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App stores: What Indian developers need to know
Monday, 15 October 2018 15:55

"To understand why the app store is important, you have to understand the scenario before the app store," says Vishal Gondal of "Any application you put up was at the mercy of the mobile operator.

And you had a system of different mobile operators in different geographies. So if you wanted your app to be available nationwide, you would have to talk to around 25 operators. And each operator would have his own terms and would promote or ignore apps at their whim. The app stores changed all that." Online stores are almost as old as the World Wide Web, with Pizza Hut offering the ability to order pizza online in 1994, a year before Jeff Bezos started And online stores selling software have been around almost as long. But it was the advent of the iPhone andiTunes that brought app stores to prominence as marketplaces for mobile applications.

The Apple App Store is legendary, with the number of downloads nearing 25 billion. The site even has a countdown meter which stood at 24 billion, 677 million at the time of writing, with around a thousand apps being downloaded every second. Apple is even offering a $10,000 gift coupon for the person who downloads the 25 billionth app. The store has over half a million apps, including superstars like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja and breakaway hits like Bubble Ball, written by 14-year-old Robert Nay.

"It's very simple," says Gondal. "You write your application, you get your membership to the store and you upload the app. If it's the Android store, the app becomes available in a matter of hours. If it's the Apple Store or the Nokia Store, they undertake a range of tests before it is released."

A prerequisite for developing apps for the Apple App Store is membership in the iOSDevelopment Program. Membership costs $99 annually. Membership allows access to the XCode Development Environment, the iOS simulator and a number of tools. App developers also set up iTunes Connect accounts to specify app information and specify details of the bank account where sales proceeds are deposited. "Every 60 days, money from app sales after Apple's 30% cut are deposited into the account," says Srividya Vaidyanathan of app developer PixelMat.

Emulators have limited utility
iOS development is probably the most expensive in terms of initial investment -- as the Mac is more expensive than PCs with comparable configuration, as are iPhones and iPads. "Emulators have only a limited utility," Virat Khutal, founder and CEO of Indore based Twist Mobile, says.

"You have to remember that most of the processing power is provided by the machine the emulator runs on, and it will not mimic the way the completed application runs on the phone. Questions like how well the app responds after staying in the background during a one hour phone call, are better answered by running the app on the phone than on an emulator."

Google's Android Market became available to users in October 2008. Since that time, it has clocked over 400,000 apps and 10 billion downloads. Android overtook Apple in terms of the download market in the second quarter of 2011, with 44% of mobile app downloads as against 31% of iOS downloads, according to ABI Research. Distimo, a mobile application metrics firm, estimates that Android has the highest percentage of free apps, at around 68% as of December 2011. The "freemium" model, where a freely available app makes money by charging for expanded features or via microtransactions, is predominant in the Android market. "We use the freemium model ourselves," says Gondal.

However, Indian developers cannot make money in the Android Market just yet. Google does not allow Indian developers to sell paid apps in its app store. Russia, Argentina, Taiwan and South Korea are on the list. India and China are not. Android developers are looking at the Amazon Android Marketplace as an alternative location to sell apps. But the Amazon Android Marketplace requires Indian app developers to pay taxes - at 30%.

Underdog Microsoft makes gains It is hard to think of Microsoft as anything but a corporate behemoth, but the software giant is very much the underdog in the mobile race, with several false starts with Windows CE and earlier versions of Windows mobile. But Microsoft is making a concerted bid to regain relevance with the latest version of Windows Mobile. The tile based approach has been praised as a fresh new take on mobile user interfaces. The company is running an aggressive advertising campaign with the tagline "Smoked by Windows Phone". And Microsoft is making aggressive efforts to reach out to its biggest support community, Windows Developers.