<Insert Controversial Symbian Title Here>
• They are too niche – As out of touch with youth culture as I know I am, I’m pretty certain that even the nerdy kids in the playground haven’t been downloading SSH clients, file managers or secure data storage apps. Whilst all of these apps are very useful to some people, they could not in any shape of form be described as mass-market and I’ll wager that 90% of the folks who’ve bought them are in some way linked to the Symbian ‘ecosystem’ (that’s £10 in the marketing bullshit swear-jar for me). There are some really neat things which can be done in Symbian, and the potential exists for apps which could go really mass market.
• They are Sudoku – There are 50 different versions of Sudoku for Symbian phones available on Handango, some by pretty decently sized developers! Don’t waste time doing an application which can (and will) be also being written by every 1st year computer science undergrad from Cambridge to Shanghai.
• The apps are too expensive – The average price of a Symbian application on Handango? $19.99 and they range all the way up to 70-80 bucks! Even the various Sudoku versions have an average price of $6! I know that you’re often getting a fair amount of code for cashola, and I do understand the costs involved in software development, but the average consumer sees prices like these and runs in the other direction very fast. If you tell them they’ve gotta use a credit card to purchase it they’ll run even faster. Try it.
• PC Synching – Leading on from the point above, app delivery HAS to be OTA. This whole monkey business about downloading a SIS file to your PC and then bluetoothing it across is too much for your average Joe. Hell it’s too much for most of the software developers I know – hands up if you’ve experienced problems sending software to your phone from your PC. I think I’ve made my point.
• Operators don’t sell them – Are there any operators selling native applications? I did a quick check on a couple of UK operator portals using a Symbian handset lying around on my desk and couldn’t find any. I know the operators take half the cash for what seems to be little of the work, but something in the region of 90% of Java apps are currently sold via the operator decks. The operators hold all the cards here, not just because of product discovery but also as they have the simplest billing method – you click on it, you’ve bought it, they text you the download link. Imagine Vodafone offering to send you a link to download a ZIP file…
If you're an organically grown Symbian developer who's successfully developing targeted applications for a specific sector congratulations. I fully admit that there are a number of verticals in which Symbian app development can be very lucrative, the enterprise market being a case in point especially with Nokia's agressive push into this area. However if you're a VC funded developer who's drunk the Nokia/Symbian Kool Aid (another £10 in the jar) and is burning cash waiting for the mass market to appear, perhaps its time to think about other approaches.