Guest Post from Bill Best on Apps & Mobile Operators

Bill Best – my first ever boss’s boss’s boss!

I went along to ExCel for the 7th edition of Apps World to find out what’s hot and what’s not. Apps World claim 10,000 visitors over the two days and 350 exhibitors from across the planet of the Apps.

A long standing friend of mine and a fellow frequent attendee to Mobile World Congress and its previous incarnations used to call that event the annual bump. He didn’t mean everyone is continually walking into each other – but with 80,000 attendees there is more than a bit of that going on. No, he meant it’s where you continually and regularly bump into so many people you know from the industry. So for me the big difference here is no bumps – what does that tells us about where the MWC crowd are and what’s important to them these days?

MWC has striven over the last few years to fully represent all seven layers in the classic OSI model as well as the ever burgeoning mobile eco-system. So layer 7, Applications, is well represented at MWC. Here at AppsWorld this is all about layer 7 and only layer 7. As the name implies, this is the Apps show! It does what it says on the tin. Are Apps important to Telco’s and Tier 1 vendors? It would seem not judging by their lack of interest and participation at this show. And isn’t that very strange because Apps is not just where it’s at today – it’s where the money is and where contact with the billions of mobile device users occurs. Without doubt, mobile device user’s moments of truth are though the apps they use.

So why stacks 1-6 are away doing whatever they need to do today, stack 7 comes out to play and takes centre stage. Much of what goes on at AppsWorld is about sustaining the App eco-system and it’s largely a B2B show but small B to small B in the main. Of the 300 or so exhibitors here this week, how many will be big and even very big B’s in the coming years? Who are the ones likely to get to escape velocity and become a moon-shot? I wish I knew. I am sure there are some who will make it big which does increases my amazement on why so much App activity carries on under the Telco radar. Have they given up getting in on App monetisation?

Perhaps that’s the case but I note a distinct change of tone coming from MNOs recently and an acceptance of the argument put forward by OTT and App players that they help carriers sell more data and that is good for the carrier. Certainly Vodafone’s recent half-year results seemed to support this. They told us that Data traffic in H1 grew 75% and the desire for Apps drives smartphone adoption meaning that Vodafone now have 29.9 million 4G customers across 19 countries with 9.7 million of them coming in H1 alone! Although these numbers are impressive that still only equates to 20% of their European customer base taking a 4G service. And here is the nub of it all: customers who move to 4G typically buy bigger data packages and see their data consumption double, and average usage per smartphone customer in Europe is up 39% year-on-year. I can hear Silicon Valley saying ‘told you so.’ The real growth is still ahead of us and is it customers’ desire to use apps that will encourage them to take up 4G price plans.

Let’s get back to what the data generators are up to. Well, Apps for everything is the phrase of the day as you would expect. There really does seem to be an App for everything you want to do and a whole lot more for things we never thought we needed! Innovation and invention is what will make the difference to the winners and the losers and we know that the vast majority of Apps on the market never make any money. So taking some time to get your App proposition right seems a very good thing to do. Our very own Julia Shalet was on hand to give start-ups some vital tips in the Launchpad zone. Julia told us “Don’t build it until you have looked users in the eye and see what their response is. Go validate all the assumptions you have made about how people feel and behave before you go too far”. Sound advice indeed. You can see Julia’s full presentation here:


Having the great idea is one thing. Getting the App built these days seems pretty straightforward judging by the sheer number of App builders there were promoting their services at the show. The tough part has always been the turning the App into a commercial service. The quality assurance, the de-bugging, the payment method (it’s really nice to get paid!), the customer experience, the analytics, the asset inventory, and anything else that’s needed to make the App a commercial success. It is here I saw a big difference between the show this year and that of a couple of years back when I last attended. The support eco-system is now very strong. An App developer doesn’t have to go it alone and reinvent things that are necessary but don’t add value to the proposition. The plug-ins are now abundant.

I hope next year I may bump into some of my colleagues from the MNO and Tier 1 vendor world. There really is a lot that they can learn from a day out at Apps World 2016!

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