News and analysis of Apples disappointing performance has recently made its rounds in all the usual venues, and although a lot of different explanations for this have been offered, I think another possibility is that Apple’s poor showing in Western markets is actually part of their exit strategy. Apple’s weak marketing campaign, together with disastrous map launch (why go through the work of mapping markets you’re trying to ease out of) and recent friendly overtures to their #1 domestic app competitor, Google, signal that Apple is ready to jump ship. They’ve in fact been ready, as indicated by many hints, including shifting a lot of their income overseas to avoid US taxes.
Although they recently opened several manufacturing facilities in China, the truth is they’d rather sell iPhones in China than manufacture them there. Whether Apple can develop the technological edge and business savvy to compete in China remains to be seen, and will be one of the years most interesting questions.
America’s darling, the iPhone 5, has had trouble even cracking the world’s #1 smartphone market, and they’ll certainly need to shift considerable resources to do it. In the meantime, and for whatever reason, Apple’s diminished presence in the American smartphone and tablet market can only mean that what happens in the Android market this next year matters tremendously. I hope some winners step up to the plate soon—Android has a big opening right now and it means a great deal for America staying viable in the global market, as well as the sophistication and functionality of our Internet.
America and Europe, for better or worse, are joining economic forces. And since India has cast its lot with ours—because of its intricate entanglement with our economy via a web of outsourced IT and communications industry services—the future of the Android market rests largely upon the innovations and efforts of these players. Although much is at stake, this is also a huge opportunity.
Luckily, though Apple’s sleek design may have won the day, there is plenty of room for improving functionality and some of the newest tablets and smartphones have some great features to offer, including the adaption of near field communication and contextual eye scans. The Galaxy S3 is now the world’s best-selling smartphone, according to Strategy Analytics. The Galaxy ads won the Innovation and Leadership in Advertising Awards this year and the phone itself won the Gadget Awards for the second year in a row. But building indispensable apps for that hardware depends on developers and programmers.
Twitter was built in two weeks. The employees of Instagram – 11 people, most in their 20’s, sharing $100 million — were just ordinary kids, who shared a good (but by no means great) idea. The point? It is within reach and it isn’t rocket science.
Here are some ways that Android app builders can make great apps that can rule the new world:
- Put creative tools directly into the user’s hands. One of the reasons for Instagram’s popularity is that it puts tools for generating original images where they should be, in the hands of users. The ability to edit, share, and store images will become even more important. Opening up a stream of creative activity will also revitalize the entertainment and media industries by bringing fresh images and ideas into the public mind. Giving users control and choice will be a winning business model for 2013, and they will show their gratitude.
- Build a community. People went online in search of community, but instead of seeing the people and ideas they were interested in, they were lambasted with messages and annoyed with jarring ads. The excitement around social media was about people wanting to connect with other people. So, help bring people back together. Whether it’s a group of parents, a community of physicists around the world, or gathering of artists and creatives, bringing people together to share ideas and information is a no-brainer in our imagination hungry world.
- Read about what’s coming. As an example, the LHC particle accelerator at CERN will soon be shut down for two years and people are going to begin analyzing the data. At the same time, a lot of researchers and physicists are pushing for an open source science journals specifically for this a mobile-ready, global community.
- Bring in original knowledge. If you’re developing a product for a niche or niches you don’t well understand, bring in someone who does instead of trying to learn it yourself. You need them to at least advise if they cannot be more directly involved. Finding users within the community to design to is essential.
- Use your existing strengths. An example perhaps less daunting than designing for physicists would be designing for parents. Here is a large group of consumers who are are very anxious to share and learn of other’s brand experiences, parenting philosophy, and to pool wisdom. Create a safe space where groups of parents can connect and share.
- Consider new ways to monetize. Figuring out innovative strategies for monetizing platforms and applications requires a whole new outlook, but this is the key to success. Since the Internet began, people have never been able to find a successful model for making money. In reality, a one-size-fits all isn’t possible. Monetization should be built into the product development and design, and not added on later as an afterthought. Of paramount importance, it should neither jar nor disrupt the user’s experience.
- Don’t jar the user experience. Ideally supporting the application monetarily should be a pleasurable part of that experience, the way in app purchase can be but rarely is in practice. People spend money for the pleasure it gives them. That’s why everything about the retail experience—from the sound of the cash drawer opening to the look and feel of the shopping bag itself—was designed to make the customer experience pleasure. This consideration is still very much valid in the virtual realm.
- Remember that ownership is powerful. Users want to invest in their social space and have control. They want tools to create and design their own experience and to own it. They want control, choice and ownership, and the product that delivers it will be a winner.
- Forget about big data. Despite the hype, there aren’t even proper metrics to measure social media data, and the data drawn from big data has proven to be quite crude. Why? The consumer has changed, and old models are obsolete. In fact, old modes of capturing and understanding data don’t act quickly enough to measure changing consumer sentiment. The era of the passive consumer has ended.
- Don’t chase investment dollars. Chasing dollars will dilute your vision and control. Big investors tend to weaken your strategy and commit your company’s growth to artificial timetables. Bootstrapping your company is the smart way to go. Bringing a team together to share responsibility and share wealth is a great way to fire up the engines of creativity.
One irony about the extreme solicitousness tech companies have shown advertisers is that they are actually competing for the same dollars. Ultimately, since incomes are not growing, dollars will have to be wooed away from traditional industries and the retail market is a prime target, especially the vanity market, which includes fashion, beauty, and cosmetics. Slipping service and production standards conspire to make these easy pickings. Cut out the middle man, design to the user, and take the money yourself!