In recent times, mobile consumers across the globe have shown interest in smartphones and they have a variety of choices too. This is reflected in global smartphone shipments which have increased from 58 million in the first quarter of 2010 to more than 100 million units in the first quarter of 2011, according to a research report.
But now the question arises that are the users content just with their devices? The answer is perhaps no. They want something more and apps just provide that.
In the current scenario, mobile consumers can get free and paid applications from app stores of handset manufactures, service providers, platform based app stores and third party stores.
In India, service providers like Airtel, Vodafone, Aircel, Reliance Communication and Idea have App Stores which offer both free and paid apps across different platform like Android, Java, Windows and iOS.
These app stores have an advantage over others as they provide the users an option of operator billing — where users can buy apps and pay for them thorough their postpaid bills or get the amount deducted from prepaid balance. On the contrary, a user must have a credit card if he or she wishes to purchase any application from usual app stores.
Hence in Indian context, operator billing is a very useful feature as still the use of credit cards is still not popular in India.
Among the service providers, Idea had some time back launched its app store, the Idea Mall, for over 95 million subscribers across the country. The store is based on Ericsson’s eStore solution and currently offers 30,000 applications, mainly Java apps.
It will interesting to know that this was not the first attempt by Idea to launch an app store as it had previously partnered with Spice Digital to launch MobStore which was a hybrid between an apps and services.
Idea’s App Store, Idea Mall, currently has over 50,000 games and applications which work on different platforms and many of these applications are free for users. Also, Idea Mall is supported on over 2,000 different handsets with a spread of thousands of unique applications.
Currently, 19 categories of applications and games respectively are available at Idea mall. Some of these categories are Education, Finance, Health, Books, Travel and Utility.
During the launch of Idea Mall, Ambrish Jain, director, operations, Idea Cellular, had said, “The application store will offer a rich mobile experience through a combination of both web and mobile platforms and the store will also offer 3G applications when we launch our 3G services.”
True to Jain’s word, the Idea Mall indeed provides a rich experience compared to the app stores of other operators like Airtel, Vodafone on web in terms of their look and feel.
The most striking difference is that any web users can view all the apps that are listed on Idea Mall which is not the case with other app stores of other service providers.
If a user want to see all the apps in app stores of the other service providers they must have their handset and that too if they are the subscribers of that particular operator.
According to an Idea’s spokesperson, “Idea Mall currently supports all major OS in the Indian handset ecosystem. Majority of apps present in are supported on JAVA based feature phones to service the demand of a larger user base.”
What do consumers get?
To make app experience even better for the users, Idea has developed a unique trial system for their users to experience apps. Before they download the chosen application, Idea allows the users to test a particular app for a small duration by paying an amount as low as Rs 2.
Idea provides a long description of the app, its ratings, and screenshots before a user purchases the app. For users uncomfortable with surfing on their mobiles, the same feature is provided on Idea’s website for the user to experience.
Another interesting proposition of Idea Mall is the power given to the customers to choose the pricing mechanism that suits them the best. Users, with low usage, can choose from four different subscription options varying from a low of Rs 2 for one day to up to Rs 199 for a special plan, titled ‘Forever purchase’ which is available for high end users who are avid users and gamers.
On the future course of action, the Idea spokesperson said, “We are constantly updating our catalogue with rich domestic and international content and the endeavour is to provide a fresh and highly intuitive user interface to the users. We closely track the traffic pattern on our site to forecast the users’ preferred app and provide it to them in an easy and convenient way. “