Fast-growing mobile traffic is forcing most websites to refresh their mobile versions that are focused on high-end touch-screen iPhone and Android phones and move away from the mobile themes that were built for screens of dying Nokia and Blackberry phones. There are two major approaches:
Responsive Web Design (RWD)
Separate HTML5/JS app (mobile web app, running on m. domain)
Each new year offers new ways to latch onto emerging trends and start a business anew, or revamp your existing strategy. For upstart app creators looking to take advantage of opportunities afforded by more devices in hands than ever, the issue many face is a vision that encompasses every opportunity possible. Vertical markets, oft-shortened as “verticals”, can help hone your focus when considering app creation as a business, saving you time and ultimately increasing your profitability.
On behalf of the entire ShoutEm team, we’d like to wish you a very Happy New Year in 2013!
Your support in 2012 allowed us to make quite a few positive changes, offering the most responsive and robust apps around, and your continued feedback helped us shape our vision for the coming year. Here are a few things you can expect in the coming months:
In-app notification center – Your in-app social activity, including likes, comments on your statuses and more, will be easier to follow.
E-commerce – Build a mobile app for your web shop, expanding your earning potential.
More detailed statistics – We’re making it easier to track user engagement with user statistics, deal usage and location-based statistics and more.
REST API – Our JSON-based API will provide an interface for client developers to interact with content stored on ShoutEm, allowing you to build new applications on top of the ShoutEm infrastructure.
More devices are in hands than ever before, and the new year brings fresh opportunities to create apps for clients or anyone who has a need. If you’re looking for new business opportunities, we highly suggest considering becoming a part of our Agency program in 2013.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not a “Mobile First” strategy is important this coming year, check out this piece by our CEO, Viktor Marohnić. Very simply, think of which device you spend a majority of your time interacting with. In that context it makes more sense than ever to have a mobile presence.
May 2013 bring nothing but success and good health to you and yours. We’ll see you on the other side!
You think we’ve escaped unscathed just because we’ve all woken up? Maybe the apocalypse is taking one last lunch break, because there’s still time for the world to end.
As a reminder, we’re offering 30% off all new, single-app plan purchases until 23:59PM EST tonight. Your app must be published by December 28th to receive this discount, as we’re counting on the fact that we will indeed live to see another day.
Last week, we dove in to our discussion of the App Store approval process by talking about all the little details you might overlook when submitting your app. But we didn’t really delve into the timeline and what the process looks like once your app is officially submitted.
How long does the approval process take?
Although the total time required for the review and approval of applications has varied in recent years, it now takes approximately 8 days (including Saturdays and Sundays). Out of those 8 days, the application will wait for the review for around 7 of them, and once it enters the actual review, it will be approved or rejected within 24 hours in most cases. The twist is if the app gets stuck in the review process for more than 24 hours—that’s usually a clear indicator that something is probably not in accordance with the rules. The reviewer is likely seeking for help from senior staff in order to decide whether the application should be approved or not.
If the application gets rejected, and the reason for the rejection is a simple misunderstanding (e.g., you mention that you support Augmented Reality in the app description, but the reviewer can’t find the feature), the process will continue after you send an email with an additional explanation to Apple. Such a conflict is usually resolved within the next 24 hours, but depending on the complexity of the decision, or how many instances there are, it may even take several days or weeks.
The thing that will definitely set you back in time is if you send a new version of the existing application to the App Store while the old one is still waiting for its review. Then you will definitely be thrown to the back of the queue and you will need to wait an additional 8 days.
The team at Apple is somewhat sympathetic to urgent situations when you can’t wait for the standard approval time of 8 days. If you discover a critical bug, or if you are late with the development of an app for an event, you can send a request for a so-called Expedited Review.
You will be notified by an email whether your request qualifies for the fast procedure or not. If it does, your application will usually be reviewed within 24 hours (sometimes it can take up to three days). Expedited reviews are granted on limited basis and is not advisable to rely on the fact that each request for such review will be accepted.
No matter how hard you try, there are situations in which you do everything right, but the application may still be rejected. For example, our application for the famous rapper, 50 Cent, was rejected on the grounds that it did not provide enough value to be released in the App Store. (By the way, this application currently has over 100,000 users and an average rating of 5 stars in the opinion of 300 of them.) Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, so in a similar situation, you will have to file a complaint.
Filing a complaint will result in a change of your reviewer. More precisely, you will get a board of reviewers. This committee will consider your comments and review the application much more carefully than during the “normal” process. Being rejected by the App Review Board, means that there is no higher authority that you can continue to appeal to. Some developers, whose appeal was rejected, tried to fight with Apple in the media, but we don’t know any case that ended up with a positive outcome for the developer. Once the decision is made by the board, it’s done.
Although the App Store Review Guidelines helped the consistency of the review process, the fact remains that it’s still dependent on subjective assessment of Apple ‘s reviewers. The good news is that, in our experience, the situations in which applications are being unfairly rejected are extremely rare. And when things get complicated, it’s worth remembering that the folks in Cupertino are people like us. They might make mistakes sometimes, but they want what our customers and what we want: top-quality software and a mobile application that is a pleasure to use.
My excitement about Android is like a roller coaster ride. We were one of the companies that applied for Android challenge in 2008 and were very excited about Mobile First designed brand new OS, but after it took more than a year to actually get first Android device on the market and those first devices looked and worked/looked pretty bad compared to iPhone I cooled down on Android completely. These days I have some new thoughts. Even though Android OS still have some big challenges like hardware and screen size fragmentation there are few things that look promising.
I think it could happen that iPhone might quickly start loosing its advantage over Android. To be clear at the moment I see iPhone as a market leader and not buying any of those numbers about iPhone market share vs Android market share as an argument. iPhone is currently wining all important aspects like user engagement, AppStore revenue, quality of apps, amount of money that developers are making etc, etc…
Here are few reasons why this might change:
1. Hardware advantage is disappearing
For years Apple was ahead everyone else when it comes to hardware, most of the Android devices looked cheap and unpolished, definitely not something that you wanted to use with joy or to impress your friends.
But for example new Samsung Galaxy S3 is a different story. It looks very modern and fresh and is a very well done piece of hardware. Nokia Lumia (Win 8, though) is also solid looking device. Those two devices show that it is not just Apple any more that can produce high end hardware. As I discussed in one of my previous blog posts Apple hardware inovations are not that exciting for end users as they used to be few years ago and other hardware manufacturers are quickly catching up.
Think different, yes, but with Android
There is also an angle where iPhone at some point was a cool new device that made you look different. It was statement. I’m not sure if that is the argument these days. Do you really want to have exactly the same device as everyone else? Where is excitement in that or why would same old, same old iPhone be a topic of discussion while you are sitting at the bar with friends. ‘Social’ advantage of iPhone is gone. Everyone saw it, everyone has it and it is not that cool anymore.
2. Simplicity of iPhone UI is not an advantage any more
When first iPhone got out it was amazing how simple an easy to use it was. Four year old kids were able to use it. Remember all those phones before iPhone and how you had to read the manual to actually start using it. It was terrible. And than came iPhone, with its simple, limited and therefore very easy to use UI. Not sure if that is the advantage any more. Why?
Everyone is a tech geek today
Recently I sat down with my friend who is a medical doctor and always had the cheapest feature phone on him to used it for calls only. He didn’t even use email and still don’t have a Facebook account, he is very different from most people I hang out with. But just few weeks ago he bought new Android phone. All of the sudden he started asking me questions about mobile operating systems, Android vs iOS, Windows, data packages etc. I was shocked him asking me all that stuff and where all of the sudden he came up with all those informations. Also I’ve seen some of my family members that just a year ago opened Facebook accounts, people that were never interested in technology, commenting the acquisition of Instagram and opening up Instagram accounts to check it out. News about the acquisition reached them before they even heard about Instagram from friends. That tells me that technology have gone completely mainstream and absolutely everyone is into it deep.
With above in mind I believe average user is no more satisfied with limited and simple device and UI. They are ready to take on new, bit more complex UX, more features and flexibility. Android had that angle from start and appealed more to geeks, than ‘normal’ people. So if today everyone is becoming a geek, that might make Android more appealing to the masses than iPhone. Maybe users are ready for home screen widgets, few more hardware buttons, maybe they want to customize their home screen layouts and such.
3. Android is becoming more appealing to developers
High end and more expensive android devices mean users with higher buying power and that means more money for Android developers. Lot of developers got burned in early days of Android and move on to iPhone because they weren’t able to monetize their apps easier. With Google Wallet and Carrier payments that is changing for better. If first two assumptions above are correct than Android is gaining advantage here as well.
iTunes AppStore process is a frustration for most of the developers and it looks like Apple has no plans to back up. Enough said.
Google is committed to HTML5/js technology and time of HTML5 apps is definitely coming. Even if you decide to go native Java language you have much more developers out there that can start coding Java Android apps than ObjectiveC developers.
I even heard from one developer that for them is so much easier to develop and push Android apps live to the Google Play and iterate than doing the same for iPhone, that they decided to do Android first in order to test the UX/UI and fine tune the app, before they publish anything to the AppStore.
What do you think? Android has much bigger market share in numbers but it many peoples eyes (including mine) iPhone is still a leader. How soon we will see Android starting to really threaten and tap into iPhone customer base?
It’s easy to view apps as a simple commodity in which one app download equals one unit of success. Most app creators approach the process with stars in their eyes, that their app will be the next million download hit. Sorry to say, but there’s a 99% chance that’s not going to happen. It’s important to let this mindset go when building your app or creating strategy, as it allows you to focus on what really matters, user engagement.
App download numbers fall off
The first two weeks your app is in the store is a critical time for acquiring users. This is when most app creators will realistically get a majority of their downloads. If you play your marketing strategy right, you can carry this upswing another month or even two. According to a 2010 Localytics study, one out of every four apps downloaded is never opened. While these numbers may be a bit dated, it’s safe to assume this percentage hasn’t deviated wildly. HTML5 app adoption can be even more difficult if not properly marketed, as you don’t have the power of the traditional channels for users to find your experience.
Simply put, if you attribute success to download counts you’ll end up disappointed in the long run. This is where many app creators decide their app is a failure.
Don’t give up, abandon your investment and call it a day unless you’ve utilized every avenue to engage the user base you’ve built up until this point. There is a point where sustaining and engaging the users who’ve been kind enough to try your app out becomes the key to your app’s success. There is hope, and it’s now time to shift your focus.
Leading by example
Being a part of your own experience is a key strategy to building a bond with your users. If you have social features, be a part of user discussions or start your own and invite others to contribute. Showing faith in your own product by using it actively reflects positively on the experience you’re providing. Use the power of your app’s niche to discover what is truly relevant to your user and find ways to expand on that value. Have you created an app just to have an app, or to solve a problem/provide a solution? If it’s the former, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Your user isn’t just one download, they’re a real person who happens to need, or at bare minimum have a curiosity for what you’re providing them.
If you’re not 100% sure that your users know how to utilize your app or why it’s advantageous to use it, it’s up to you as the creator to offer resources explaining these points. Users truly appreciate guiding materials such as a video walk-through of your app, self-hosted support/FAQ or a prominent email address for questions. This shouldn’t take you more than a day, considering you know your app inside and out. You may learn a thing or two about your app’s user behavior this way, and be able to adjust to needs accordingly.
The most successful apps consistently offer added value to the daily lives of their users. Apps with large built-in networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have inherent return they base on your personal social ties. An app with a smaller user-base needs to find ways to keep users not just in the app, but connecting with its purpose and utilizing the incentive you’ll provide.
There are a multitude of apps that don’t utilize push notification functions for any number of reasons. Given the proven engagement boost this offers app owners, this is a huge mistake. If you are at all reserved that your push notification campaign would be viewed as spam or a nuisance to the user, you don’t have a true campaign in place. We’ve touched on this topic in our previous piece on push.
Although this doesn’t apply to all app-types, Deals and loyalty programs are another proven way to provide a lasting incentive for users. Taking a local tourism, or chamber of commerce-type app as an example, there are endless opportunities to connect local businesses with app owners to benefit the community and keep that business local. If you’re providing your community enough incentive, with minimal effort to discover that incentive, they’re more apt to appreciate the value you’re offering to their daily lives.
Changing your outlook
This type of thinking: the user as a person rather than a single digit, the user as a part of your community (whether it be geographically or tied through common interest), the user as your partner in this venture, makes all the difference going forward.
Sure, you can give up on numbers, but don’t give up on the people who are helping you make your mark.
Since the birth of the App Store four years ago, Apple’s App Review process has never stopped stirring discussions in developer forums. There are multiple reasons for that: a certain mystery around the approval policies, ambiguity and frequent changes, impact of the reviewer’s subjective opinion on the outcome of the approval, and Apple’s biased rejection of all applications that could be competitive with their own.
The situation now is much better than in the early years of the App Store, when in the absence of an official review guidelines document, developers relied on sparse and often contradictory pieces of advice found on quasi-professional websites. Although information can be found much more easily these days, we are still seeing a decent number of rejected applications, often because of trivial reasons that could have easily been identified in advance.
Given the hundreds of published applications, there’s probably no team with more experience in the App Store approval process than we are at ShoutEm. We’ve seen everything: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It encouraged us to write this blog series about rarely mentioned, but no less important reasons why apps may be rejected and how you can make your apps successful.
Applications must not have bugs (at least the prominent ones), must not crash, or leak memory. The user interface should be developed according to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) and network unavailability should be detected and appropriately displayed to the user. Using an undocumented API method is strictly prohibited.
The Less Obvious
1. Application name
The name of the application must not be identical or similar to the name of another application that is already in the Store. Also, use of the word “trial” or “beta” in the title is not allowed.
The name of an iPad app must not be the format “iPad [app name]” or “[app name] iPad”. You are allowed to name the application “[app name] for iPad” (note the “for”), or “[app name] HD” or “[app name] XL”. This implies that “[app name]” is also yours, otherwise your submission will be rejected for violating the first rule above.
Contrary to popular belief, if you ever decide to change your mind about your app name, you will be able to change it later, even if the application is already in the Store.
2. Application Icon
If you create an application icon that is too different from its iTunes artwork, Apple will reject it. Of course, no one expects that your icon and artwork must be identical, but they must be similar to one another, use the same branding and a similar color scheme.
Just note that if you plan to offer a free and paid version of the application (e.g. “lite” and “pro”), icons for these two apps must not be same.
3. Application Description
The description must report the app’s purpose, as well as its functionality, from the perspective of your customer. Make sure that the description is accurate because the reviewers will check that it really relates to your app’s features!
Example: if you write that your application contains a video review of the latest action movie, and a reviewer finds an empty list of videos (because you didn’t have time upload one yet) the application will certainly be rejected.
Description of features or bug fixes for future versions of the app will also be reviewed. In order to reduce the risk of rejection on new app versions, some developers utilize minimal descriptions such as “Minor bug fixes.” Although this description is perfectly legal as far as Apple is concerned, it won’t provide sufficient incentive for many customers to download the new version. It is always better to make your descriptions more attractive and comprehensive.
4. App functionality
5. In-App Purchases
Apple takes a 30% cut of any content, functionality, or service sold through your application and does not allow the sale of books, music, articles, additional game levels, or other virtual goods by any other method except the iTunes Store. An application with links such as a “buy” button that leads to a website selling a digital book will be rejected for sure, so it’s best to stay clear of such experiments.
Understandably, giving away 30% of your earnings may be unacceptable in many business situations. If you don’t want to use in-app purchase for your business, you’re not alone. If you decide not to use iTunes to sell your stuff, the best thing you can do, and still stay within the limits acceptable for Apple, is to set up a message in the application similar to this one: “If you want to buy a subscription, go to our web site.” (Without the link to the site, and without mentioning the web address!)
Like we said at the beginning, there are many different parts to think about, both big and small. And taking care of these sticky points before submission is only half the battle. In Part 2 of our series next week, we’ll fill you in on all the things that can happen after you submit your app for review.
Vibhu got all the points right about why mobile is hard and all the barriers that startup will face if they decide to embrace a Mobile First approach:
Closing viral loops is hard.
Onboarding is harder than on web.
Building your business on mobile is hard.
But he has the game plan all wrong.
It is a mistake to run from these problems, rather than attacking them.
Yes it is hard, but Vibhu forgets that you need to skate to where the puck is going to be. At the end, all this just sounds like another story that fits well in the RWW piece above: another startup that raised millions and all it does now is pivot like crazy. Fred Wilson had some good objections on why this thinking is flawed, and here’s my take on what they are missing:
If you go web first these days, there is a good chance that a startup which nails it on mobile will put you out of business in next year or two.
Smartphone penetration is less than 50% in US and below 30% in most of the world. The Web 2.0 revolution only started when Internet penetration went over 60%.
Most of the publishers we are working with are reporting that their mobile traffic is closing in on 50% much faster than they thought it will.
Mobile is the place where you can disrupt existing players because they will have hard time fitting their bloated web based software on the small screen
Moving away from mobile to web is like developing a Windows based software in time when Web 2.0 was taking off and justifying it with the fact that more people have Windows compared to Broadband internet.
We like mobile, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
We believe solving technical challenges is the way to go. As much as I admire Twitter or Facebook or similar companies, I was never a fan of trying to replicate that model because the risk of failure is much higher. For every success story we have thousands of failures and millions of dollars spent. The challenges are more social than technological. I’m a much bigger fan of companies like Intuit and Salesforce or Squarespace and WordPress, who all developed great technology over many years and keep launching one great product after another, slowly but steadily building great companies.
All those platforms, fragmentation, and the fact that all this is new to most of the people in the IT industry, makes it very hard for them. That is why we are attacking this problem. We believe that taking hard and complex problems and trying to make them disappear for end users is where you can build a long-lasting business and not to be threaten by some new hit service that’s getting all the attention in Silicon Valley and Alley.
By persisting with Mobile First you will see a huge payoff.
Imagine this: Instead of changing strategy on a dime, you’ve raised enough money, stayed on plan, and perfected your product. Then a year or two from now, when mobile dominates Internet traffic, your service will be fine-tuned and primed to go through the roof. And the icing on the cake is that you will be a great target for acquisition from tons of companies that couldn’t or didn’t want to focus on mobile when it was time.
Ten years ago mobile startups were failing because they were too forward thinking. Today that is not the case. It is time to persist.
For decades, James Bond has been a standard by which cool is measured. Other than his irresistible charm, calm under pressure and signature drink order, the Bond character is most singly defined by the technology that makes his assaults and escapes so memorable. While Bond perpetually saves the day and gets the girl, it’s easy to forget who made most of Bond’s exploits possible, Q. Not to be forgotten, Bond villains are no slouches when it comes to countering 007′s efforts with their own tech.
That being said, some of what MI6 and Bond villains developed and crafted can now be found on Bond’s smartphone. Here are 5 examples of Bond-related gadgets or technologies that can now be accessed on a single device.
Homing/Tracking devices – Just about every Bond film
Keeping tabs on your enemies and their strange, random island-dwelling behavior is what the spy game is all about. In the case of MI6, making sure 007 is safe and secure is a priority as well. This wouldn’t be possible without the help of homing or tracking devices, which Bond and his team use regularly to crash umbrella-drinked island parties unannounced… without bringing a bottle to contribute. Rude.
Although this one is a bit less discrete, as users must opt-in to have their location disclosed, tracking technology is definitely available on iOS and Android devices.
For Android users, there’s the aptly named GPS Tracking Pro, which offers a well reviewed experience for parents looking to track their kids… or, you know, the whole philandering spouses thing.
Remote Control Evil Lair Opener – Thunderball
A character originally written to have “hairy hands which are likened to crawling tarantulas,” it’s no wonder villain Emilio Largo wanted a quiet, discreet spot in which to presumably cry. As “#2″ of the SPECTRE terrorist organization, which totally only wanted nuclear capabilities to power their coffee maker, Largo’s organization devised a clever way to chill out behind the place they keep their chips and cereal.
Through some hackery, this function is now available to smartphone users. Using Arduino, Siri and a whole lot of awesome, Laan Labs constructed the following solution:
Not sure if Jason is wearing an eye-patch for absolutely no reason, or has a nuclear arsenal, but you’re looking at the future of home security/controlled-laziness.
Radio Controlled Helicopter – For Your Eyes Only
Is that guy using a boom-box to fly that helicopter? The “presumed” Ernst Blofeld, the presumed part being for legal reasons, toys with Bond by flying a helicopter like an RC car.
By the way, an army of cats flying helicopters remotely using mind-control over humans has been foretold as part of the 2043 Internet wars, in which cats fight for their freedom to not have bread put on them or filmed without permission.
For RC hobbyists with smartphones, this is a seriously cool reality. Using Parrot’s AR Drone helicopter and their Free Flight app for iOS, pilots can fly by thumb, take pictures and receive real-time feedback from the vehicle:
Fingerprint Scanner – Diamonds Are Forever
Warning, the above video is NSFW-ish because, well… Bond girl. Everybody does their best work in their négligée though, right? In this scene, Tiffany Case takes a snap of Bond’s drink, which surprisingly isn’t a shaken Martini, and uses his fingerprint to find his real identity. Of course, Bond is one step ahead of her by using another man’s fingerprints.
The FingerScanner app for Android will “read your print” to allow you to unlock your phone in certain conditions. This one is kind of a stretch, but hey look over there…
Virtual Combat Training Simulator – Die Another Day
The next best thing to cleverly destroying baddies for a living is being able to do so without the Aston Martin, expensive suit or getting up from your chair, really. Q’s virtual combat simulator technology in DAD, although much more high tech than anything to date (I believe this is called movie magic), is merely a very expensive video game with rad sunglasses. Heck, you could argue that Goldeneye for N64 could give you all the Bond training you’d need for the super-low price of a pawn shop visit.
We wouldn’t be surprised if the next James Bond iteration includes some app-specific technology, such as a “swipe to disarm warhead” function or sending push notifications to his nemesis to send him on the run, extending the action/movie another couple of hours. Just make sure you bring a flask for Martinis, and set it to vibrate, not stirred.