The surge in Samsung’s smart-phone marketshare in 2011 may have surprised many. Earlier in 2011, the device manufacturer also surprised many when it announced 100 million downloads from its applications store, only a couple of months after opening. As TechCrunch’s John Biggs explains, the surprises may not be reducing soon for those who are not watching keenly. It is in this series of surprises that the local mobile applications developer in East Africa might want to watch for emerging opportunities.
To many owners of Samsung handheld devices, there is an almost mysterious menu option in their devices labelled “Samsung Apps”. It is one of the device manufacturer’s way of extending the features of their devices through software applications. It is intended to be a way of enriching the user’s experience throughout their ownership of the device. Samsung calls it “making smartphones smarter”. Other device manufacturers including Nokia and Apple have slightly older and perhaps more established applications stores of a similar nature. It is this not so old phenomenon of application marketplaces fronted by device manufacturers, operating system vendors, mobile network operators and other independent players that presents software developers with new avenues for distributing and commercialising their applications.
Samsung Apps (www.samsungapps.com) is the consumer electronics giant’s marketplace targeted at applications not only running on their mobile devices but also on their new wave of Smart TVs. Samsung Apps Seller office (seller.samsungapps.com) is the app store’s section for developers to register applications and to configure how the applications are to be accessed by consumers. For some reason, developers may not configure their apps to be bought by consumers in Kenya on Samsung apps. When asked about this, the Samsung Kenya office promises that they are looking at introducing the possibility for consumers to pay for downloaded apps in Kenya come July 2012.
The prospect of developers selling their apps to Kenyan device owners is perhaps not as significant as the opportunity Samsung Apps presents to local mobile entrepreneurs to diversify distribution channels for their applications. Opening an account to distribute apps on Samsung Apps is free - no amount is charged. This is different from other marketplaces such as the Android Market, Ovi Store and Apple’s App store.
The main pain point for local developers may not necessarily be the absolute amount charged as registration fees to publish in these marketplaces. It is the limited payment methods such as credit cards relevant for other advanced economies that are constraints to local developers publishing their applications. Samsung’s applications store therefore becomes a better “cost” saver. Of course for now, this advantage is relevant only to developers with apps whose commercialization method is not “paid downloads”. Other commercialization methods not based on “paid downloads” include using advertisement, sponsorship and in-app purchase options.
According to Samsung’s Kenya office, once a locally developed application is loaded onto the store successfully, it becomes a candidate to be featured in their traditional and mainstream marketing channels within Kenya. This potentially allows the local developer to ride on the consumer electronics giant’s marketing budget that runs in the millions of Kenya Shillings. It may be that Samsung Apps is currently not the most popular destination for consumers downloading mobile apps for android. However, considering that for most locally developed apps, their local uptake is rather dismal, the mere prospect of being able to ride on a giant’s local budget for mainstream media marketing promotion is worth pursuing.
It is commonly observed that local apps published in android market become obscure and unreachable in the competition for global visibility. If distribution channels such as Samsung Apps can master the art of highlighting locally developed, locally relevant and high quality apps in devices used within the region, that would endear their marketplace to both developers and consumers in the region. With Samsung now promising to build the “Richest African App Store”, applications developers and devices owners can only wait and see how competition among applications distribution platforms evolve in their favour.
For now, developers interested in diversifying their app distribution channels using Samsung Apps may want to watch this video on how to promote their app in the marketplace.