best to dump support for anything Below OS 5. Still on OS 4.6 and waiting for BB Bold Touch OS 6.1 in May.

  • Kyle McInnes

    Whoa OS 4.6 to 6.1. You have a lot of patience my friend.

  • papped

    I definitely wouldn’t bother with anything lower than OS5…

  • Jerome Carty

    Dump anything lower than OS 5. If we continue to support it, it only keeps the older devices around a lot longer.

    I understand the potential to reach those on older devices. However, do most of them even know they can download apps?

  • Kyle McInnes

    Funny you say that because Blockade supports the 8100.

  • Jeff Bacon

    The missing piece of data there is what percentage of apps on App World support devices with older OSes? If 90% of paid apps don’t offer support for < OS 5, then obviously the paid download rate for < OS 5 devices can't be more than 10%. If most apps support OS 4.5+ then this is more relevant as a deciding factor in your OS support. Also, what's the rate for free apps as there's lots of revenue that can be generated via ads or in-app purchasing which may or may not be accounted for in the referenced stats.

  • Matthias Marquardt

    Supporting OS 4.3 - 6.0 for most of my Apps - the AppWorld stats are not really representative IMHO - since AppWorld itself did support all the older OS - if if the support came quite late (if at all)… Plenty of my coworkers have Blackberry devices with OS 4.5 or less…

    Concerning the FileScout users I have different stats… IMHO this is just another try to push developers to OS5 & OS6 only Develpment… -> might be that I am just following the “last men standing” strategy here…

  • Eric at Ebscer

    This makes the math is more complicated, but in general I think that the principle still stands. By looking at just a single application over time you can account for this some, and I’ve been seeing use of 4.6.X continue to drop, and use of of 4.7.X go to almost zero.

    Additionally I think there is also an argument in here related to people with money to spend on new devices having money to spend on applications.

  • Kyle McInnes

    There’s a very likely correlation with device and application spending. I seem to recall reading an article about how BlackBerry Storm users buy the most apps relative to other BlackBerry devices (pre-OS 6 days). Can’t find the link though.

  • Matthias Marquardt

    few moments ago I have checked my stats in detail - OMG! - I am a jerk!

  • Eric at Ebscer

    Version 1.0 of AppWorld supported all the way back to OS 4.2 I believe, while version 2.0 limited support to OS 4.5+ A much bigger difference is probably the fact that AppWorld was not preinstalled on most of those devices. For example I have been surprised by the very small number of 8330 users I have seen given the immense popularity that device has at one time.

    Personally given that I only sell through AppWorld, any distinction between AppWorld users and BlackBerry users in general isn’t relevant to me.

  • Jeff Bacon

    There’s a lot of opportunity that developers are missing by exclusively distributing through AppWorld… like accessing some of those older devices for one, but also just generally accessing a larger number of BlackBerry users. BPlay, AT&T, etc. all have users that see featured items there and purchase vs the limited featured slots on App World.

  • Jeff Bacon

    It is true that new device purchasers have a higher propensity to spend which distributes sales more heavily to newer devices and, hence, newer OSes. However there are still opportunities to monetize older devices, it’s a matter of deciding on your costs to support the older devices vs the revenue. If you’re supporting the 8500 series w QVGA resolution, unless you’re specifically needing the newer APIs (not just using them because they’re there) then adding support for the other QVGA devices is not hard (basically trivial).

    However, since App World did not ship on most of the 4.x OSes, there may still be only a small market for those platforms on App World. RIM could enhance the sales of apps to those devices by having platform/OS specific features rather than one (or a couple) master feature list(s) but that’s kinda not in their own best interests as they want people to upgrade their old devices =).

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