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I discussed the acceleration of Android’s growth yesterday. There’s a huge opportunity for mobile developers to build distribution on Android. Running through many of the top charts in the Android Market, you should remark how few iOS behemoths claim top honors.

As a result of an initially less attractive user base, complexities developing applications for a diverse set of Android versions and handsets and most importantly due to differences in application distribution, the oligarchs of iOS are absent on the Android market – differences to be exploited.

To date, many iOS developers purchasing tens of thousands of inexpensive CPI app downloads on a single day to drive themselves to the top of the charts where they garner free installs by virtue of their placement in the rankings, diminishing in rank over time. This marketing tactic manipulates the iTunes charts to the developer’s advantage. Alternatively, developers have lobbied the managers of the iTunes store to cajole App of the Week placement. Lastly, developers experiment with social distribution through OpenFeint, ScoreLoop – the same mechanism that delivered Farmville into the feeds of tens of millions on the web.

These marketing channels do exist for Android.  But Android developers have an additional tool: the web. If you’ve used the Amazon App Store, you know how wonderfully simple it is to click download Angry Birds Rovio to my phone and in a few minutes, it’s on your Nexus One! No need to connect the phone to a PC or to fire up the Android Market. In contrast, Apple uses iTunes, a client application on the PC, to install applications. The extra friction in that process reduces app installs and trials, limiting the effectiveness of web-based app distribution. Alternatively, users can visit the App Store on their iPhones, clicking through several screens, each of which decreases conversion rates, before the app download begins.

The web may be the most effective distribution mechanism for Android apps. Web sites can promote their own applications deep linking to apps in the Android market, leveraging existing user bases to build mobile presence. For example, Expensify can point users to their landing page on the Android market both from the home page and through ads. More generally, developers will repurpose existing online marketing tools to drive traffic to landing pages on the Android market.

The mantra for successful app developers on Android developers will be “what got you here won’t get you there.” The web could be the best customer acquisition method for mobile app developers to date.

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12 thoughts on “What got you here on Apple, won’t get you there on Android

  1. If only there were an iOS app named, say, “App Store,” which could be used to find and download apps directly onto an iOS device. And if only there were a way for a web page ABOUT an app to take you directly to that app’s page in the Store app when viewed on the device’s browser, or iTunes if you’re on your desktop machine.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Scott.

    Can you visit a web site and elect to download an iOS app to your phone without either opening the app store on the device or connecting it to your PC?

    My point is this friction (i) reduces app install conversion rates and (ii) decreases the effectiveness of web ads to drive mobile app downloads.

  3. Don’t you have to have Amazon’s App Store installed on your phone for that to work? If not, how does this get around the restriction against installing apps from unknown (i.e. non-Market) sources?

  4. “In contrast, Apple uses iTunes, a client application on the PC, to install applications.”

    Scott’s point is that the client application is also on the device itself, so this statement is only partially correct. And yes, you can tap through from a web page to download, but you’ll see an intermediate store page first. Tapping twice instead of once is certainly less convenient, but to be fair it’s much less of a hassle than having to connect to a PC, which you imply is necessary.

      • You can download apps either way, from a computer or straight to the device. On iOS it has to be done through the app store app, but in practice this means one additional tap after tapping a download link on a web site. It’s one tap vs. two taps, not one tap vs. having to sync with a PC.

      • Yes, got it. We agree. I’m saying that extra click is a big deal. Any extra step in a funnel decreases conversion by a factor of 4 or 5 at least

  5. One click vs two is a interesting discussion, but your post says “Apple uses iTunes, a client application on the PC, to install applications” as if it’s the only option. The next sentence mentions “the extra friction in that process”, “that process” being the process of connecting to a PC, which is not required. You’re comparing the process with the least friction on Android to the one with the most friction on iOS.

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