There is a popular saying in the game of cricket, which is pretty much a religion in India, “It does not matter where the runs come from, as long as they come.” In simple terms, one should not really worry about how one is scoring runs as long as one’s score is moving along. A corollary from the world of football goes “Never mind how they go into the net, as long as they do. A toe poke is as good as a mazy dribble.”
Unfortunately, the past few months have revealed that while such a “quantity over quality” approach might work in sport, it has few takers in the world of applications, or apps, as we have started to refer to them increasingly these days.
Take the case of the two latest entrants to the mobile OS battlefield – Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10. Both came from great companies, both had interesting interfaces, great devices and thousands of apps. And yet neither has exactly set the app development or downloading community on fire. Not yet, anyway. On the other hand, the two golden oldies in the app business (they do seem old now) – iOS and Android continue to go strong, the former in terms of quality, the latter in terms of quantity, courtesy a massive user base.
In fact, while we were compiling our list of apps for BB10, we were struck by the fact that although there was no paucity of apps in sheer numerical terms, really good apps were few and far between. And by “good apps” we mean applications that are so good that you wish to use them at least once a day for a week – addictive games, image tweakers, innovative displayers of social networks, crazy news presenters…the works. The kid of apps, in short, that make you go to the local app market again and again to just see if there’s something new. It was a familiar feeling – we had felt exactly the same way a month or so ago when we went out hunting for apps on our Lumia 920.
And yet, both Microsoft and BlackBerry made it a point to trumpet the number of applications available on their platforms at the time of their respective releases. There were also a number of app driven events with the number of apps for the platform being highlighted at each. A large section of the mainstream media lapped it up, and through them, so did many consumers. We have lost count of the number of people who have come to us holding a Windows Phone device and complaining “What do you mean it does not have Flipboard or Instagram? The ad said there were thousands of apps for it.” In fact, even Nokia had for a while defiantly taken on the Android and Apple app stores claiming to have a very good selection and quoting app quantities and download figures running into thousands. It did not wash.
For, at the end of the day, the app market is very much just like any other. A consumer will go to it only if he or she expects to find something good there. And if they do not like what they see in their first few trips, well, they will simply stop coming, no matter how many discounts, sales and freebies you throw at them. Google Play is like a vast bazaar where sellers of every ilk come with no restrictions to try and attract the customer. The App Store on the other hand is like an air conditioned super market with quality controls and restrictions. Both work. Simply because they offer the user something new, again and again. And as long as they do, the user will keep going back for more. The BB and WP stores on the other hand are like posh malls with great infrastructure, but with shops that are selling some very ordinary stuff indeed.
Some will accuse us of being too simplistic, but there is a moral in this all – when it comes to the world of apps, quality tends to score heavily over quantity. Both Android and iOS started their app markets with fewer apps than Nokia had (yes, that is true!) but both won followings because of their ability to deliver innovative and interesting offerings to the user at regular intervals. An Android user might just download Angry Birds on their device once, but will keep returning to Google Play, simply because they know that apps like that exist and do not want to miss out on another. It is all about building expectations, and a single terrific app can do more in that regard than five hundred less than useful ones.
You want some appy fizz on your platform? Don’t boast about the thousands of apps it has, but just show a dozen that are downright amazing. You will be surprised at the results.