I'm very much of the opinion that apps were more effective as a viral marketing strategy than as a truly attractive feature. People talk about apps, people show their friends, but most of the non-geeks I know don't actually use anything but the built in apps, a Twitter or Facebook app and Angry Birds. A lot of people in the comments are generalising from their own experience and that of their peers, which is just a classic geek mistake.
I think Apple have been clever in perpetrating the myth that the App Store gives them an unassailable "ecosystem", but I think what really sold the iPhone was the fact that it's core features were so damned useable. Their rivals have been falling over each other to attract developers, when they should probably have been working on making the core features work better.
Look at the stats on mobile data usage - until the iPhone came along, nobody really bothered to use their smartphone's browser because the experience was so unpleasant. At one point 99% of all mobile data was being used by Mobile Safari. Android is catching up, but iPhone users still spend a disproportionate amount of time using their phone's browser. That has nothing to do with an "ecosystem".
No offense meant, by the way, I just wanted to point out that everybody has different priorities when reading these posts.
I bet games is the big exception here. I bet many of the "non-geeks" referenced by you and others in this thread have downloaded a few games to their iPhone, and would be much less likely to switch to a competitor that didn't have the same games or games that were just as good.
One more counter data point: at a party last Saturday in a room with a bunch of non-geek college kids, fiddling with their iPhones, one of them spontaneously asks "Hey, what's that app that can tell you the name of a song if you hold it up to the microphone?" One of the other college kids quickly confirmed that it was called Shazam.
And yes there are a lot if kids with iPhones out there, either as full phones or without phone service. Where do you think all the previous generation devices are going?
In a family the app-store represents significant lock-in, both in collective $$ spent on apps and media, but also in the device hand me down chain. I bet there is a lot of pressure against one of the parents switching to an N9 all of a sudden.
Brand new smartphone users or company issues are (maybe) a different issue.
I think what you say may have been true in the past but I do think moving forward apps are playing an increasing role, even if it is just three or four for many users.
Apple likes to tout its $2 billion in app sales but consider that's what one really big blockbuster film might make worldwide. Proportionally it's a tiny market.
EDIT: url to report: http://www.slideshare.net/zebs/nielsen-mobile-apps-whitepape...
Even if games were in some way irrelevant the statistic that they're on top is that 61% of smart phone owners reported using a game in the last 30 days.
But that's only marginally ahead of weather apps at 55% (and the Weather Channel 3rd party app was one of the most popular apps overall), maps at 50%, social at 49% (all 3rd party).
The overall picture is of a lot of people using a lot of apps, many of which are the core 10.
If you wish to say that $2 billion is irrelevant then we'll disagree on that (and it might be worth noting that in terms of box office receipts only one movie - Avatar - has ever made that in any case) but to put the scale in terms that relate to the mobile download market as opposed to some random unrelated market, sometime likely late this year app downloads will surpass iTunes music downloads (and to put that in context iTunes is the largest seller of music in the USA and has over 80% of the legal US music download market).
That 14 billion apps equates to over 60 apps for every iOS device sold (http://www.asymco.com/2011/01/16/more-than-60-apps-have-been...). If the suggestion that most people aren't really using third party apps is true then a small but significant number of people must be downloading hundreds and hundreds of apps each. While I'm sure that some people are doing that, I'm not convinced that enough are doing it to allow for a significant installed based doing nothing at all. Personally I consider myself a prolific downloader and I don't have two hundred apps.
One point of clarification which is worth noting - this figure is new app downloads, not updates. If I download Twitter then three updates that counts as one, not four.
For what anecdotal evidence is worth (not much) I don't know a single iPhone or iPod touch user who doesn't download and use third party apps and that includes people inside and outside of IT ranging in age from 10 to 40.
And while I certainly don't consider $2bn irrelevant you have to admit that the hype around app sales is currently far out of proportion to its economic significance.
I'm not sure it is just hype. Digital music is considered significant yet app sales are about to outstrip downloads and there are predictions that if game downloads carry on on their current trajectory then in 10 years time Apple IS mobile gaming.
And apps are an enabler for a lot of other stuff from smart phone sales (for instance that $2bn includes nothing from free apps such as Facebook and Twitter which are key for many people) to data sales to add sales (estimated at another $850m by 2014) to everything else.
Sure, on it's own $2bn can be seen as relatively small beans that's not the full story for revenue that can be directly attributable to apps and there are significant indirect effects beyond that.
Who knows, who knows. http://dvice.com/archives/2011/06/mobile-app-use.php
I can only talk for myself, but I do spend much more time in apps than in browser: even to consume some content available via browser.
My wife annoys the hell out of me showing all the crap she can do with her homescreen.
It's fine that he only uses a few apps on his phone, and that most other people probably do the same.
The problem is that those "few apps" that most other people use aren't the same "few apps" that he uses.
From other "just a few apps on a daily basis" users I've seen, they tend to use the default apps as well. It's not a random cross section of the 200K apps in the App Store.
This is a variation of m0nitaly's point: I would say "except for Instapaper, Reeder, and Twitter..." and Jasber would say "except for Rdio and RunKeeper..."
Even if apps 1-10 are native, I'm hanging onto my iPhone for numbers 11 and 12. The native iOS experience is great, but those two or three non-native apps make it sublime.
On a side note (not related to current enjoyment of phones) I really think it's not too long until the only things that are necessarily apps use lower hardware features (GPS, compass, camera, Shazam, game graphics), with even some of those possibly moving into the browser (disclosing location to sites already exists on desktop, Google just launched voice search on their desktop search).
I also think its a bit disingenuous to put the Twitter app (not an alternate third party Twitter app) in the same category as the others. Right now, a new mobile device would probably have a Twitter app and maybe even a Facebook app as a "native" app. When I got my phone Twitter and Facebook was already installed on it, equally presented alongside all the "native" apps like Googles, Maps, Music, Navigation, etc.
I disagree. I have friends who love Tiny Wings, Angry Birds, Pandora, the DC Next Bus app, SimpleNote, NPR and Fruit Ninja. Most of these are iOS-only, and those that are not have abysmal Android versions.
As for Twitter being native: are we talking about the Twitter for iOS app? Because the iOS app is indispensable relative to other options.
Both Google and Apple have built the type of platforms being referred to when casting doubt on the future of MeeGo. The central feature of those platforms, up until about six months ago, was their capability to run applications. This is shifting quickly to the ability to store data in a way that is transparent to the user.
Google can, right now, give you seamless, transparent access to documents on a phone, tablet, or desktop computer with no thought or action from the user outside of logging in and browsing to the location of the document. There is no syncing. The same is true for email, calendar, and contacts. When iCloud ships this fall, Apple will be in the same position. What would it take for Nokia to bring MeeGo to that point?
This is "the platform" that I can't see Nokia building, and I believe it's going to set the bar for every major player in the space in the coming years.
You certainly have a point, most apps are downloaded then never used. But I think everyone's "few apps" are different with lots of overlap in the apps you mention.
Also, my "few apps" has changed over time. Two years ago, the only one of those apps I was using a lot was iPeng, and some of the apps I used on a near-daily basis back then have been relegated to my "Attic" folder.
I've got over 150 apps installed but the only apps I use daily are the web browser, phone, SMS, email and the terminal (I wouldn't count commandline tools like git, vi, python, wget, ssh "apps").
My point is that even if the N9 has 1% of the number of apps available as iOS then there's still probably loads of apps to cover many people's "few app" choices.
1) Focus on WP7 for the short/medium term. They'll be the premiere phone on the OS and if it takes off, they'll rake in the cash.
2) In the meanwhile MS gives them a boatload of money.
3) Develop Meego in the background and push it later down the line.
The problem, as noted in the leaked stories, is that they didn't have a pipeline of Meego phones that would be ready to go. And while the phone design looks great, the OS looks a bit stale still. So get the OS in good shape, while not hemorraging too much cash.
As for current Maemo/Meego-experience, I think not much can actually be said before the phones appear at stores this fall.
4000 mostly from meego and symbian. So yes they actually are laying off at least some meego devs.
Is 2,000 enough for 80% of people? A few great games, some time wasters, and the basic smartphone functionality? There are always going to be a few developers who take a chance on a new platform, especially if it's developer friendly.
And if the 2,000 come and are well received, the rest will follow.
Now, nobody will use 300,000 apps, but everyone knows 300,000 is better than 100,000, or 2,000.
are they really? having one or two obscure apps might be nice, but there are very, very few people for whom app availability is actually a necessity.
Personally, I'd add a few apps to his "must have" list - Kindle, Netflix, Wunderlist, Rdio, Facebook, iTalk (Dropbox-enabled voice recorder), Dropbox, Instacast (high quality podcast app), Downloads, The Economist, VNC software, Audible, ComicZeal... Also, I expect a robust tablet ecosystem, strong syncing/backup capabilities and good accessories. The N9 isn't looking too attractive to me.
It feels like you are confounding iPhone and iOS in general (you specifically mentioned tablet ecosystem). The N9 is a phone and I cannot fathom why you would care that the OS that your phone runs on has a robust tablet ecosystem. I also feel like you have must have a very unusual lifestyle to consider Kindle and Netflix apps on your phone at all imperative; do you have an unusual commute or something?
So the Android/Facebook integration is useful for me.
I do tend to agree with DHH -- besides the browser, GMail and Maps, I only use 3 apps I got from the Marketplace, plus one that I built myself.
Other than that I don't bother, as my laptop is much better for everything else and when going out I only feel the need to stay connected, otherwise I would rather drink beer or play with my kid, rather than playing stupid games that are no match for the games I used to play in the 90-ties, or watch movies on a shitty screen.
It is useful for commuting to work though, but that doesn't help me as I'm 5 minutes away from my work-place and I also have the freedom to work from home when I feel like doing it.
DHH said it better, but I had the same impression - people are overestimating the importance of an App Store. It's useful to be sure, but the phone can initially sell without it.
My friend only needs 2 apps too.
But, they are different apps!
Multiply (and refactor a little for duplicates) by 15 million
Until 5 months ago, I still used a cheap Nokia as my primary phone, even though I also had an iPhone. The reason for that was the batter life - my Nokia could last for 5 days and ironically, my iPhone was unusable as a phone.
I made the switch eventually to Android, which has the same problems all smartphones have - but it took some change of habits, like not forgetting to recharge it daily.
But my Android is still primarily as a phone, even though I like getting my email and I like browsing the web when there's nothing better to do and I don't have my laptop in front. GMaps is nice to have too.
Other than that, most other apps are completely optional and I just keep them around for inspiration.
Allow me to add a few of my daily use apps: Instapaper, Reeder, iOctocat, TrackerBot, and Evernote.
So reality strongly hints that you cannot have successful computing platform without a rich ecosystem of apps.
If you've read reviews of Android tablets, there was one thing that every reviewer brought up: there are no tablet-specific appsh. Applying Ockham's razor, is it because:
a) reviewers are part of world-wide anti-Android tablet conspiracy that coordinates talking points in their reviews
b) we have a freak statistical event of reviewers being in sync in their out-of-touchiness wrt. what is important for potential tablet buyers
c) people actually do care about having lots of apps to choose from
Do we really have tens of thousands gullible developers who write hundreds of thousands of apps that nobody wants or buys, or maybe, just maybe, developers are following the money and writing apps because people are actually buying and using them?
Productivity software make up a lot of the most useful 3rd party apps, and 37 Signals makes web productivity software that cover the same territory.
It doesn't mean their point isn't still interesting, it's just good to remember context.
But at the same time, if I scroll through synaptics there are many, many packages that I have installed over the years. Most of them I probably used only once or twice, unless they're libraries. But for those couple of times, it was great having the "ecosystem" to get them with a simple click.
So I suppose it's always a mixture: the 10 apps you use 95% of the time should rock. But the remaining 5% should be painless, too.
You could, alternatively, connect the keyboard / mouse via USB. Nokia's N8 has USB host and HDMI out but runs the Symbian platform. Here's a demo of the N8 connected to a TV & a keyboard / mouse: http://dailymobile.se/2010/10/07/nokia-n8-hdmi-bluetooth-key...
The endless variety of the app store is impressive, but there’s so much cruft in there it’s beginning to feel more like an app Walmart. A large fraction are either redundant or slapped together to make a quick buck.
I’d trade the majority of my apps just to have more seamless interaction with those aspects of this device I find most useful; the camera app in particular. It’s perplexing that Apple has just now decided to allow us to use a volume button as a shutter. I’ll forgive that on the basis of the brilliant decision to add a camera shortcut on the lock screen — that is an example of the type of improvements that really make a difference in the everyday utility of these incredible pocket machines.
Whoever masters the art of making it easy for a five-fingered hand to effortlessly soar through those fundamental functions it’s difficult to imagine being without (phone, messaging, browser and camera in particular) is who will ultimately earn my dollar. /raaant
On my iPod Touch besides the built-in apps I pretty regularly use Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Stanza (e-reader), YouVersion Bible, Evernote, PomodoroLE, iTalk, Skype, NYTimes, ESPN ScoreCenter, Opera Mini, VLC, and two of my company's own apps. I regularly play a few games: the Angry Birds line, StarDunk, Trainyard, HarborMaster, LEGO Harry Potter, Dungeon Raid, Words With Friends and Carcassonne. Every couple of weeks I use Yelp, Urban Spoon, Geocaching, and Wolfram Alpha.
My phone is a bit crippled due to slow speed and lack of space or else I'd use a more apps there. I pretty much grab every interesting iOS app that I see and give it a try.
But why would I switch from a phone that has apps for Spotify, real time updates for local buses, Facebook and Twitter to one that doesn't?
I feel like he's missing the point of an ecosystem.
It's fine that he only uses a few apps on his phone, and that most other people probably do the same.
The problem is that those "few apps" that most other people use aren't the same "few apps" that he uses.
All the arguments against this are arguments made by people not willing to step out of their own perspective.
1) The particular apps that are critical vary per person.
2) The number of such critical apps vary per person.
3) The weight given to these apps when valuing the iPhone varies per person.
Most importantly - in a system where iPhone is already as good or better (or if you have religion of openness, a little worse) than nearly every other phone - the apps become a huge advantage.
There is still a huge amount of opportunity to create incredible apps. Social Media apps have been done every which way from Sunday, content apps as well, To-Do lists are certainly overdone, and basic note apps as well (though there are some unique innovations that could be done on note apps IMO). But look at those categories, compared to all the incredible things these devices can do?
There are still big wins to be made in mobile app development, both native and browser-based.
Even though I only use ~10 apps on my iPhone and iPad, I'd be wary of buying into another platform that didn't offer the same breadth of choice.
I don't think that the mobile platform domination will be decided by how many apps the platform has in the app store.
Will it be dominated by the best platform that nails the core use cases best like iPhone as mentioned in above article ? Well maybe, it will.
But then it just might happen that the one with highest distribution channels will win the race.
OS X is a great example of this as well. I switched because it did the basics better than Windows back in the early 2000s. Back when it had virtually no apps and Windows had all of them.
TweetBot, WakeMate, SimpleNote, Spotify, Meebo.
Additionally gaming is a primary category for platform growth, if you do not have a vast amount of good games you are stuffed.
Mine would be and there are many more that I use less but value highly. Barcode scanners, Fandango, White Noise, flight trackers, turn by turn, Word Lens, a whole suite of reference materials that work offline.
A browser can replace some of them, somewhat. Chrome's promise is to replace nearly all of them completely but that's not here yet and is really just moving the goalposts.
Today I may not need all of these apps but I love that I have them.
You nail the basics as listed above, and have a basic app ecosystem and you're fine. Much like how the web neutralized the desktop OS advantage -- we'll see it happen even faster in mobile.
The problem is that today, you have to come up with something that much better than the iPhone. If a Nokia phone and an iPhone are of comparable quality (which I think has yet to happen), but the iPhone also offers you access to a huge variety of apps, then why would you get the Nokia? It needs to be significantly better in some way.
The only way the next really amazing app comes along that EVERYONE wants is for a seething ocean of developers churn through ideas fighting for users.
The problem (at least one of the problems) was that it still cost as much as a real smartphone. Particularly, the monthly plans were still the same, which I think makes potential buyers pause and say something like: "If I'm going to be paying this much money per month, wouldn't it make sense to at least have the ability to use apps, even if I don't need them now".
That's largely what happened with the Kin. Of course the great untold story, is that the Kin is selling really well now -- as a feature phone.
I also take issue with the fact that just because someone uses a few apps 95% of the time, they don't need other apps. Some apps are really valuable only in some circumstances like when you want to know how to go to an obscure place.
Certainly it would make sense to focus on the core user experience first instead of some half-baked attempt to confront to out do Apple's whole platform.
PDAs were great time savers whereas 'smart' phones are great ways to get ads in front of people. :-)
The closest thing I've seen is Bump, which is cool but nowhere near as immediate. Plus it's a 3rd-party install.
The only electronic contact exchange I've ever witnessed in the US was between Googlers using 2D barcodes. I've never seen anyone use IR or Bluetooth.
As per Engadget, Nokia plans to have N9 on sale on Sept 23, right after the iPhone5 launch and several Android, WebOS and Mango phones that will be released between now and then.
Sounds like bringing Knife to a Gunfight? The processor underneath the N9 is already dated and they think releasing end of third quarter was a sound idea? WTF?