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I’m thrilled with the response my Monday Mobile Marketing tips received last year, and with over six months of content, there’s quite a bit in there. But given I’ve covered a lot of the basics already, I’d like to branch out when it comes to blog and mobile industry topics. This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time, and is pretty much guaranteed to raise some strong alternative opinions.

I believe that, for a small, independent developer who wants to launch on a second platform after iOS, developing for Windows (8 or Phone) is a much easier process and better bet for the company in the short term than Android.

Let me break down this potentially heretical statement.

Windows, like iOS, lets you control what your customers see.

The fragmentation in the Android market has grown exponentially – from just under 4,000 different consumer Android devices in 2012 to almost 12,000 in 2013. That’s potentially 12,000 different screen sizes, types of screen hardware (did you know that your app’s colors render differently depending on how the screen is made), or types of skins manufacturers use to distinguish the device? Each variation could lead to a significantly altered appearance of your app. Some teams will test their Android apps on up to 4oo different devices to ensure that the experience is the same for all users.

Windows OS on the other hand, utilizes the structure in their slightly unique design paradigm (with the horizontal scrolling through menus and content types) to ensure the experience is consistent across devices. Added to that, the consistency in manufacturing will mean, for the most part, there will be no distortion of colors and layouts. A Windows 8 laptop and a Surface Pro user are both going to have identical experiences on their Windows 8 app.

So the question for small independent developers becomes: would you like to design once and ensure your users see what you intent, or design once and test on over 400 devices making constant tweaks to your APK for each device supported?

Windows hardware will operate consistently across devices.

Let me reiterate: your users can choose from almost 12,000 different Android devices. If you think visual appearance is your biggest problem, think again.

Each Android device can bring with it slight (or dramatic) variations in how the operating system and the hardware interact. The operating system of the Galaxy S-series, one of the most popular phones on the market, has their own, non-standard methods of interacting with the video recording hardware. This means that you need to modify your APK for Galaxy S-series users otherwise any functionality you have in your Android app that accesses video recording could fail.

Video not a big deal? What about the Nexus 7, the most popular Android tablet, which has custom operating methods to interact with the camera hardware as the tablet has no back-facing camera?

Unlike the cosmetic problems that can be more of an annoyance, these hardware and OS inconsistencies can cause loss of core functionality, or cause your app to fail all together.

Windows, like iOS, is for now an operating system only available through certain manufacturers who keep the OS and hardware interactions consistent. When you develop for Windows, you know that the functionality you provide users will work no matter which Windows Phone or 8 device they are using.

With a need for more developers, Windows can help promote your App.

It’s no secret that Windows has been working hard to get more developers to create content for the Windows App Store (even going so far as to bribe developers with cash). The Google Play store, on the other hand, rivals Apple in terms of sheer volume of Apps available.

This can work in your favor. The Windows team is eager to support its fledgling developer community in a number of ways. We’ve found the team to be highly engaged with our app – to a degree we could never expect from Apple or Google – which has led to numerous opportunities for promotion and growth.

Better to be a first mover and on good terms with the Windows App Store process and team than to miss out on the opportunity to build early support for your Windows app.


Windows OS on mobile devices is gaining traction in the market.

Depending on what you read, the Windows Phone is on it’s way up… or on it’s way out. Despite the mixed market signals, there are a number of signs mobile developers should take a chance on the Windows operating system.

2012 was Windows Phone’s strongest year yet, and while 2013 didn’t quite live up to expectations overall, their Q3 reports had tech journalists praising the affordable phone as the fastest growing phone operating system in the market (yes, beating iOS and Android).  Also, by the end of 2013, analysts were becoming positively impressed by the Surface and Surface Pro tablets’ market growth.

Regardless of how fast you think the Windows mobile OS market is growing in the future, it’s suggested that there are over 125 million Windows 8 users globally (that’s bigger than Apple’s OS X entire user base by almost 2x by the way) – a market that any independent developer shouldn’t sneeze at, particularly if there is much less competition to access it.

Ok… there are some downsides.

Of course, when it comes to developing for a new platform, whether you’re choosing Android, Windows or web, there are always downsides to each. While I believe that Windows is a much better bet for independent developers that Android, there are some downsides compared to the Google OS.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly to most developers, the design paradigm is radically different. While Android encourages a customized look and feel to sit in line with Android design best practices, in reality many developers simply create a carbon copy of their app’s design when moving from iOS to Android. That won’t cut it with Windows which has a series of very specific design requirements. While some of these can provide interesting new ways to showcase app content, others are simply annoying and require a rethink of many aspects of your app. The danger of ignoring these design paradigms is that you aren’t selected for any of the developer support efforts run by Windows and are shunted to a lesser section of the Windows App store.

Secondly, finding development resources for Windows OS is much harder than it is for Android. There are many fewer Windows 8 developers available for hire, although there are a number of freelance resources.

Thirdly, Windows 8 for Surface and laptops, and Windows Phone 8 do not actually have overlapping app stores, nor are apps developed for one immediately compatible for the other. If you are committed to the Windows 8 platform, you may find you need to develop both versions to be successful in either market.

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room – market share and growth. For all of Window’s pretty numbers and improvements in the last two years, Android is still globally the operating system with the most users. If your existing users are clambering for a way to connect with their friends on other systems it’s most likely a request for an Android app. Windows just doesn’t have the reach yet to compete with Android.

Overall, however, for equal time, money and effort, I feel that Windows is a better opportunity for small independent developers looking for their second platform after iOS.

Have you launched an app on iOS first? What are you choosing as a second platform? Why?

Header image credit: Animoca

Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.


A few weeks ago, I was monitoring our App Store rankings with SensorTower, a great tool to help you keep on top of your ASO when I noticed something odd. One of our competitors, who we regularly out-performed for a wide range of relevant keywords had jumped hundreds of places in the rankings for relevant keywords such as ‘mom’ and ‘photobook.’ I was surprised. ASO is not very well understood but two important factors are considered to be download numbers and reviews – and in both areas we were stronger. Additionally, we had those keywords in our app keyword list, an important way to drive ASO.

I had the competitor’s app on my phone and I didn’t notice anything usual about it – but when I looked at their listing in the App Store online, I was shocked to see their title was now four lines long, packed with keywords (see the image above). The app on the phone still displayed their old, one-word name, but the official title according to the App Store was packed with more keywords than were even allowed in the keywords section of the app meta data. No wonder they were out performing us!

We had an upcoming release scheduled for 23snaps and in order to compete with the competitor who was now, according to Apple, more relevant for the keywords they had been less relevant for only a week before, I proposed we pull the same trick. We could keep the name on the device the same, so users wouldn’t be stuck with a 50-word app title, but change our App Store listing name to something that could compete with the others in the space. I was even more keen to make this change when I saw another player in our small space add some additional keywords to their own title (clearly we were all keeping an eye on one another).

The new app was submitted with a title that would give our competitor a run for their money. I used every one of those characters with relevant keywords to describe and explain our app. I justified it with the knowledge our competitors were doing the same thing – and besides, 23snaps wasn’t very explanatory… I was actually providing a service to the users who were searching for our app by giving them more context.

However I don’t think I should have been surprised when, a few days after submitting our newest version to the app store, we received the following:


We had been rejected for both inconsistent naming and for keyword stuffing our name. This rejection meant we were sent to the back of the review queue, waiting another week for approval for a release that included a number of important new updates.

So what’s the moral of the story? I hope that the moral is Apple is cracking down on keyword-heavy titles. Perhaps Apple will deprioritize app name keywords in their App Store rankings. Maybe the moral is just don’t have stupidly long app titles. Regardless, it was an experiment we had to undertake to keep up with the competition, but Apple seems to be one step ahead of us (though annoyingly one step behind our competitor). It will be interesting to see if that same competitor is penalised in their next release, and has to revert back to their original, one word name.

My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: Continue to test new ways of boosting your ASO, but don’t do something you’re not comfortable with or you don’t think is within Apple’s terms and conditions just because your competitors are doing it. Also, if you are going to test something new for ASO purposes – make sure it doesn’t affect the timing of an important release.

Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.

app store featured spots

If you’ve seen a spike in downloads that doesn’t necessarily related to any of your other marketing activity, you may have been featured in the App Store somewhere in the world. Additionally, if you want to be featured by Apple, it’s important to know what your options are.

I’ve written before about App Store Collections as a possible feature location but I thought it’d be useful to give a full run through of all of the locations where apps can get featured. Just to note – this review looks at the Apple App Store, but the Google Play Store is very similar in placement opportunities. I’ve added a brief note at the bottom on how these two differ from the Windows 8 Store.

The Main Page

The main page of the App Store offers a number of opportunities for featured placement.

  • The Header. This is the primary real estate on the App Store. Apple is showcasing fewer individual apps in this section, instead saving this space for Apple’s own collections or apps, but they do include one or two individual apps each week.
  • New & Noteworthy. While a new app or an updated app might get a nod in this section, in fact this seems to be another place for Apple to feature certain apps regardless of update time.
  • What’s Hot. Like New & Noteworthy, the apps in this section are not necessarily the most downloaded or popular that week, but are simply apps featured by the App Store team. In many cases, you will see apps here that were in New & Noteworthy the week before.
  • App of the Week. This promotional placement is often reserved for a paid app that is offered for free by the App Store for a week.


The subcategories, such as Games, Lifestyle, Education, etc offer more featured placements. While apps featured here may have fewer downloads overall, the audience is likely to be more targeted.

  • The Header (US App Store only). In the US App Store, subcategories get a large header image like that of the homepage. This is a highly prominent placement and in the subcategories, it usually features individual apps rather than collections or Apple’s own apps.
  • Small Banners. These button-like banners showcase a single app in more detail than the New & Noteworthy or What’s Hot sections. These same placements exist on the main page but are rarely, if ever, used to promote a single app rather than a collection.
  • New & Noteworthy.
  • What’s Hot.


As of July, 2013, Apple has the following App Collections to showcase apps that may not stand out in the subcategories but are useful for particular interest groups.

  • Hall of Fame
  • Apps for Kids
  • Camera and Photography
  • Music Discovery
  • Apps for Parents
  • Social Networking
  • Cooking
  • Travel
  • On the Town
  • Band in Your Hand
  • Get in Shape
  • Apps for Shopping
  • Get Stuff Done
  • Your News
  • TV Time
  • Money Management
  • Apps for Business
  • Apps for Heathcare Professionals

More are being added all the time and there are different app collections for iPhone and iPad apps.

Other App Stores

Beyond the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, there are opportunities to get featured in third party app stores like Amazon or Opera.


For other platforms, there may be slightly different featured requirements or options. For example, for the Windows 8 Store, featured options are very limited – which means being featured can lead to a lot more notice for the apps that gain that placement. With Windows 8, there are only three levels, the featured apps on the home page, the apps that have passed Windows’ design review process that sit one click down in the subcategories (such as Social, Entertainment or Games) and then the apps that have been submitted but haven’t been through the Windows design review process that sit one click down from the subcategory.

As a final note, being featured can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand you get a boost in downloads but on the other, you can potentially acquire a lot of users who don’t stick around, especially if you have a free app.

Anything I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!

As many PC users may have noticed, the Google Play Store has undergone a massive update to its layout and design. The old version of the Play Store did have its issues. Poor navigation, limited access to subcategories, difficulty in discovering free apps and over-reliance on editor’s choices (problems not dissimilar to other app stores, by the way) made it difficult to discover new and useful applications.

The old Google Play Store

The old Google Play Store

The new version however has been, well, less than well-received:

Here’s a glimpse of the new Google Play Store homepage layout:


The homepage itself actually seems to include a number of solutions to the problems that plagued the old Play Store.

A recommended section is forefront, rather than hidden away, helping users discover apps that are more relevant to their personal preferences and use cases. There are also a greater number of categories on the home page, rather than just editors picks and top downloads. Now, new groupings of apps, including Movie Apps, Communication, Personalisation and Apps to Watch. A greater number of apps now appear on the homepage increasing exposure for developers. There are fewer display characters for app titles, a change which may impact how some developers have named their apps, but overall the homepage looks like a step in the right direction.

Yet for all of the improvements in navigation and discover-ability, there is a hugely critical flaw with the new Play Store design – and that is the updated individual app page.

23snaps   Family Photo Book   Android Apps on Google Play

From my point of view as an app creator, here are a few of the problems:

– G+ recommendations no longer show at the top of the page. A few hundred ticks of social proof seem to have disappeared with the new G+ button at the top.

– New layout for screenshots is ungainly and unattractive, and developers with less than 6-7 screenshots will need to rethink that real estate.

– Additional information, which previously sat alongside the description and made it easy for users to see number of installs (social proof), device compatibility, rating and file size are now almost hidden at the very bottom of the page.

– Reviews are displayed in an ad-hoc, almost Pinterest-style next to the star rating. This alone isn’t a huge problem but one of the Play Store’s greatest features was that it allowed developers to respond to reviews on their app page, indicating both a solution for previous issues and an involved support team. These responses have now vanished unless you click on the reviews themselves. Likewise, the ability to rate reviews for their usefulness is hidden too.

Overall the new layout seems to provide less information in a larger amount of space while diminishing the importance of developer involvement.

Besides the new design changes, the rollout of these Google Play Store updates seems to have introduced quite a few bugs. While we can expect these will be dealt with swiftly, expect some issues if you decide to take a look at the new Play Store.

What are the takeaways for app creators?

There are a few important steps app creators should take right away.

1) Do a search for your app. In search results, has your app’s name been truncated by the new title length restrictions? You may need to update your app title.

2) Check your app screenshots. Do you have enough to make the page look nice? You may need to add some new screenshots to the page.

3) Check your app description. The new Play Store is currently experiencing a number bugs that are affecting font and style, particularly if you previously had any special characters in your app description. You may need to remove those characters (like stars or bullet points) to get the description to display correctly.

4) Get familiar with the new Play Store layout. This may be your app’s new home for quite a while, regardless of how you feel about the layout, so it’s worth taking a look!

Yesterday I spoke at the App Promotion Summit, the first event of its kind to bring together app developers, marketers, promotion agencies and networks to discuss how to effectively drive app downloads and engagement.

I was invited to give an overview of the app store landscape, covering the obvious (such as the App Store and Play Store) but also the less well-known (such as Opera Apps and Amazon App Store). I also provided some insight into how 23snaps got featured in the App, Play and Windows Stores, and how other apps could position themselves for featured placement opportunities.

Here are the slides from the talk, with video available shortly.