YouTube founders think China hasn’t heard of Vine

wanpai_650Wan-Pai is a new free app for iOS and Android from AVOS Systems, the company started by Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, the founders of YouTube. Wan-Pai is Vine, the six-second video sharing app, but for the Chinese mobile market.

Everything from the interface to the editor’s picks seems directly lifted from Vine. Wan-Pai does try to distinguish itself by adding filters and using a salmon color scheme instead of Vine’s green. Annoyingly, where it is different is a noticeable lag before videos start playing instead of Vine’s near instant playback. (more…)

Top 5: What apps appeal more on iPhone than iPad?

appdataInside Network’s AppData is a system for tracking metrics across a broad range of apps. One of its simplest and most straightforward services charts app popularity on iPhone and iPad in a variety of flavors, ranging from top grossing to top paid losers.

On the iPad, the five most popular free apps are Candy Crush Saga, Dumb Ways to Die, Bird Zapper, What’s Behind HD, and Crazy Dentist. If these five were not enough to convince, a look at the ten free apps following them makes it crystal clear: on the iPad, games rule the roost. (more…)

Developers adapt to Apple’s crackdown on app discovery services

Google Play versus Apple App StoreEver since Apple instituted clause 2.25 in October 2012 to its App Review Guidelines, the Cupertino, Calif.-based corporation has been cracking down on app discovery services violating the clause like AppGratis, which was removed from the Apple App Store in an effort to stop third-party tools that directly compete with the store. Clause 2.25 states that “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.” Another relevant clause is 5.6, which states that “Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.”

Inside Mobile Apps first heard of AppGratis when we spoke with CEO Simon Dawlat back in January about the company’s raising of $13.5 million in Series A funding and that its service was delivering up to 700,000 installs for app developers. Essentially, AppGratis offered developers burst campaigns by getting their app featured by AppGratis for a certain amount of money. Now that the app is removed from the Apple App Store, for those who still have the app installed on their devices, the app just prompts users that daily deals will be delivered to their email instead of through the app via push notifications. App discovery remains one of the largest hurdles for app developers, so when engines like AppGratis get taken down, developers need to start looking at other avenues for discovery. In a guest post from Side-Kick Games marketing director Noya Polliack, she adds that it’s clear Apple wants to remain “hands on” with picking the “right” apps for its users.

This wasn’t the first time Apple cracked down on limiting outside influencers from its app ecosystem. Apple shook down incentivized install practices back in April 2011, where developers offer their apps in other games and pay for downloads when users install their titles for virtual current.

PocketGamer.biz reported earlier this month that Apple apparently expanded the language in clause 2.25. PocketGamer.biz was sent an email conversation between Apple and an anonymous developer who’s developing an app “primarily focused on sharing recommendations to your friends.” In the email from Apple to the developer, Apple pointed to apps that “include filtering, bookmarking, searching, or sharing recommendations are not considered as significantly different from the App Store.” The additional language to clause 2.25 is not present in Apple’s guidelines. This expansion to the regulation 2.25 has left iOS developers confused about what is and what isn’t acceptable in terms of app promotion. (more…)

Any Android developer can now reply to app store reviews

google-play-logoGoogle today announced that all Android developers can now reply to user reviews in Google Play. Developers can reply to app store reviews through the Google Play Developer Console. All replies are displayed publicly below the corresponding user review on Google Play. Users receive an email notification when a developer replies and can either reply to a developer directly by email, or update their review if they feel the need to.

In June 2012, Google first allowed a select group of developers — those with a Top Developer Badge — the ability to respond to specific reviews directly from the Android Developer Console. Google expanded the program to more developers in January. Comparatively, the Apple App Store still doesn’t have the ability for developers to directly respond to user reviews.

Responding to app reviews is helpful to developers because an app’s average review score is a powerful viral mechanism for app discovery as well as provide a more effective communication channel with their audience to handle any customer support requests like complaints, bugs or suggestions for new features.

Google also provided some best practices when replying to user reviews, which it collected from developers who had the ability to reply to reviews already:

  • Check reviews frequently, and involve people from all parts of your organization
  • Identify and prioritize bugs based on user impact
  • Let users know when their problems are resolved
  • Reply constructively to both negative and positive reviews
  • Refer users to documentation or other support channels
  • Get ideas about new improvements or features
  • Thank the users who are your biggest advocates

Developers interested in learning more about replying to user reviews can go here to see Google’s posting guidelines.

Apple counts down to 50B app downloads milestone

apple250In today’s weekly App Store refresh, which Apple does every Thursday, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company added a countdown to 50 billion app downloads.

Apple did a similar countdown in February 2012 when the App Store was reaching the 25 billion mark for downloads. To celebrate the 50 billion downloads achievement, Apple will be awarding a $10,000 App Store gift card to the user who downloads the 50 billionth app, and the following 50 users who download an app will receive a $500 App Store gift card.

In early January, Apple announced that its App Store exceeded the 40 billion downloads mark (excluding re-downloads and app updates), with approximately 20 billion downloads occurring in 2012. December 2012, in particular, was a record-breaking month in terms of app downloads, where the company saw more than two billion apps downloaded during the month.

Here are the top 25 free and paid apps of all-time for iPhone and iPad: (more…)

Distimo takes a deep dive into the Amazon Appstore, compares to Google Play

Distimo logoDistimo’s latest report takes a deep dive into the Amazon Appstore, taking a look at the top apps and publishers in terms of estimated daily downloads and one-off revenues in the app store. The report also takes a look at the differences and similarities between the Amazon Appstore, a third-party app store for the Android platform, and Google Play.

App tracking company Distimo kicked off its April report by revealing that the top 200 free apps on the U.S. Amazon Appstore saw a total of 16 million downloads in March. Similarly to the Apple App Store and Google Play, the most downloaded genre of apps were games, with Imangi Studios’ Temple Run 2 leading the way as the most downloaded free app. Also, eight of the top 10 most downloaded apps were games, with Netflix and Facebook as the two non-game apps.

As expected, the amount of device installs for free apps in Google Play is significantly higher compared to the Amazon Appstore. The Dutch firm adds that Google Play is approximately 10 times larger than the Amazon Appstore in the U.S. For example of the disparity between the two app stores, Developer Halfbrick Studios’ Fruit Ninja Free, which is ranked No. 9 in the Amazon Appstore among the top free apps, was downloaded 9.1 times less than in Google Play, which translates to 2.3 million installs from Google Play and 250,000 from the Amazon App Store in March.Distimo April 2013 report chart

(more…)

PapayaMobile launches SDK aimed at monetizing in China

papaya

Social game distribution and monetization company PapayaMobile announced the launch of a new SDK to help independent Android developers access the Chinese mobile market.

The first free game with in-app purchases to launch in China using the new SDK will be Scottish developer Cobra Mobile’s WW2 shooter iBomber for Android.

The PapayaMobile SDK helps Android app and game developers monetize by plugging into the company’s cross-promotion and ad network AppFlood, where they can buy, sell or exchange ads and traffic with advertisers and other publishers.

More importantly, the SDK also plugs into China Mobile, China’s biggest mobile operator with more than 700 million subscribers, to allow for in-app purchasing via carrier billing.

Carrier billing is tremendously important if not absolutely necessary in order to monetize in the Chinese market. In November 2012, CocoaChina’s US GM Lei Zhang Zhang told us that carrier billing accounted for 90 percent of Fishing Joy 2’s total revenue of $1.6 million per month. At the 2013 Game Developers Conference Yodo1’s CEO Henry Fong told us that there may be other companies that are able to push games and apps to the many Android app stores in China, but that only those with standing deals with the mobile carriers and access to carrier billing will be able to monetize.

The official release from PapayaMobile claims that the company is taking the lead in opening up the Chinese market to Western developers, but in reality they are already in competition with big and established players such as the aforementioned Yodo1 (which also offers important localization services), InMobi’s App Publish distribution platform which can push an app or game to more than 130 Android app stores in a few clicks, and others.

Guest Post: Apple enforces its new app promotion restrictions, removes AppGratis from the App Store

App Gratis removed from Apple App StoreEditor’s Note: Earlier this week, Apple booted out app discovery service AppGratis, which promotes paid apps by offering one for free everyday, from the Apple App Store for violating clause 2.25 of Apple’s App Review Guidelines, which states that “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.” The app also violated clause 5.6, which states that “Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.” VentureBeat reported that Apple reached out to AppGratis last Friday, informing the company that it was welcome to change its app and resubmit it. AppGratis CEO Simon Dawlat said in a company blog post that there were no discussions between Apple and AppGratis in advance of the Cupertino, Calif.-headquartered corporation removing the app. Dawlat (who also explained the full story of how AppGratis got pulled) said he did eventually speak with an Apple employee over the phone and does want to speak further with Apple.

With all that said, in today’s guest post from Noya Polliack, marketing director at Side-Kick Games, a developer of family and mid-core games, says that despite discoverability being a huge issue for app developers in the crowded mobile app market, AppGratis is the latest example of Apple being keen on clamping down on any apps that violate its policies.

Six months after adding clause 2.25 to Apple’s App Review Guidelines, AppGratis finds itself outside of the best store in town – Apple’s App Store.

AppGratis is the second app banned from the App Store due to the new guidelines which restrict apps from providing pure app promotion services. These Apps usually function as app recommendation services and/or alert users when discounts are available. Among this type of apps are FreeAppADay, Appoday, Daily App Dream, Appsfire and more. Earlier in December, the popular AppShopper app was removed from the Apple App Store.

Both AppGratis and AppShopper offered developers burst campaigns — massive traffic in a short period of time. The result of these campaigns is usually high ranking in the Apple App Store for a few days. This method of app promotion is used by many developers in order to overcome the number one problem in the crowded app market today — discoverability.

At the moment there are still plenty of other discovery apps, which offer third-party promotions. While Apple’s next move is unknown, it’s definitely an issue that app developers should address.

Is Apple acting in the users’ best interest?

One of the reasons the new clause was added is that by attracting millions of users, third-party aggregators like AppGratis allow a way for developers to spend their way to the top 25, violating the Apple App Store’s purity. However, big game development studios that can afford to create a marketing buzz before they launch their app can be accused of doing just the same. While these well known studios get the media’s attention and use their apps portfolio to cross promote their new app, indie developers with a low marketing budget and a single app stay behind. Sadly, the outcome is that many new great apps are not visible to iOS users.

It’s also important to remember that burst campaigns can be executed using different user acquisition tactics such as web-based affiliate networks, ad networks and user acquisition networks. Since all of these sources use in-app ads to promote other apps, we can expect to see the mobile ads market growing faster than expected.

As Apple’s ranking algorithm remains a mystery, it’s known that the number of downloads plays a key factor in Apple’s app store ranking. Since app installs can be acquired one way or another, it only seems fair that users’ experience and rating will have a much stronger influence on apps’ ranking.

Looking at Apple’s latest moves — adding clause 2.25, clamping down on incentivized apps downloads, changing the Apple App Store’s look and the unknown magic formula of how to get featured — it’s clear that Apple is keen to stay “hands on” picking the “right” apps for its users.

Google refreshes Google Play’s look

google-play-logoGoogle today revealed a new redesigned look for its Google Play app store on Android smartphones and tablets.

The refreshed look is one that’s simple, clean and aimed to help users find apps and media content faster. Notable changes include larger images, grouping of similar content and the appearance of content recommendations as the user scrolls through the app store. Purchasing has also been simplified, so users can go from checkout to enjoying their content as fast as possible.

The previous look of the Google Play store was more text heavy, with black as its primary color. The redesigned store changes the main colors to lighter colors, which is more akin to the look of the web-based Google Chrome Store.

The redesigned Google Play store begins rolling out today for Android smartphones and tablets running the Android Froyo operating system (version 2.2) and above. The refreshed storefront will roll out worldwide in the next few weeks.Google Play redesign tabletGoogle Play redesign smartphone

Guest Post: Learning from the past: Patterns in the recent history of game platforms part 2

Jan Beckers headshotEditor’s note: Today’s guest post comes to us from Jan Beckers, co-founder and CEO of HitFox, an incubator focused on investing in and acquiring game distribution and user acquisition startups. This article is the second in a five-part series of articles analyzing game platforms and the patterns that historically repeat itself.

Part 2: From marketing to product focus

In the first party of this article series, we discovered how gaming platforms are very similar to countries in many ways. Both types of entities have specific rules and regulations, growth and decline cycles, competition and taxes. We saw that just like countries and societies, game platforms show patterns in the development of these features. We then took a closer look at the first of these crucial patterns, the acceleration of platform cycles.

A question that is equally elemental as it is crucial, regardless of platform is: “How do I distribute my budgets?” This question is dynamic as the crucial success factors change with the platform cycle. And there is one pattern here in that stands out strong.

Pattern 2: Marketing wins on early platforms, product wins on mature platforms

In the early days of a platform, specific knowledge was rare.  Consumers and users are largely uninformed and don’t truly understand or relate to the platform. With a new technology entering the market there is an instantaneous shortage of information. The customer has to get used to a platform. At the beginning there won’t be many media resources. Word of mouth recommendations by friends also need time to build up. In consequence, discovery mechanisms and filtering functions are weak at the outset of a platform.

The shortage of information extends to the products offered for a platform and in our context the games. A user that wanted to pick a game on Facebook in the early days of the social network was like a tourist that just arrived in a new country, trying to decide on which restaurant to pick — without a travel guide.

The potential customer has to rely on marketing in order to make his decisions. Zynga was masterful in using this situation for their advantage. The company successfully focused on marketing with numerous “Ville” titles, which are only marginally different. Their early emphasis on marketing helped to establish them as a crucial player in the social games market.

Marketing wins on a new platform. It’s a land grab.

This foundation for decision making changes significantly over time though. With the development of a new ecosystem, the number of available information sources increases. And over time, the consumers have repeated interactions with businesses. Not only can the customer access information at his or her will, accumulated lessons and experiences are now part of the decision making process.

Mature platforms have educated users.

Mature platforms have experienced users that have played many games. They know the owners reputation and they can more easily differentiate between good and bad games. Brands and franchises become more important. Even if the user lacks experience, the media, e.g. game magazines, websites, blogs and forums deliver plenty of information, providing tools for both filtering and discovery. And friends discuss the games on Facebook or over drinks at the bar. The user can now make educated decisions based on product quality. The first consequences can be seen in the mobile market now with players like Supercell and King.com. Both are hugely successful with a focus on top-quality. “Now it’s a lot more about the product quality and the product itself,” as Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen stated in a recent interview.

The best product wins on mature platforms.Jan Beckers Inside Mobile Apps guest post 2 graph

To sum up: In order to be as successful as possible, developers and publishers have to go with the natural platform flow. They need to concentrate on marketing when a platform is young and then use the early success and the user base to build the best product over time.

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