On the
importance
of apps

I am writing this from a hotel room in Singapore where Nokia has just announced its upcoming N9 MeeGo-powered smartphone, which is set to arrive later this year.



By Magnus Nystedt

Published: Sat 25 Jun 2011, 11:29 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:02 AM

As interesting as the N9 may seem in many ways, one big question hovers over it and that’s what the situation will be with regard to apps. The same issue I have previously raised about BlackBerry’s PlayBook tablet, which has just been released in the Middle East. Although the PlayBook’s hardware is very nice in many ways, it is hampered as a platform by a lack of apps.

Personally I think this is one aspect of mobile devices that is often ignored by reviewers and tech companies alike. I’ve had discussions with PR reps for tech companies after I’ve published a review and they’ve commented, “you said so many good things about the device but didn’t give it high marks, why?” The answer has often been a dicy situation for apps. See, the simple truth today is that even the best device in terms of hardware isn’t very attractive unless it also runs a good operating system for which there is a wide range of high quality apps available for it. Preferably, customers should also have the option of buying apps, not just get free apps, but at least access to free apps is a good start.

Granted, it is a bit unfair comparing the PlayBook to the iPad 2 because RIM’s tablet has only been sold since end of April in the US and Apple has had over a year to promote its platform. But fact remains that there are over 65,000 apps especially made for iPad and only a few hundred for PlayBook in my estimation. But it’s not just the number of apps that matter it’s also the quality of the apps. Quite simply, for iOS I find more apps of higher quality than even for Android.

Android is catching up fast though and some estimates show that in terms of sheer numbers, Google’s platform will surpass iOS later this year. There’s no surprise there, really, given the momentum Android has with some really exciting handsets like the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II, which you can read more about on this page.

I hope Nokia understands the importance of apps. Whether it’s for the N9 or upcoming Windows Phone smartphones, having a wide range of high quality apps available for the platform is increasingly becoming a critical factor for staying competitive. There are signs that Nokia is actively working with the app development community in the region to get more apps for Symbian, which now, by extension, should mean more apps for MeeGo as well.

That may a saving grace for the N9, that the development environment is the same as for Symbian. Qt (pronounced “cute”) is the Symbian and Meego equivalent of Apple’s Xcode and the way you develop apps for Nokia devices.

Let me just throw into the mix that Apple’s next iPhone, whether it will be callused 4S or 5, is expected to at least be announced in September. If it does, it may hit the news headlines at the same time as N9 starts shipping, which can only be bad news for Nokia.

—emiratesmac@gmail.com, @mnystedt

· Magnus Nystedt talks and writes about technology as much as he can. Follow him on Twitter as @mnystedt for the latest on consumer technology in the Middle East.


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