No surprises really, but early reports suggest that Instagram on Android is as popular as people expected, with over 1 million downloads of their app in the first 24 hours. The iPhone version has steadily built a strong following, with over 30 million users, and it looks like the Android version will match that. The question that most people are asking was ‘why did it take so long’? According to Instagram, trying to develop for two platforms earlier would have made other innovations harder to implement.
Although a number of brands, such as Starbucks, Topshop, Ford (Feistagram) and Red Bull have used the channel, the potential for co-creation remains under-used. Perhaps the Android version will see brands making more use of Instagram.
Whilst QR codes haven’t exactly been a roaring success, other technologies are appearing that take the basic concept but add more engagement and interactivity. Essentially this is the next iteration of image recognition. Last year, technology company Kooaba showed of their app, which works on the basis of taking a picture, leading to more information. The obvious applications are in brand marketing and the company is focussed to these needs, including an API to integrate into their app. Last month, Royal Mail (yes, the people that occasionally deliver the post in the UK) showed off their Digital Watermarking scheme. Working with technology company Digital Space, they have created an iphone and Android app which provides enhanced information to users who hold their phone over an relevant image. Royal Mail’s interest in this technology is to offer a more exciting, engaging experience from direct mail.
The newest trend on the image recognition front is to combine it with augmented reality (AR). So far, AR on mobile has largely used location to overlay the image with additional information. With Image Recognition AR, you hold your camera over a picture and stuff happens in a virtual environment. Blippar, which was announced this week, showed off this technology in their video (below). They even got their app onto the UK TV news (no name check though) which is good going. They are calling it ‘Image Recognition Advertising’ which Blippar claim that this will make QR codes redundant. This seems to be a strange analogy. QR isn’t exactly universally understood in the way that apps, for example, have become. AR Image recognition actually offers much more than that, by providing a rich and interactive content.
Of course, as with any new technology the bit ‘if’ is that of consumer adoption. Will anyone actually use it? Mobile always works best when it taps into existing behaviours. We want to communicate, we want to play games, we want to shop, we want tools for an easier life. All these needs existed before the mobile phone, and technologies from SMS, to apps or the mobile web simply tap into this. Will the new image recognition apps meet those needs or will it be another technology that brands and marketers love, but most consumers just don’t get?
The rise and rise of Android continues. After becoming the most popular smartphone OS earlier this year, it would seem that there are more free apps available for Android than the iPhone. Although based on US-figures, data from app research company Distimo shows that whilst iTunes has more apps in total (300,000 vs 200,000 Android apps), over half of the Android Market ones are free. The forecast also predicts that there will be more apps in The Market than iTunes before the end of the year.
The other interesting bit of data is the trend in iPad apps, which grew by 12%. Whilst app costs have dropped for other (mobile) platforms, the iPad app prices have risen.
Long gone are the days when brands could stick out a press release and customers would come and download their app. With 200,000 apps in the appstore (not forgetting Android Market, Nokia Ovi Store and BlackBerry World), it is getting harder to be seen. In the UK, Barclaycard have had a major spend in TV to promote their contactless payment systems. As a result their Waterslide and Rollercoaster games have seen 12 and 10 million downloads respectively. As I recently said at a conference, give me their ad budget and I’ll get you 12 million downloads for an app. NatWest Bank have had a great deal of success with their iPhone app, which was initially promoted through TV advertising (a spend way in excess of $200k). They were greatly helped along the way by Apple using their app in their full page newspaper ads. However NatWest also experimented with O2’s direct marketing channel, O2 More. They sent a message to O2’s iPhone users who banked with NatWest inviting them to download the app. 29% of people did so. The bank won’t reveal the cost of this campaign, but I am certain it was much much less than their TV advertising.
In reality, few brands are prepared to spend the $200k to promote their app. One major music company offered a budget of £1500 to create and promote their app. Just last week another company told me their budget was £3800. That clearly isn’t enough, but similarly it’s impossible to come up with hard and fast rules for the spend on promoting an app. If you are a media channel already then promotion is easy. Britain’s Got Talent had the top downloaded app during the series and it was only promoted through the show. Similarly The Guardian’s highly successful iPhone app has only been advertised in the newspaper. On the other hand, has anyone heard of The Cooperative’s app ‘Grown By Us’? It’s a good app and totally on-brand, but there was no money spent on promoting it. We know that getting an app in the top 100 will increase downloads by as much as 5 times.
Ultimately the point is that there is no simple formula on what should be spend on promoting an app. The key is that there MUST be some kind of app promotion strategy. For some, low-budget guerrilla marketing may work, for others a mobile PPC campaign may do the trick and for others it’s an above the line campaign. There are certainly opportunities with mobile PPC and channels like iAd for developers. This article explains how a developer used this method to achieve top rankings in the iPhone appstore.
The decision on which approach to use will depend on the app, the brand and the available budget. And as with any marketing (and the app itself for that matter), there is no substitute for great creative ideas. One thing is for sure, brands cannot simply think ‘build it and they will come.’
The Apple/Google relationship has been become increasingly sour recently. The latest manifestation of this seems to be the censorship of the word ‘Android’ in apps in the iphone appstore. According to a report in Mobile Crunch, one developer had a reference to their entry into the Android awards removed from their appstore review.
Apple has previously censored words on the grounds of profanity, but have been largely ridiculed for removing ‘boobs’, ‘booty’ and ‘piss’ from apps such as dictionaries. The censoring of other brands appears to be a new step for Apple.
In a move that appears to be a shift from Apple’s high moral policy over app content, they have allowed Playboy’s app. The magazine will be available on the iphone at a cost of $1.79 per issue.
Previously Apple has banned content on the grounds of language or content. Whilst Playboy’s nudity is relatively tame these days, it still seems to be a change in the app store policy. Or is it a case that Playboy (logo is as iconic as Apple’s own) are being favoured as a brand?
I’ve reported on how some companies have been able to scam the iphone apps store reveiws before now. It came to light earlier this year that one company had been using interns and various associate to post favourable reviews of their apps.
Another scam was spotted by reader of iphonegraphy blog, concerning app development company, Molinker. Basically, many of their 5 star reviews came from users who had only reviewed their products.
A report was sent to Apple, and yesterday all Molinker apps – over 1000 of them – were pulled from the store.
Apple has taken the high moral ground when it comes to certain areas of specialist entertainment. Yup, we’re talking about porn. The iphone appstore has been very prudish when it comes to adult related content. They even banned a dictionary app which included the words ‘fuck’ and ‘piss’ – it was later accepted as R15 after the f word was removed. Whilst I wouldn’t expect Apple to endorse adult entertainment (and they clearly do not), the exclusivity of the appstore means that it is not possible (without jailbreaking an iphone) to have any adult apps. The interest in porn clearly exists with iphone users. One of the most read articles on this blog was about a midly titilating app called iblush babes. Furthermore, a recent report showed that one in five people have viewed porn on their iphone, presumably via the mobile web.
The companies that are supporting Android, haven’t endorsed porn either – far from it. There is a big difference, however. They don’t control the delivery of apps in the same way as Apple’s iphone. One company called has done the indecent thing, taking advantage of Android’s more open approach to set up an app store for adult entertainment called MiKandi.
When it comes to technology, history would suggest that porn is the killer app. VHS took off (and ultimately won out over Betamax) with it’s adoption by the porn industry. Similarly broadband took off because it provided easy access to adult websites. So, is it possible that easier access to porn through the Android will see Google’s mobile OS win out in the end?
This seems to come under the heading ‘gratuitous apps with no obvious benefit’. Whilst I think that branded iphone apps have undoubted potential to enhance customer engagement and service, the Brittney Spears iphone app seems to serve little purpose.
Whilst the app itself is feature packed: photos, videos, apps, tickets, chat etc, it is the iphone demographic that I have a problem with. It’s only 3% of the US phone market (and probably the same or less in other territories where it is sold), users are over 18, usually over 24 years old. So who in this marketing would be interested in the activities of Ms Spears?
It’s every teenage boys’ dream (and probably everyone else’s nightmare), an app that can ‘remove’ someone’s clothes so you can see them in the nude. And that’s exactly what the NUDE IT, iphone app does. Except that it’s a spoof! (You really thought it existed? Er, no. It isn’t possible … and while we’re at it, there is no Santa Claus). Still, the video of the ‘app’ is fun. (totally safe for work): http://tinyurl.com/yb483m3