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« Smartphone wars update mid June: iPhone 4 sales stumbles, Nokia profit warning, Microsoft OS confusion | Main | US vs Them? American wireless industry, come meet me at Camera 3 »

June 22, 2010


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Thanks for the information, Very useful


There is no such thing as spare time, as such time is always an opportunity to be doing something else, and hopefully better, with it.

Such time is not a bonus, so treating it as if it is, is delusional, and a sure way to lose track of your actual costs. Time IS money, and if you could be doing something that earns money with it, or just doing useful life enjoyment stuff, then that is better.

Of course, one can spend time for the love of it, but it is still not 'free', as you withdraw the use of that time from everything else.

To me, many would be better buying lottery tickets instead. They would have far less grief and frustration, and a lot more time to spend with their families, instead of answering a interminable list of bug complaints!

Apps have a long tail of unpaid follow-up, like the enquiries and bug reports, plus the time actually spend on fixing them. All time that has to earn its keep out of the profits. Don't discount that time as being spare anyway.

A good way to get perspective is to think about your time as if you could earn what you may get in your 'day' job for every hour. From that point of view, much of what we do has far more time allocated to it than it is really worth.

For example, if considering buying a $100 item, is it worth spending two hours researching to see if it fits your needs? Perhaps get a sense of whether it will do the job, and just buy it. If it works, good, if it doesn't, not much time or money is lost, and you can just get on to the next thing.

People who value money more than time will not have the head for long-term app development. Your time value has to be real and measurable to be successful.


Just want to say thanks Tomi.

It must be hard to be a lone voice against such obvious delusions people have about Apple, and its 'success'. I sometimes wonder whether Apple puts something in the coating of their devices that blocks user's independent thought and reasoning.

The app store IS successful, for Apple, as they make money from the very first app a developer sells, well before the latter has any chance of breaking even.

And many think that their time is 'free' or 'spare'. Fine, they can come over and develop apps for me for nothing then. Too many deprecate their time as insignificant, and so can never accurately make time-prioritisation decisions.

Huge enterprise projects fail and have costs overruns for exactly the same reasons. They fail to account for all the time that they need to spend on the project, especially testing, documentation and support, and don't tightly manage the scope of development, so let it creep, by just adding extra to do here and there.

If the big ones, with all their methodologies and expertise, regularly fail, almost every small, though competent, developer, WILL fail, just because they often really have no idea how to effectively manage their project. It comes down to the breadth of skillset needed to properly self-manage a development project. It is like starting a small business, with all the intricacies those have.

Pretending that a product will just carry itself to market is delusional, no matter how supposedly 'easy' it is to find apps. Having millions of choices blows all 'easiness' out of the water. While many initially try out lots of apps, most fall back to a very very few that actually work for them. And they tend to be the ones put out by the very very big players, not the small developers at all.

Keep up the good work! Keep battling the determined ignorance and delusion.



With digital distribution and cheaper software tools to do what formerly took expensive equipment to do, the cost of entry for books and music has dropped dramatically, but then so has the chance of success rates.

I wouldn't be surprised if the digital success rate now might be around that 1 in a 1000, or even a lot less.

Personally, if success were measured by whether break-even were reached in any of these endeavours, that 1 to 1000 would appear to be delusionally over-optimistic.

While you can now record your own music for a few $1K, and distribute to all major online music stores, including iTunes and Android, and streamers though CD Baby, without the hefty advertising budget of a major distributor, or being very successful at live gigging with a huge following, you will probably never have the opportunity to give up your day job.

Such is the way with these popularity-based enterprises. Advertising is spent on the 'sure bets', and even than, many will not be successful. That is where the 1 in 10 comes from, just among those 'sure bets'. Not the millions of indie films and shorts that fill up YouTube, but that will never see any real money return.


"The "smart" in smart phones are the apps."

The "smart" in phones is their being a general computer that can run any type of software. This software is "cheap". I see now a lot of ads asking to install brand or shop apps. Not free, you actually get money back if you install the app. Eg, H&M and a dairy brand.

That is app economics.

Per "wertigon" Ekström

*Silently wonders why this debate is happening in a 7 year old thread...*

As for native Apps, they were more of a fad than anything else, and this is becoming increasingly apparent as time moves on. Sure, there will be a few areas to make money still, but those are rapidly shrinking. Not even the gaming market is very viable anymore.

Is there money to make still? Of course. But the only way to (reliably) make money in apps is as a contract developer. Everything else is loss-generating at this point.

Web apps, on the other hand, will only increase in importance...

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Patanjali, Wayne & Winter

Hey, welcome Patanjali! Thanks for the nice words, it really means a lot. And I was quite stunned to find this 7 year old blog article suddenly gaining a discussion thread but yeah, that is precisely why I keep everything here on the blog, the good and the bad. And its really rewarding to find someone who found value in an older blog posting, still after gosh, 7 years..

Onto the late understanding now of the apps economy. The hysteria came and went. I was correct, but my view was not formed in 2008 when Apple launched its App Store, as you all know, I wrote about apps in my first book in 2002 (and compared them to the web option). As I've said time and again, apps are good for GAMING but beyond games, the smart way to do MOST uses is .. mobile web. Not the PC web, you have to optimize for mobile (I was also considered a heretic for saying that) but I was proven correct and today all internet gurus accept, a web page designed for PC/laptop screens will not work as well on mobile, as a screen that is somehow adjusted for the mobile experience, whether by actually designing it for mobile or having some software do the adjusting.

That doesn't mean you cannot do apps. Apps are a clever way to get attantion and do weird wonderful magical stuff that you can't do on most 'normal' internet HTML types of uses, and Augmented Reality is a great case example of a whole massive global industry now worth $3 Billion dollars that 'needs' apps and can't be done practically without an app (today, on most phones, in most cases).

As to Wayne your argument that apps make the smartphone - thats not true and you know it. Half of smartphone owners NEVER DOWNLOAD A SINGLE APP. (ok, I exaggerated a wee bit, its 49% according to 2016 Comscore measurement). So WHY would any idiot total fool buy a smartphone that then isn't used for those apps that you love? Half of smartphone buyers are morons perhaps? No, its the REMAKE of the software wars, why Google is the giant and Microsoft lost. Its the SAME REASON. The internet. A smartphone that doesn't do Facebook, that would be a foolish smartphone. A smartphone that can't connect to an app store, that is still viable although would suffer of course. The internet trumped the app in the PC world, and it now trumps the app in the mobile world.

Now the smartphone is a MOBILE (phone) first before being a smartphone second. The most used function on the mobile is.. messaging (SMS). Thats communication, does not need a smartphone (only 1 in 5 mobile messaging users is on ANY messaging OTT service like Whatsapp). The second most used function on the phone is the camera (does not need to be a smartphone obviously to be a cameraphone). And the third most used feature is voice calls. So FAR FAR FAR ahead of ANY 'smart' functionality of a 'smartphone' the device is a 'mobile' and its primary uses govern its main success - messaging, camera and voice calls. For SOME users the apps and smartness of the device is of 'primary' concern - but again, if half of users NEVER download ANY apps, then yeah, your argument Wayne that without apps there is no smartphone, that falls flat. Obviously we have PLENTY of needs we can fulfill on a smartphone that do not require apps - but just like a PC, the apps give us a lot of versatility. The Pokemon Go of next year, that will likely need a smartphone to run, and if you now bought a dumbphone, you'd probably lock yourself out of that opportunity.

But for DEVELOPERS - my main readers of this blog - apps were a nonsense bullshit hysteria wishing for a gold rush that never came. Now its a 1 in 100 chance of earning a profit out of an app. I was the first to tell you so, on this blog, and did the math diligently year after year, until the mass of evidence became overwhelming and the mass hysteria subsided.

I told you in 2008 that apps were not the thing. I said to put your effort into SMS and mobile web. In the interim period, apps have been the SECOND WORST PERFORMING ASPECT of mobile content types (ahead only of location-based services) while Premium SMS alone has done TWICE as good as smartphone apps and mobile web three times as good. Duh.

Lastly on the last point, Winter and Wayne - my focus NOW is to shift the struggling developers' interests from the under-performing apps to where? What I said all along, SMS and mobile web. STILL GROWING, both of them, of course. (Don't confuse person-to-person SMS decline with the huge growth in MEDIA use of premium SMS in various banking, payments, coupons, ads, televoting, e-verify uses etc). So I keep reminding, apps is ok for game developers (1 in 10 chance of success) and others should stay away from apps if they want to reach a mass market or get rich selling an app (or its advertising or other revenue streams). Apps can help brands deliver better customer service yes, and that will rarely be another Uber or Starbucks, in most cases the brands are FAR better off doing a good mobile web and SMS service on mobile - reach a FAR larger audience, get far more satisfied users and it'll be far cheaper for the brands too.

Luckily the apps hysteria phase is mostly subsiding globally by now.

So yeah, thanks Patanjali, really, really, I appreciate the comments!

Tomi Ahonen :-)


"Half of smartphone owners NEVER DOWNLOAD A SINGLE APP. So WHY would any idiot total fool buy a smartphone that then isn't used for those apps that you love? Half of smartphone buyers are morons perhaps? No, its the REMAKE of the software wars, why Google is the giant and Microsoft lost. Its the SAME REASON. The internet. A smartphone that doesn't do Facebook, that would be a foolish smartphone."

Indeed. Let's remember what was one of the biggest "oohs" of the Nokia 9000 Communicator? - Full scale web browser. (i.e. Not just WAP browser.)
What did the silly Americans think iPhone did first? - Full scale web browser.
What dumbphones (a.k.a. feature phones for Elop-the-idiot-terminology) do NOT have? - Full scale web browser.
What was that killed the local apps in PC's? Web Apps. And what do they need? - Full scale web browser.

A smartphone user that does not download a single app? That's my beloved wife you're talking about. Let's try to check what she does in an average day (besides calls and SMS):

Alarm clock - technically that's an app as there exist other alarm clock apps than the preinstalled one but as she uses the preinstalled app, it doesn't count.
Camera - technically an app as there exist other camera apps... oh heck, I'll just say "the same".
Photo gallery - the same
Calendar - the same
Email - the same
Chat groups she is in - web pages optimized for smartphone, basically web apps so they don't count.
Facebook - was preinstalled on the phone so it doesn't count.
WhatsApp - was preinstalled on the phone so it doesn't count.
Google - I'm not sure if it is preinstalled app or web page but neither type counts as an app so all the same.

I'm pretty sure she is a "value adding smartphone user" for metrics that Wayne Brady uses, nevertheless she has never installed a single App to her phone, I doubt she even has set up a Google account. I remember that you talked about smartphones that are not visible in activation counts by Google in some other blog post of yours, I just don't remember which one. This is most likely one of those.

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