BlackBerry and Android Hope to Slow iPhone Apps Juggernaut

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BlackBerry and Android Hope to Slow iPhone Apps Juggernaut

When Apple Computer introduced the iPhone in 2008, it introduced a new option on iTunes: the Apple App Store. The Apple App Store is a collection of software programs known as "apps" that can be easily downloaded to a smart mobile phone.

Almost two years later, the moniker "mobile apps" has become synonymous with Apple's iPhone. It's a phenomenon comparable only to the fad of mobile ringtones just a few years earlier.

If you want it, it's probably available on the Apple App Store. The range of apps is bewildering with apps related to cooking, hockey, jokes, and even an app that will help you remember where you parked your car. While some have a cost, over 82% of the apps are free.

The Apps Marketplace

Mobile users will spend $6.2 billion in 2010 in mobile application stores, according to Gartner. This is up 48% over the $4.2 billion that was spent on mobile apps in 2009.

And, it's just the beginning. Mobile apps downloads will exceed 4.5 billion in 2010 and will surpass 21.6 billion in 2013. That makes mobile apps a whopping $29.5 billion industry in 2013.

Apple is the overwhelming apps leader, as the product itself seems to be synonymous with the company. Apple accounted for 99.4% of the 2.5 billion mobile apps downloaded in 2009.

Apple's dominance in the apps marketplace is even more astounding when you consider that it maintains only a 25% market share of the total USA smartphone subscribers.

But, Apple is not the only player in the apps game. Apples App Store success has spawned a plethora of competitors, including RIM, Microsoft, Palm, and Google. To say that the competitors are miles behind Apple, however, is an under-statement.

BlackBerry's Apps Failure

Although BlackBerry is the most widely used smartphone handset in the USA, with 43% of the smartphone market, its app strategy has failed miserably. While there are over 150,000 apps in Apple's App Store, Blackberry App World has barely over 10,000 apps. Google's Android has almost 15,000 apps.

Smart Phone Market Share

RIM Blackberry - 43.0%
Apple iPhone - 25.1%
Microsoft Windows - 15.7%
Google Android - 7.1%
Palm Treo - 5.7%
(Source - comScore MobiLens; January 2010)

Does BlackBerry have a chance of catching the iPhone in terms of mobile apps? It's probably very unlikely given that Blackberry is the choice of smartphone for business users and applications like games are the iPhone's top seller. Moreover, the BlackBerry suffers from the fact that downloading an app is considerably more difficult than with an iPhone.

But, despite the obvious limitations, there have been some success stories with BlackBerry's App World. Business-focused apps such as managing expense accounts or tracking auto mileage are popular. Plus, there's the TooDo task reminder for the workaholic BlackBerry users. It shows that BlackBerry users will download apps if the application is right.

So, why then does BlackBerry trail so significantly, even when it comes to available apps? The answer is that developing a stand-alone app for a BlackBerry is expensive as an app written for an iPhone will not run on a BlackBerry. Hence, marketers with limited budgets in this difficult economy are going where they are most likely to be downloaded and just creating apps for Apple when they should be creating them for the entire marketplace.  Clearly, it is best to develop an app for all smartphones.

The Future of Apps

To date, the most popular apps application has been overwhelmingly games; most notably free games. But, with mobile devices now exceeding desktop computers by a factor of 10, businesses should be looking to apps as a viable channel to a competitive advantage.

Clearly, the future trends toward useful apps rather than trivial apps. By 2012, the leading app category will be money transfers and mobile banking followed by GPS-based services, and mobile search.

And, there is no doubt that BlackBerry and Android users are going to demand more apps for their phones, thus resulting in more available apps and a significantly more varied and stronger marketplace.

Bob Bentz is president of Advanced Telecom Services. It provides mobile marketing and mobile apps development for not only iPhones, but also for Androids and BlackBerrys.