J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life with coffee spoons. Mine – or a good part of it in recent years – has been measured out in operator KPIs and service provider statistics, usually involving the word “billions” or “millions”. Indeed, there is an analyst rule of thumb that states that when a particular KPI is released, the company concerned is satisfied that, for the indicator in question, uptake/downloads/sales have reached a critical mass and they would rather like you to know about it; conversely, when those volumes are not quite so pretty, the company in question doesn’t whip out the megaphone and shout the numbers from the hilltop (or put out a press release, which is more the accepted way of doing things nowadays). Perhaps the most interesting examples are those companies – no names, no packdrill – which find that a service which has been doing rather well (see press release dated…) suddenly find that demand has flatlined or, worse still, gone into decline, at which point it’s all quiet on the PR front.
Since the launch of the App Store, it’s all gone rather well at Apple, and so we’ve been deluged with information on a fairly regular basis (not that I’m complaining – this is, after all, my bread and butter). Perhaps understandably, data from other storefronts has been conspicuous by its paucity: this given the leviathan that they were up against, and the fact that said leviathan had one billion apps in its back pocket before their own stores had opened for business.
In these circumstances, “one million downloads” – the number of downloads attained by Nokia’s Ovi Maps - seems, on the face of it, a somewhat modest achievement. Only, however, on the face of it. To begin with, Nokia achieved the one million download mark within a week of launch, reaching 1.4 million within two weeks
. Even for a free app, this is rapid progress: while Waterslide Extreme clocked two million in its first week on the iPhone last year, this was very much an exceptional case, and only a handful of other apps (all, I believe, for the iPhone) have matched or exceeded Ovi Maps’ download levels in their first seven days.
Secondly, Ovi Maps is only available on a comparatively small number of Nokia smartphone models. (I know this because I tried to download it from the Ovi Store, got very annoyed with the interface and then finally read the part of the press release which listed compatible handsets and found that mine wasn’t among them.)
Thirdly – and this is crucial – when consumers decide buy a Nokia smartphone, access to the Ovi Store has not been a primary consideration in their decision-making process. Good Internet access? Probably. Nice camera? Possibly. Multimedia capabilities? Possibly. Ovi Store? No. Now contrast this with the iPhone 3G and 3GS, where the App Store is very much key to the success of the device: it has a great user interface, but it also offers easy access to a store packed with lots of goodies to play with. If you have an iPhone 3GS, you will have visited the App Store at least once, and probably on numerous occasions; if you have a Nokia smartphone, well, the correlation isn’t there.
With Apple, it’s the appeal of the store that’s driving users to the apps; with Nokia, it’s the individual app that’s driving users to the store.
For Nokia, this will hopefully result in further, wider traction on the Ovi Store; the challenge facing the vendor is to make the in-store experience more user-friendly so that repeat usage levels are higher, and to expand the range of content on offer. If that happens, my life may yet be measured out in a few more statistics from Nokia in the coming months.