Photo: Terry Johnston via Flickr
If you’re an app developer, which platforms should you build for?According to Evernote CEO Phil Libin, who spoke at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit last night, native Mac apps keep users engaged and spending money on premium add-ons for the longest.
But the best bang for your buck comes from iOS apps. Creating free Web apps is the worst deal, and other platforms fall in the middle.
Evernote offers a way for users to store digital artifacts like notes and photos for later use. The company uses the freemium business model, giving away basic service for free and converting users to paid services later on.
Evernote signed its first users up in March 2008, and has offered native apps on every major mobile and computer platform, as well as a Web app. Today, the company has nearly 9 million registered users, with about 28,000 checking in every day.
Here’s what the company has discovered:
- To reach lots of uses, iOS or Web is best. Most Evernote users access the service from multiple platforms, but taking all visits and normalizing them to 100%, iOS is the most popular with 32% of users. That’s followed by Web (25%), Windows (18%), Android (12%), BlackBerry (2%) and the old Windows Mobile platform (1%).
- To retain users who will spend money, a native Mac app is best. Retention and long-term spending was highest for Mac users — particularly since the introduction of the Mac App store earlier this year. That’s followed by iOS, Android, and Windows. The other mobile platforms were quite a bit smaller.
- Don’t ignore native apps. Native apps are harder to write and take longer, but they pay much better over the long run. Evernote’s Web app had the worst performance by far for long-term retention and spend — customers who come to a free online service just aren’t that committed to it.
- iOS offers the biggest bang for your buck. When measured by developer time, iOS attracts the most users and most money per developer-year.
Libin also pointed out that digital information services like Evernote are unique because users are willing to pay more for them the longer they stay on board — the perceived value goes up over time. This is exact opposite of most businesses — a restaurant meal or car loses value, while subscription services like newspapers or cable TV stay at a constant value.
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