The next generation of apps

angry birdsEntertainment has always been the sector that has dominated the app world- Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Fifa; they’ve all had us hooked. However, as we have seen throughout the year, the mobile spotlight is really on the emerging markets. There is no wonder why when looking at the explosive growth in these regions. By 2017 Ovum expects China, India, and Indonesia, to have 3 billion mobile connections between them. The handset manufacturers have certainly not turned a blind eye with Nokia, Samsung and Apple, to name a few looking to the emerging markets to connect the next billion customers. When it comes to apps and mobile content though, is a cookie cutter approach going to work? We know for a fact that providing customers with the same set of apps available in the West just isn’t going to cut it.

Our recent poll highlighted this when 3,650 consumers in Nigeria, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia said as well as entertainment and social media, they would prefer mobile content on topics like education (52%), business (47%) and health alerts (41%). Almost 1 in 5 said they would like to access political services via mobile (19%). This is content that doesn’t have high demand in the West but provides a great opportunity for smaller app developers to overtake the mobile giants and create apps that consumers in these regions really want, such as English lessons in Brazil and health alerts in Nigeria- two campaigns which we’re working on at the moment.

One reason for the different attitudes to mobile content in emerging markets is that developing regions have leapfrogged the West in many ways by moving straight from feature phones to the latest Smartphones, missing out device milestones like PCs, basic Smartphones and tablets. This is because mobiles are often the only accessible device and therefore need to be multi-functional rather than trend-led, operating as a PC, tablet and phone all rolled into one.

And we won’t find the next generation of successful apps sitting in app stores in their current set-up. The Apple App store in particular works on a Trojan horse model, where the content is locked within expensive devices and can only be unlocked via credit/debit cards. First of all, the price point of the device often poses a problem, shutting the App store off from millions of consumers. Secondly, the fact that many consumers don’t have credit cards proves another vital obstacle. To combat this problem, we have seen the rise of the partnerships between app developers and mobile operators because it is the operators that can provide the most appealing billing solution – paying for mobile content via their contract or pay-as-you-go plan.

It will be interesting to see the growth in these partnerships this year with the mobile operator becoming the key player in connecting handset manufacturers, content producers and app developers with these new audiences. Let’s also stay tuned for the explosion of new apps that cover a multitude of topics from health to politics adding competition and innovation to the ever-growing apps marketplace.

Alex Isaia, Director of Content at Upstream looks at how apps and mobile content will evolve over the next few years