A report from Deloitte has revealed the sad stats of branded apps: less than 1% have received more than 1 million downloads. Astonishing, when you consider one of the first big hits of the app store was a branded app, Carling’s iPint.
The iPint got lucky. It swooped in when the iPhone was new and novelty outweighed actual functionality; now with many great apps in the iTunes store why are the branded apps failing?
Apps provide a priceless opportunity for brands to communicate with users and offer them an extension of their favourite products, and in turn can prodce huge returns. But big brands don’t seem to understand the concept of offering users something extra to enhance the brand, most are low quality and are pure marketing, they provide nothing useful or innovative.
Offering fun or functionality is the key – Barclaycard’s Waterslide Extreme iPhone game ties in with their current television ad and has been a huge success with over 12.5 million downloads. Functional apps such as the Pizza Express app allows users to book tables, download and store vouchers, and even pay for their food.
My iPhone has seen quite a few branded apps, but many end up almost immediately in the digital graveyard. Most recently, Moleskine - of which in paper form I am a huge fan – but which did not translate well to digital; It offered little more than the simple default notes app every iPhone has and took a lifetime to load. It has a miseerable average rating of two and a half stars on iTunes.
Branded apps need to make use of the iPhone’s clever hardware: the touchscreen, camera, GPS and accelerometer. And if they can’t offer that or at least something with some functionality, then in my opinion, they shouldn’t bother offering anything at all.
In my January blog article Children and the iPad: “One media doesn’t have to come at the expense of another” I discussed the increasing trend for digital children’s books and the worries it raised with parents in favour of the traditional storybooks. Although I concluded that I didn’t feel apps were going to steal the market from books, it was merely an observational article based on research and reviews; at the time of writing I was yet to interact with a storybook app. I was sitting on the fence in terms of whether I thought children’s book apps were worth producing or not.
That all changed when I was required to download a selection of children’s storybook apps for a research project for my Digital Publishing module at University. I shook things up with Atomic Antelope’s Alice for a bit, but soon lost interest – as shaking is just about the only interactive thing you can do with this app. Then I downloaded Nosy Crow’s The Three Little Pigs– one I admit I was slightly reluctant to pay £2.39 (iPhone) for seeing as Alice had failed to impress me, (despite the fact that it was probably more suitable for my age range). The Three Little Pigs, I thought, is DEFINITELY an app for 6 year olds.
How wrong I was. Firstly, I selected ‘Read to Me’ mode, and an endearing little child read me the story, also adding in sweet character comments when prompted by me, (by pressing little blue dots on screen). As soon as the story was over I began again, this time choosing ‘Read and Play’, and call me simple minded but I found great joy in swiping the screen to make the adorable little pigs do back flips while wooping and crying out ‘yippeeeeee’, again and again. The illustrations are lovely and the tale is accompanied by a delightful soundtrack, (including sound effects such as pig grunts and a woodpecker). You can tilt, tap and even huff and puff and blow those houses down! I cannot imagine any parent to find reason to dismiss this app – it educates children with the traditional, moral story of The Three Little Pigs, but with added excitement factors. Children will surely find it enthralling, as will parents.
Even at the age of 22 (and childless) I have to admit I anticipate the next Nosy Crow release (Cinderella!) with much excitement.
Click on your iBooks app and you’ll notice something different about the ‘new and noteworthy’ section of the bookstore – 9 out of the first 10 titles are now children’s pictures books. Apple’s latest version of the iBooks store begins a new chapter for digital publishing as it now enables e-books to be produced with stunning full-page illustrations. The Gruffalo Red Nose Day Song Book (Pan Macmillan) tops the Paid Apps Chart this week while Winnie-the-Pooh (Egmont Books Ltd) takes the number one spot in Top Free. Picture book favorites such as Olivia (Simon & Schuster) and The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins) have also already proved popular. Prices vary from free to about £8.49, with most sitting around the £4.99 mark.
Jon Anderson, of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, was quoted in the New York Times article ‘Color E-readers Open Way for Picture Books’ saying, “It gives us a great opportunity to monetize our content in a way that we previously haven’t been able to.”
Children’s books are not the only genre to benefit from this breakthrough – imagine the stunning possibilities for cookery or art books; AA Publishing have released two British Wildlife Photographer of the Year titles (£9.99 each) with the Manager of AA Publishing David Watchus stating: “These stunning photographic books seemed a natural choice for launching into the digital book arena. This format allows for a more graphical, artistic presentation of a digital book, which is ideal for our photographic books”.
For those who see the iPad as a potential educational tool, to see the release of such a great number of illustrated and enhanced children’s e-books as a huge step forward.
The top 300 free apps for iPhone and iPad accumulated over 3 million downloads per day during December 2010 in the US store, while paid apps generated a much lower figure of just 350,000 per day. From this information, revealed by Distimo in their yearly app store trend report, it was concluded that, “The high download volumes of free applications appear to attract developers to switch to monetization methods other than paid.”
And so appears the ‘freemium’ app, now dominating one-third of the top 100 highest grossing iPhone apps. A system whereby “Consumers benefit from free application downloads and are free to decide if in-app purchases that unlock extra content and/or features are worth paying for at a later stage.” as described by the The Independent in it’s article ‘Top mobile apps attracting more than 300 million downloads each day’.
An example of this is the Jamie Oliver Recipes app – which gives you a smart interface for free (luring you in with it’s aesthetic design) with several ‘getting started’ tips and videos from Jamie himself, and a starter pack of 10 recipes. There are then a further 10 recipe packs available for in-app purchase priced at £1.19 each, meaning each app could potentially make £11.90 – more than double that of Nigella Lawson’s app which has a set price of £4.99.
Distimo states that 2010 saw 49% of the revenue on iPhone apps generated by in-app purchases, and others predict that this will rise again in 2011 with a press release by Juniper Research stating: “Mobile Games Revenues to Surpass $11 billion Globally by 2015 as In-Game Purchases Overtake those of Pay-per-Download” Could it be that these miniature mobile payments will grow to become the key to lucrative app development?