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Whenever I head along to events like Mobile Monday London I always take a few days afterwards to digest what I’ve heard and do some follow-up reading (especially after Google had framed the event by announcing just two days before that the future in this space is mobile web). Last Monday’s event on the future of mobile apps was no different.

MoMo’s main speaker/sponsor was Patrick Mork of European company GetJar, the world’s biggest independent mobile app store (and who I also must confess I had never heard of).  Based on their experience and analysis of their customer base, here are the most interesting bits of data I think they have dug up:

  • 75% of their users are under 25 (and therefore not the same age as the majority of people creating apps for them).  The majority of this number are male users who frequently return to the store.
  • The biggest factor impacting on whether or not a user becomes a repeat user is the existence of a UX-driven ‘discoverability’ of new apps.
  • Apps are not about smartphones – 70% of apps downloaded from their store are Java-based.
  • Most apps have a very short lifespan and are seen as “bite-sized pieces of entertainment” unless they are providing long term utility ala Google Maps.
  • The most downloaded apps appear to be utility-based, with email and IM aggregators and sharing apps proving to be the most popular.

But what of Google’s jab about apps being a flash in the pan and that mobile web being the eventual winner?  The following panel discussion eventually threw up the general consensus that at present it makes sense for the client to look at the customer and develop a solution on a platform that best serves their needs, handset and habits.  Joachim Hoffman of Fjord summed it up nicely by stating that Nokia’s new Sports Tracker, with its built in heart monitor, is a service that couldn’t be reliably serviced by mobile web.  Conversely Flirtomatic, the mobile flirting network, wouldn’t have the resources to run on anything OTHER than mobile web – the most popular handset amongst Flirto users (the N95) still only comes in at 5%.  The sheer costs of creating and maintaining apps across enough all users’ handsets would be immense, and would stimy the fast changes and turnaround times that are needed to keep the network fresh and up-to-date.  There was also a  feeling that casual gaming is going to catch up fast in terms of downloads and popularity (this prediction is already starting to be reflected in GetJar’s download stats).

As much as I love mobile web, and I do think its the horse with the best legs in the long term, I have to agree with an article that Malcolm Murphy wrote on Mobile Industry review last week – mobile web isn’t there yet. The loading times are poor, the browsers aren’t powerful enough and even though people claim to be using mobile web more on iPhone, and that its changing mobile web usage habits – the very same iPhone users consume a proportionally high level of apps. I like the Google email and maps apps on my BlackBerry, and I much prefer them to their mobile web counterparts.  With Vodafone to react to Apple and Nokia by becoming the first operator to soon launch their own app store, I don’t think that I’m alone in these feelings.

Sadly nobody at the event mentioned the Star Trek communicator app for iPhone, maybe next month?


UPDATE: Excellent Guardian article on the true economics of iPhone apps.