Wine Apps: Don’t Be an iDiot!

This post has been in the works for some time, but in the midst of all the hand wringing over Steve Jobs, patron saint of rounded corners, stepping down, this seems like a good time to publish it.

android wine appsWe get quite a few emails from people who want us to take a look at their product with an eye towards reviewing it. Every few months or so among those offers is a plea for us to try a new mobile app. Invariably the dialogue goes one of two ways. If they are lucky Amy gets to the mailbox first and it goes like this:

Excited entrepreneur: I would love it if you would test and review my new mobile wine app!
Amy: Sure, just tell me where to download the Android version.
Less excited entrepreneur: It’s for the iPhone.
Amy: Oh, well we don’t review applications that are only available for iPhone. But feel free to let us know when it is also available for Android.

Then there are the poor bastards who have to deal with me:

Excited entrepreneur: I would love it if you would test and review my new mobile wine app!
Me: Is it for Android?
Apprehensive entrepreneur: Um, no… iPhone.
Me: Really? There are two major platforms, and you only make it available to the lesser one. Why the fuck would you do that? Let me know if you ever get serious about this.
Slightly angry but flustered entrepreneur: Er, um, well we’re still developing it.
Me: Yeah, whatever. Let me know when it actually exists.

As you can see, there is a very good reason that Amy takes care of most of the correspondence related to this site. It’s not that she doesn’t think that the person is as big of a fool as I do, it’s just that she tactfully keeps the door open to the possibility that they may wise up eventually. She may be right, but so far I believe that there has been exactly one person who actually did go on to create the Android app. One thing both of us are right about is that anyone who ignores the most popular phone operating system on the planet is an iDiot.

This post isn’t about how Android is superior to iOS (although making that case is exceptionally easy). People choose products for a variety of reasons. I know that what I find to be overly restrictive might be considered simple by others. And what I call options might be confusing to someone else. I get that. Then there are people who want to be considered stylish or elite based on their choice of phones. I don’t get that quite as much, but hey, if picking up an outdated hunk of hardware available between the Dale Earnhardt car magnets and the Ed Hardy soccer mom shirts makes you feel like you are part of the hipster technical elite, who am I to say any different? The point is that people have choices when it comes to phone operating systems and only a fool would fail to take that into consideration.

Lets face it, most phone apps have few users and not many produce much revenue. If your app is for something that is kind of a niche market for say, wine perhaps, your user base is already limited. Why would you limit it further by ignoring the most popular operating system on the planet? Not only does Android command the largest market share, it is consistently grabbing more, with 550,000 new Android devices activated per day.

How big is Android’s market share? 43.3 % compared to 18.2% for Apple’s iOS. To help put Android’s growth into perspective, last year at this time Nokia’s Symbian OS held 40.9% of the world market. Today? 22.1%. Even Blackberry’s venerable RIM OS has dropped to 12%.

My harsh questions above sound a little more justified is light of those numbers, don’t they? It boggles my mind to go someplace like the Wine Blogger Conference and see people hawking their iPhone-only apps. Sure they might get a small crowd at their booth, but how do they not notice that the majority of the crowd just walks on by? Do these entrepreneurs want to be able to say that they produced an app that is widely used or do they get some kick out of being able to say that they have an iPhone app?

When you take the aforementioned numbers and combine them with the fact that Android is arguably easier to develop for, and unquestionably easier to place in the multiple markets that offer their apps while getting a whopping 54% of all mobile ad impressions, it becomes a no-brainer in my opinion that developing for just iOS is probably not a good business decision. Neither is developing for the iPhone and then telling Android users that “we’re working on it” or “we’ll have an Android app for you next year.” Guess what? If there is a demand for the product, by the time it is released someone else will have already built the Android version.

My guess is that many of these entrepreneurial types think that they will pay someone to build an app that works on the phone that they currently use. As a web developer I have heard this sentiment way too often over the years, “I don’t care about all that viewport and resolution stuff, I want it too look a certain way on MY screen!” So the guy paying the developer wants it on his iPhone first, and he’ll just have him make it work on Android later. Afterall, no one but a few hardcore geeky types use those devices anyway, right? Then after the app is released reality jumps up to abuse him like Ndamukong Suh welcoming a rookie QB to the NFL.

First they discover that there is no guarantee that their app will be approved to be sold in the only market available for iPhone apps. If accepted they find out that they have far fewer potential customers than they could have had. Being the entrepreneurial  geniuses that they are, they set out to correct their mistake and run back to their developer and ask him to make their app work for Android devices too. If the developer knows how to do so, once he stops laughing his ass off, he quotes a similar price as it cost to develop the original. More likely however, is that a new developer will need to be hired to build it from scratch.

My suggestion for anyone wanting to build a mobile wine (or any other type) app is to find a development team that can handle building one for iOS and Android simultaneously, and unless Steve drags his feet approving it, release them at the same time too. If that is too costly then the user and advertising numbers should speak for themselves.

For the record, the one person that actually did come back quickly with an Android (and also Blackberry) app was Natalie Maclean. To be honest, it was a little buggy when first downloaded and I almost uninstalled it, but being that she is a fellow wine blogger I gave her some extra time and within days there was an update that fixed every issue I had found. While I am still waiting for the perfect wine app, Natalie’s is the first one that I have tried that hasn’t made me shrug my shoulders before dumping it to reclaim the space on my Evo. While that may sound like faint praise, I don’t mean it to. I have tried a LOT of wine apps, and this is the only keeper in the bunch so far. You can find more information about her apps at:

Also, if you’re an Android fan, check out Amy’s creations for items like this swanky t-shirt:

  • Cellarmistress

    I recently downloaded “The Cork Board” several times–it is a Napa Valley application that shares reviews, videos, tips etc. I can’t navigate through it on my Android. I’ve tried many times and failed. It’s really irritating me. I even sent the creators and the official website an e-mail and they said they would look into it and I’ve gotten no help.

    • So annoying.  I think too, that those acting as consultants to the Wine industry are only advising they “Build an iPhone App!” because that’s what the consultant uses, and they just assume “If you don’t have an iPhone…” then you miss out.

      Rather than looking out for their clients, and looking to capture as many consumers as possible, the consultant is out evangelizing for their own club of phone users and truly believe they are among the majority. Herd mentality. Sad.

  • Great post – A little “ranty”, but still, you raise a major point: App developers can’t ignore the Android platform.

    We (Hello Vino) released our Android app in late October.  And… We just recently passed the 100,000 download mark!!  Even with this large audience, it’s still only 1/6 of our user base (to be fair, we launched our iPhone app in June, 2009).

    We won’t ask that you review our app. ;)  But, we will ask you to keep an eye out for our supermegahuge “2.0”, which has wine label image recognition (DM us at @HelloVino:twitter if you want a sneak peek).

    Hopefully we’re worthy enough to take up a few hundred KB on your Evo.


    The Hello Vino Team

    • Thanks, glad that you stopped by…especially since I’ve heard good things about your app but didn’t know that you had released an Android version. I will definitely give it a shot soon. Congrats on the number of downloads, that is impressive!

      You can’t be faulted for releasing your app for a single platform back in 2009, although the disparity in users by platform and the long lag for the Android app kind of shows what I’m talking about. The little green guy is showing no signs of slowing down, and I’ll be very surprised if phone OS market share doesn’t closely mirror what happened with PCs a couple of decades ago.

  • Not every market is a monopoly and just because someone doesn’t address the biggest market doesn’t mean it’s not a valid solution/opportunity.

    My company (Medical Devices) settled on an iPad solution because of ease of developing our own app that works with our CRM system.

    Not sure what you base your “fact that Android is arguably easier to develop for”.  Not an IT person myself but that’s not what I’ve heard from developers.

    Certainly, as you state, there’s a market opportunity but that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest or most profitable to address.

    • Hi Scott, thanks for posting. I don’t recall calling anyone or anything a monopoly, but you’re right that there are some instances where a single platform might make sense. I wasn’t addressing those rare situations, my points were in reference to publicly available apps that someone wanted to be widely used.

      As far as my statement about development goes, I do work in IT and am in fact a developer myself. I can tell you that the easiest platform to develop on is the one you already know, which I’m guessing is where your developers opinion comes from. Just as iOS only has one way of doing things, it also only has one way to develop an app, and essentially one way to distibute it once it is ready to distribute. There are multiple ways to develop for Android, as well as multiple ways to distribute. The devices also have way more capabilities for developers to access and take advantage of.

  • allis0n

    I have been researching the development of a mobile app for months now, specifically a wine app.  However, it has never been as entertaining, and informative, as your article.  I thoroughly enjoy your writing!

  • Pingback: Don't be a Wine Specatator | Another Wine Blog()

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