Article in Mobile Future, Startup categories.

Are Other App Stores Underground Goldmines?

For smaller developers, sticking with iOS and Android may be shooting for the moon.

For app developers, iOS and Android are the markets of choice - each user is a potential customer, and the number of users is expansive. In the past, this thinking was shared across the board, by both large and small developers, but recent studies indicate that this may need to change.

According to a study released today by mobile research specialists Research2Guidance, applications published in smaller, niche stores - particularly Windows Phone Marketplace, Blackberry App World, and Nokia OVI Store - experience significantly higher download numbers than those published on Android and iOS. As the report states, there is significantly less competition in these smaller stores, yet the stores maintain an active user base. With 400,000 apps available for iOS, it’s nearly impossible to get into the top 50 - but in these smaller markets, some of which have less than one-tenth the number of available apps, getting a high rating isn’t as implausible.

Furthermore, Nielsen Smartphone Analytics revealed in June that over 60-percent of the time spent using apps on Android and iOS is spent on the 50 most popular apps. 43-percent of the time is spent using those in the top 10. How can lesser-known apps make a name for themselves when the competition for users’ attention is so fierce?

It’s time for a new segment I’d like to call A Relatively Sketchy Analogy. Imagine this: An average-looking guy is headed out for the night, and his sole intention is to meet a woman. There are two very popular bars in town. Each night, about 300 guys and 300 girls visit each bar. Some bar-goers have a great time, but some of the average-looking guys are miserable, unable to attract enough attention. In another section of town, though, there are a few other bars. The beer isn’t quite as good and the DJ keeps playing Flo Rida songs, but there are 50 girls and only 20 guys at each. These bars are not as glamorous, but the ratio leans in the favor of the guys. Where would the average-looking guy go, if meeting a woman is the only driving force?

For smaller developers, sticking with iOS and Android may be shooting for the moon. Instead, they should do some work in the smaller app markets, and find the audience that can fully embrace the app. Staying small, in the end, could pay big.

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