Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

Developers look to bypass app stores, go direct: Bango

With the intense coverage that mobile applications continue to attract, the content developers are already starting to investigate alternative distribution channels to the application stores, according to Bango.

In the rush to follow the now-crowded mobile applications market, developers are starting to realize that after all their efforts to build a mobile application, to get noticed and survive they need to look beyond the application store. Distribution is no longer about being in the top 10—almost impossible amongst such fierce competition and undocumented selection methods by store managers—it is now about maximizing distribution and revenues.

“With new mobile platforms coming into the market almost daily, having to build, maintain and support these different platforms has been a major headache for developers,” said Vanessa Daly, marketing communications manager at Bango, Cambridge, England.

“Taking into account the escalating costs caused by fragmentation, when developing and maintaining any mobile application, and the very low sales figures from the app stores being reported by many developers, looking at Web-based applications is an obvious choice,” she said.

This is precisely what a recent survey by Bango uncovered.

Bango surveyed more than 400 developers and content providers in the United States and Europe, and the results revealed that 45 percent of developers plan to monetize their applications directly — in other words outside Apple’s App Store, Google’s Android Market and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry AppWorld.

Forty-eight percent think that although application stores will grow in importance in five years’ time, these channels will coexist alongside the mobile Web.

The iPhone tops the list, followed by Android and BlackBerry, for the most important handset/platform for which to develop an application this year.

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, Palm’s WebOS and Nokia’s Symbian also made the list as important development platforms.

Ms. Daly said that this does not come as a surprise, as fragmentation in mobile platforms increases the challenge of reaching a mobile audience.

Surfs up for mobile Web
With mobile Web browser capabilities continuing to improve, many are starting to see the benefits of browser-based distribution over which they have more control.

However, as a distribution channel, Nokia’s Ovi Store lags behind and hardly gets a mention in the list.

Despite the company’s many attempts to develop a successful application store, the journey for Nokia to achieve this has been very difficult.

For consumers, as with many other application stores, the Ovi checkout process can be a frustrating experience, per Bango.

In order to buy content on Ovi, consumers must pre-register details on multiple pages to complete the task and make the payment.

Another absentee from the list is Vodafone’s 360 application store.

Vodafone aims to attract the attention of its 315 million subscribers, but at press time there are only a few devices supported. The carrier recently announced that it expects 2 million 360-capable handsets by the end of March.

As many developers know so well, fragmentation is a major headache. Vodafone, which supports the iPhone App Store, Android Market, Ovi and now its own application-distribution channel, will need to determine if yet another application store helps move more developers into the mobile marketplace.

What the Bango survey does show is that developers are already looking beyond the various application stores, because they want to reach their customers directly.

This is good news for the long-term prospects of the mobile industry and for the billions of customers who eagerly await the next best mobile application, according to Bango.

“Things have changed and the wise developers have finally woken up to the excellent benefits of distributing their apps directly to consumers,” Ms. Daly said. “As fragmentation in mobile platforms increases, they’re keen to keep things both simple and cost-effective.

“Web browser capabilities are continuing to improve, so it won’t be long before mobile apps will be Web-based by default,” she said.