Monday, June 3, 2013

Five Android Tablet Apps We Won’t Leave Home Without

By Tim Cronin

Android tablets are finally overtaking the iPad in market share this quarter. In fact, analysts at IDC estimate that iPad shipments will fall below 40 percent market share for the first time. The steep dip for Apple also means a sharp rise for Android, with its tablets expected to have a 20 percent lead over their competitor. As more Android tablets are shipped out, new users will be looking to download and use even more tablet apps to make their lives more convenient, more productive and entertaining. With over 800,000 apps available on Android devices, here are five Android tablet apps we just won’t leave home without.

Android tablets tend to be 7 or 10 inches, and that size can sometimes make it awkward to take a lot of pictures without fumbling or dropping the not-so-cheap tablets. CamScanner is an app that takes advantage of tablets’ size by turning the camera into a document scanner with available cloud storage. CamScanner is not only essential to easily digitize important documents on the go, but it has a great monetization strategy. Users can either opt for the free, ad-supported app or spend a little extra for the monthly or annual subscription for the Premium version with more storage and unbeatable features. Not only does this approach allow CamScanner to monetize on both its free and paid users, they have also made sure their paid-for extra features are really worth the extra price for their customer base.

Content consumption is increasingly becoming mobile-first with consumers, and that includes magazines and news. Zinio is an app that replicates the real-life experience of reading a newspaper or magazine. While Zinio will suggest free articles to its readers, it also allows users to purchase digital subscriptions to some of their favorite magazines, with more magazines being added to the newsstand all the time. Monetizing through publishing partners, Zinio manages to bring savings to the consumer while helping magazine publishers branch out into the tablet format.

While more and more Android tablet apps are being published every day, the Android market has yet to provide a way to easily find and filter out apps just for the larger devices. Tablified takes care of that, showing its users apps that have truly been optimized for the tablet experience. Tablified uses an ad-supported model for its free app, but they just recently took their Pro version out of the marketplace. It will be interesting to see if Tablified will relaunch a new Pro version with more features than simply removing ads altogether.

TuneIn Radio
Android users can really take advantage of their built-in radio tuners with the help of TuneIn Radio. The app lets users stream over 70,000 live radio stations from all over the globe and gives them access to millions of podcasts and concerts. While TuneIn offers a free version, its Pro version (available with a one-time fee) is what really has users raving. The Pro version allows listeners to pause and record live radio, adding a layer of functionality that heavy listeners just won’t be able to live without.

Accessing your desktop or laptop via tablet has never been easier with TeamViewer. The computer client works on Mac, PC, or Linux and the secure connection allows users to edit files, remotely run software, or even transfer files between the two connected devices. While free for personal use, TeamViewer is really built for big business, with one-time fees that are built for different business levels. TeamViewer is a great example of an app that caters right to its core customer group, providing features and user allowances that fit different business levels.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mobile Games: Climbing the Uphill Monetization Battle

By Tim Cronin

In March, VentureBeat writer Dan Takahashi moderated a panel on mobile monetization at the Game Developers Conference where he called mobile monetization the “Achilles Heel” of the gaming industry. In his words, “with more than a billion users on mobile, it seems like it should be easy to make a ton of money by collecting pennies. But the struggles of big publishers – many of whom appear to be running in place even as they grow – suggests that this is a very hard nut to crack.” Hard, indeed. As much as consumers are “hooked” on mobile games like Scramble With Friends and Angry Birds, getting millions of downloads, playing sessions, becoming a viral ‘hit’ and winning awards is one thing; monetizing is another. That’s where a lot of gaming publishers and app developers struggle.

But there’s a light at the end of the monetization tunnel. According to the International Data Corporation’s newly published report, “Worldwide Gaming-Optimized Handheld, Smartphone, and Tablet Gaming 2013-2017 Forecast,” the number of paying smartphone and tablet owners will surpass the number of paying GOH (categorized by Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s PlayStation Vita) gamers worldwide in 2013 and rise at a rapid rate through 2017. And total mobile/portable gaming revenue is expected to hit $23 billion in 2017. Those are some pretty staggering figures and line up with the findings of a survey conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates, which found that 59 percent of US tablet owners played mobile games on their devices. The study also indicated that US mobile gaming revenue will come from a combination of paid downloads, in-game purchases of virtual goods and in-game advertising.

Just look at what Rovio, the maker of hugely popular Angry Birds, has done. According to its 2012 financials, Rovio had a record-breaking year with reported revenues of nearly $195 million due in large part to its games and consumer products – that’s up 101 percent from $97 million in 2011. While monetizing mobile games may be tough, it’s an uphill battle that can definitely be won. It just requires some ingenuity in terms of how publishers and app developers think about monetization. So how can other publishers and app developers climb the uphill monetization battle with their mobile games and replicate the monetization success of Rovio?

Keep users interested with fresh content.
To monetize a mobile game, publishers and app developers have to not only create games that are fun, cool and entertaining, but they’ve got to make sure the game “hooks” users through fresh content. It may seem like a no-brainer, but if a game can’t keep users engaged and coming back repeatedly, they’ll surely click or tap right out of the game and into another game. Once they are addicted and can’t help but come back for more (and tell their friends about it, too), users are much more likely to pay a fee for more content and content that’s different and exclusive. Producing content that users want and will be willing to pay for can make all the difference in whether mobile games have the “sticky” value that will get users to fork over their money in-app.

Freemium works. Just do it right.
As important as it is to excited, entertain and evoke that inner competitor in mobile game players, it’s also important to get them to spend money on attractive in-app purchases. For example, allowing a gamer to purchase extra lives or levels keeps them playing and spending in your app. In-app upgrade purchases also allow app developers and publishers to monetize off a single user multiple times. According to app analytics firm App Annie, worldwide revenue for freemium apps (apps that are free to download and then have in-app purchases) on iOS have more than quadrupled over the last 24 months. While the monthly average spent on in-app purchases is low now, mobile game developers who focus their monetization strategies on quality, content-driven in-app purchases can really build off of this expected increased mobile spending.

Zoom in on video ads.
We all love movie trailers. They’re usually action-packed, packed with daredevil stunts and introduce viewers to the main characters and the storyline. Although not as lengthy and detailed as film trailers, mini video ads used to promote apps and games are becoming an increasingly popular way for app developers and publishers to acquire new users and monetize via in-app purchases. Last year, Flurry revealed that one of its AppCircle Clips customers found that consumers acquired through video ads used apps 43 percent more often and played 23 percent longer per session than normal users acquired through traditional banner ads. These numbers point to the value of video ads – they tell a compelling story and increase click-through rates, video plays and overall revenue for app developers and publishers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

HTML5 vs. Native Apps: The Debate Continues

By Tim Cronin

The debate over HTML5 vs. Native apps has been going on for a while, and the term ‘web’ is no longer limited to only desktop and laptop PCs. Mobile hasn’t just made its mark on the web; these “always on, always connected” devices are now on pace to overtake PC shipments. According to the International Data Corporation, PC shipments dropped to 76.3 million units in the first three months of this year – that’s a 13.9 percent decline from the same period in 2012. And then there’s the shift in how consumers worldwide are using tablet devices. These once clunky and expensive devices are now sleek, easy to use and affordable and so much so, that consumers are using tablets to perform the types of activities once reserved for PCs, such as accessing bank accounts/financial information, reading news, watching videos and listening to music. So now that we know the future is in mobile, the question remains: Is it better to connect through the web (HTML5) or native apps downloaded to our devices?
It’s an app world and the browser just lives in it.
If you don’t already know it, it’s an app world and the browser just lives in it. That’s what a recent report from Flurry Analytics says. The study, conducted to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the firm’s launch, found that the U.S. consumer spends an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes per day on smartphones and tablets. 80 percent of that time (2 hours and 7 minutes, to be exact) is spent inside apps and 20 percent (only 31 minutes) is spent on the mobile web. Now add to that the staggering statistics that the average number of apps launched per day by consumers climbed from 7.2 in 2010 to 7.5 in 2011 and finally to 7.9 in 2012, and it’s hard not to see that native apps are leading the debate.
On one hand, Native apps provide greater functionality through the use of features such as the device’s camera, microphone, calendar, and GPS, as well as a simpler, cleaner UI design. In the current market, publishing native apps allows app developers and publishers to cater their offerings towards their audience, thus providing features and functionalities that work across their chosen platforms. Using the app market framework also allows increased app visibility, but it means that publishers and app developers have to give Apple about 30 percent of their revenue.
HTML5 has some maturing to do.
With Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing that using HTML5 was a strategic mistake back in September, many developers are still wondering if the cross-platform functionality of HTML5 will ever make up the differences of functionality that can be achieved in native mobile apps. The key question for any app developer or publisher is really to examine what is best for your monetization strategy and which development choice works well for your customers.
At the moment, HTML5 is still in its programming infancy. Though it allows app developers to write one set of code for multiple mobile platforms, HTML5 itself has a long way to go to catch up to all of the added benefits of a native app. Data tends to be extracted more slowly, making it harder to execute mobile payments. Lag in execution time can also turn away many mobile users, causing a loss in mobile revenue. However, as much as HTML5 apps may lag behind native apps at the moment, these apps are constantly improving and adding features. A recent report from BI Intelligence predicts that HTML5 will eventually win out over native apps, citing the absence of Apple or Google regulations that may accompany HTML5 apps.
Although native apps may have the upper hand (for now), HTML5 apps will definitely begin to entice app developers and publishers who are looking to keep 100 percent of their monetization revenue, like the Financial Times, one of the first to sidestep Apple and develop its own web app. Many of these web apps like the Financial Times are already profitable, even though they exist outside of app marketplaces. HTML5 might eventually win the app battle, but it still has a way to go yet before it is the clear victor.
The key to deciding which programming language and distribution option is best for app developers and publishers really comes down to what you are offering, what audience you are trying to attract, and whether you are willing to give up a portion of your revenue in exchange for increased visibility in the app store and more stringent regulations.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Is Mobile Mapping?

By Tim Cronin
There are many ways for publishers and app developers to monetize their mobile offerings, and one of the main ways is by taking advantage of mobile mapping data. Geographic data can help app developers and publishers reach their intended audience with far more accurate targeting. But what is mobile mapping?
Mobile mapping is the process of collecting geospatial information (or geographic location information) from a moving vehicle, such as a car. The mobile mapping vehicles are equipped with photographic, laser, radar, or other equipment to build up digital maps and geographic data, sometimes creating geo-tagged videos and pictures. GPS devices use mobile mapping to create their street data, road images and even to show you a picture of your destination address. Turn-by-turn direction apps are a great example of a mobile service utilizing mobile mapping data and a user’s GPS-enabled smartphone or tablet device.
Data gathered from mobile mapping offers a key advantage to publishers and app developers who want to monetize their mobile advertising using targeting parameters such as geo-location. Using mobile mapping geographic data, publishers and app developers can choose whether to target users in a specific city or even down to a certain street or zip code. This type of targeting allows app developers and publishers to maximize ad impressions served, and in turn, increase their ROI.
One important thing to remember is that location is not everything. Publishers and app developers need to incorporate targeting into their monetization strategies. One such way is using consumers’ GPS to analyze where they go and then ensure that the types of ad units being served across mobile devices address those behaviors.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Upping the Monetization Ante for Financial Apps

By Tim Cronin

According to Varolli Corporation’s “Can You Bank on Your Banking App?” study, financial institutions just aren’t following through (monetizing) on the high rates of consumer use of financial apps. The study found that 44 percent of consumers used a banking app, 8 percent had downloaded an app but not used it, and the remaining 48 percent had never downloaded a mobile banking app. One of the more telling findings of the report is that consumers want to be able to conduct sophisticated functions such as depositing checks and receiving real-time notifications from banking apps.
But the good news is that some financial institutions are doing mobile well and right. Take Wells Fargo, for example. With more than 9,000 stores and 12,000 ATMS nationwide, Wells Fargo has smartphone apps for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Palm devices as well as a mobile site and a text banking program, followed by its iPad app that was released in December 2012. It has also rolled out its Send & Receive Money feature, which lets Wells Fargo and Bank of America clients receive and send money to each other. The service works by using an email address or mobile phone number. As Brian Pearce, Senior Vice President and Head of the Retail Mobile Channel for Wells Fargo, stated: “The key for us it to not [let mobile] compete with other channels. We know that people have adopted this mobile lifestyle, and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can do to manage their finances while on the go and serve all customers in that manner.”
In addition to apps released by major financial institutions, there are plenty of other financial apps that are both useful for consumers and monetize for app developers. Here are three financial apps that are doing a good job of monetizing (or are well on their way to doing so).
Many financial apps allow users to track their personal expenditures, but the Mint app for iOS and Android goes beyond the basic math of mobile banking and lets users create and monitor their budgets. In today’s economy, consumers are especially concerned about keeping their finances in check. To monetize an app of this kind, it’s important that your monetization strategy takes that into account. What the Mint app does that makes it so cool (and easy to monetize) is that it suggests similar financial services/products, e.g. credit cards, in the form of sponsored ads. What really makes this work for Mint is that these suggestions don’t feel or look like ads to users (and thus, are less likely to irritate/turn them away). In fact, the Mint app will even recommend non-sponsored services if they will save users more money, as opposed to a sponsored product. Not only does this practice provide users with a more relevant and useful user experience, but it adds a layer of trust which will likely get users to click on in-app ads, but also recommend and share the app with other users.

Paying bills can get complicated, and Pageonce works with consumers to make that easier. Available on all mobile platforms, Pageonce provides its users with reminders and the ability to pay their bills through its app. Pageonce charges a small transaction fee when users pay bills via a credit or debit card, but they are currently looking to expand their monetization strategy and are possibly looking at ad platforms. It will be interesting to see how Pageonce incorporates advertisements or another strategy and how that will translate to consistent ROI and revenue for app developers.
Expense Manager
One of the advantages of Expense Manager, an Android app, is that it lets users track their expenses in multiple currencies and take photos of receipts. Expense Manager utilizes relevant ads as its monetization strategy, but in deference to its professional audience, allows users to upgrade to an ad-free Pro version for $4.99. The important thing to note with Expense Manager’s monetization strategy here is that ads only appear on the bottom of the account summary page, so that they are not disturbing or cluttering the app experience. Even more important is that when ads are served in the free app, the ads are targeted and relevant, thereby driving an increase in click-through rates.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Apps That Simplify Travel Planning and Monetize Too

By Tim Cronin 
With users turning to mobile instead of their desktops and laptops, the idea of ‘smart travel’ couldn’t be any more prevalent than it is today. According to the ComScore MediaMetrix 2.0, nearly 40 million people age 18 and older visited a travel destination via mobile browser or app on their smartphone, representing 2 in every 5 smartphone owners accessing from a device running the iOS, Android or Rim operating systems. While TripAdvisor Media led the pack as the top travel destination for smartphone owners with an audience of 6.7 million visitors, Expedia and Southwest Airlines took the next two spots with 6 million visitors and 4.1 million visitors, respectively. Now add to the fact that almost 95 percent of all Android and iOS mobile traffic to travel-related content comes from mobile apps. So I wanted to highlight a few travel apps that don’t just simplify the travel process (from start to finish), but monetize too.
One of the advantages of booking travel via mobile devices is that you can instantly access important details, such as flight confirmations and detailed itineraries. The TripIt app for iPhone and Android takes it one step further and lets users combine all of their flight information into one convenient location. As cool and useful as this app is for consumers, its developers knew that the app couldn’t survive just on adding users alone; they needed to monetize it. Frequent fliers like myself, who often spend two weeks out of each month on flights, in airports, in rental cars, and in hotels, can upgrade to TripIt Pro for an annual fee of $49. What’s great here is the clear delineation of benefits between the free app and the upgraded Pro version. Users who are less inclined to pay the annual fee of $49 won’t have their in-app user experience disturbed by ads or in-app purchases. However, those frequent travelers who care more about the long-term convenience and simplicity won’t blink twice about forking over the annual $49 fee for the Pro version. The TripIt app is a great example of why it’s important for app developers to understand who their target audience is, and tailor their monetization strategies accordingly.

Since its January 2011 launch, last-minute hotel booking app HotelTonight has made some big strides  and as of January 2013, hit a huge milestone with four million downloads in the last two years. As HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank stated: “Mobile technology has revolutionized the way we plan our lives, totally shifting our mindset and approach to travel. We are no longer tied to pre-planned itineraries, but empowered to make spontaneous decisions about where to go and for how long.” I couldn’t agree more. The app, currently available in 10 countries and 80 destinations around the world, is in a very crowded and competitive market facing off against apps like Hot Hotels (UK & Ireland), Blink Booking (Spain) and JustBook (Germany). What better way to stand out amidst the crowd than to monetize? That’s exactly what the app did with the release of its 4.0 version in September, leveraging geo-location targeting to give users more personalized recommendations based on their exact location, booking history and feedback.