Is Fragmentation a Plus for App Developers?

Is fragmentation in the smartphone market a true enemy of app developers? Many believe it to be, but could it also be a positive that developers could use in their favor? Some say yes, and this article will explain the reasons why.

It is easy to see why fragmentation and the diversity of all the smartphones hitting the market under different operating systems can seem like a huge obstacle to app developers.  While Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms are by far the most popular in the app race, BlackBerry and Windows Phone also have certain characteristics that may appeal to some who are interested in creating apps for consumption. 

So, with four different major platforms open for development, how does a single app developer or a firm tackle such diversity?  Not only is each platform different in many ways, but you also have to take into account the multitude of devices and that are available and their distinct functionalities as well.  Having to decide how to allocate time and resources across such a broad market could seem like a nightmare at first, but if you look at it a different way, you just might be able to capitalize off of fragmentation.

A recent post on the VentureBeat website detailed multiple reasons why fragmentation in the smartphone industry should be seen as an advantage to app developers, and here is a summary.

More Opportunities to Stand Out

It is mighty tempting to take a stab at developing apps for Apple’s App Store or Google Play.  Both are app industry leaders in terms of selection, and both platforms are highly popular with the general public.  While developing a hit app for either platform would place your creation in front of the masses, the chances of that happening are reduced greatly due to the plethora of apps and developers you must compete against.  These are huge oceans for you to make a splash in, so why not aim for a small pond?

One such pond is that of the Kindle Fire tablet from Amazon.  This popular, yet affordable alternative to the iPad offers a solid opportunity for you to make a name for yourself in a niche market.  Nat Trienens, co-founder and director of mobile services for Fuzz Productions, echoed this sentiment: “We’re seeing impressive uptake on Kindle Fire and Amazon’s marketplace.  There aren’t as many apps in that market, so there’s a bigger opportunity to get better market position.”

Mark Chatow, executive director for global marketing for mobile development agency SourceBits, also believes that the Kindle Fire is a smaller target worth developing for, calling it a small, yet successful stage to get noticed on.  “The Fire now represents 33 percent of web traffic coming from tablet devices, up from 4 percent shortly after it launched,” he said.

The Mobile Market is a Plentiful Pie

The fact that the mobile market is so huge and keeps growing at an astronomical rate means that there are plenty pieces of the pie to go around.  International Telecommunications Union estimates that approximately 6 billion people worldwide own a mobile phone.  More and more of these phones are being upgraded to smartphones that are rich in features and functionality.  Much of that functionality comes as an extension of apps.  So, even though iOS and Android have solid holds on the top of the smartphone market, there is no reason to believe that other platforms cannot make more of a name for themselves in the future.  The BlackBerry is still heavily popular amongst business users across the globe, and look for Windows Phone to make a push thanks to its partnership with cellular giant Nokia.

Since the mobile pie is so plentiful, it also gives you many options in terms of which platform you want to make your target of choice.  Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, so you can analyze these prior to making your development decision.  Perhaps you want to release an app that boasts a cool design and appearance.  That would probably appeal more to Apple customers.  Maybe you’d like to develop an app that could boost productivity within government organizations, making BlackBerry a solid target to shoot for.  If you focus on one platform and its users instead of multiple ones at the same time, you have a better chance for success.  Then, in the future, you can look to expand to other platforms.

Other Advantages of Fragmentation

Beyond the reasons mentioned, the fragmented mobile market also offers some other advantages you can capitalize on.  Multiple platforms mean multiple ways to make money.  Each platform has its own distinct revenue model, so you can analyze what your strengths and what you want to offer customers and develop accordingly.  Maybe your app caters best to in-app purchases, making it ideal for iOS. 

The existence of multiple platforms also means you have the chance to be more creative.  You have many more possibilities to create a niche in a fragmented market than if you were limited to just one platform and a homogeneous lineup of devices.  Yes, the markets are loaded with apps at this time, but if you are creative enough, you could find that untouched niche that may help you strike app gold.

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