I’ve been banging on for some time about how APIs are the future for brand apps. The idea is simple. If brands created APIs for their activities, other people would take that information and create far better apps (and at no cost to the business). Strangely, it’s something that government bodies, such as Transport for London seem to understand. Two of the best apps currently, are API-based, combining open data with a great user experience:
It seems like everyone in London is using this app, and no one has a bad word to say about it. Citymapper has so many functions, in a simple UX, they are impossible to list here. Even as a life-long Londoner, Citymapper has suggeseted transport routes that I have never considered (and often faster ones). The app achieves its goal through accessing a number of APIs from TfL as well as Foursquare data and delivered via their own algorithm. It’s a great example of how open data can be used to deliver an excellent user experience.
Although it hasn’t achieved the success of Citymapper, Whisk is another example of a great, frictionless experience. After selecting a recipe, and the number of diners, it lists the price of the ingredients across a range of supermarkets. They use APIs from Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose and Asda. You then select which you want to buy, and the supermarket. The best part is that the app allows you to add these items directly to the shopping basket of your chosen supermarket’s app.
Given these examples, why doesn’t every brand create an API for their data and simply open it up to developers? The results will be a far better experience than they could ever create (not to mention many more users).
I’ve dug up a some more information to enhance my post about Nokia Ovi Store’s 3 million users per day. I guessed that there were around 195m Nokia Smartphone users worldwide. Not a bad guess. Nokia tell us that 165m people are registered with the Ovi Store. Great news. It still puts them way below itunes app downloads though. This handy chart shows the comparison between the two:
Whilst brands have been rushing to get their apps (and the iphone variety in particular) into the appstores, a study has found that most mobile shoppers would prefer to use the mobile web. An Orange study (Orange Exposure 2010) has found that 70% of people would prefer it that way. In many ways these figures are unsurprising. So many brand apps could have been done using the mobile web, at less cost and with a far greater reach. Marks and Spencer‘s understand this. They don’t do apps. Apps don’t reach many of their customers (an interesting side note to this is that men are far more interested in downloading apps than women). Instead they came up with a fully transactional site with 26,000 products. And people buy from it. Would they have achieved the same success with an app? Very unlikely. Although the ebay iphone app has been successful, the company has a very broad demographic, and a very good mobile website.
Mobile retail is currently small – around £125m in the UK – but set to grow. Figures from Verdict and Ovum suggest that mobile retail sales in the UK will more than double in the next two yours with 4% of online sales being made by mobile browsers. Given that only around 2% of the UK buy through their mobile at the moment, the potential there waiting to be realised.
You can get more mobile internet stats here.
With all the hype over app stores (yes, I do believe there is a lot of hype), it’s worth putting a bit of perspective on the size of the marketing compared to other mobile-related activities:
iphone has 35 million users is 0.7% of all phones worldwide and 3.5% of the US market (yes, it has sold 50+ million, but various people are on upgrades so in terms of active users the fiture is lower).
The current value of app sales across ALL handsets was $7 billion in 2009.
The value of MMS (arguably a niche medium) was $28 billion in 2009 (1.4 billion active users).
The global value of SMS? $128 billion (3 billion users).
*figures from Portio
Whilst a lot of media types are running around telling us the future of mobile is in apps, this kind of puts things into perspective really.