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Discussion Video: Ramon Pastor talks about mobile apps development at Philippine Tech Startups Meetup 3 at Ubertor/OTD Offices, BGC, Taguig


Ramon Pastor of Numlock Solutions talks about the mobile app market and development in the Philippines.

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Part I

What does the company do?

Just a short introduction on what we do, I am the managing partner of numlock solutions, We're into Iphone and Android applications, So the first app was released last 2009 was wallet wiz, Its in the appstore. It is a budgeting app, A personal budgeting app. There is also a free version called Wiz Lite. Later that year we also released Desk Wiz which is a digital photo frame/ Music player which basically replace your digital photo frames, it is also for the Iphone, also available in the Appstore. We also released Mind mash which is there on the first day of the Ipad launch. Even though i didn't have an ipad that time, i really took the risk, I used the simulator and I simulated it out even testing it on a device. It was fun! Recently the Street Mart is our first multi platform app for both Iphone and Android, Street Mart is a user contributed traffic  reporting app. Users contribute traffic reports and you can view it on a map and you can view it in list as well. At the same time we also display the twitter stream of MMDA because they also tweet very useful traffic information. For clients, in our App last year, Does New York love you back, Its like Foursquare but centralized in New York City. We refined the back and we did the mobile app for them for Filipino in new york.


What other apps have you developed?


We also did two apps for Globe last year, They are talk to Globe and Globe services. Talk to globe is an app that Globe asks us to develop so that customers could complain to them. They are asking for it. For the iphone 4 launch, they asked us to do Globe Services, which is, using the Iphone 4 or using the stuff that IOS, taking advantage for the new stuff in IOS 4, like the sms facilities, you can subscribe to postpaid, prepaid and super plan offers, at the same tie you can view the nearest hotspots and Globe Stores.
 

Can you tell us more about the mobile apps. industry?

Today I will try to talk about developing mobile apps. Android and Iphone, the two juggernauts in the app industry right now. Honestly, mobile apps have been around for some time.  But it wasn't until Apple opened the appstore and people started downloading apps by the millions that people stood up and took notice, Hey there's a budding industry here. It was so easy to download apps. To buy apps whether, to download it free or to download it for certain amounts of money. That's why mobile apps in the industry, even though it is young here in the Philippines internationally, its growing in a staggering rate. 


What are some of the popular apps?

 A couple of well known apps: Angry Birds. If you are in IOS, Iphone, Ipad.. everybody knows Angry Birds. It is one of the most popular games on the platform.  

Let us not forget about the Android, Robu defense is one of the most popular android game released on 2009. The free version has been downloaded 11 million times as of late last year. The paid version around 500 thousand times. Not Angry birds and Doodle level but 500 thousand downloads is still 500 thousand downloads so it's a lot. 


 Can you tell us about PicSay? What does it do?

PicSay is an image editing application on your android phone. Can you imagine that? A few years ago editing photos on the desktop was fairly standard and now you can do it on your phone! It's amazing! The free version has been downloaded 4 million times and the paid version has been downloaded 100 thousand times. Pretty good figures not phenomenal but pretty good.


How popular are mobile phones becoming?


These figures were released last year. Maybe towards the middle of the year. February 2010 there were 4.6 Billion mobile phone subscription in use on a planet of 6.8 Billion people. Can you imagine that? Almost 5 Billion smart phones for almost 7 billion people. That is 5 every 7 people has a mobile phone. 

 

Part II

What are the predictions regarding smart phones?

They are predicting by 2012, smart phones would over take PC shipments. So smart phones is a sub category of mobile phones which are basically more powerful versions of your regular phones and that's what mobile apps are running on these days. In 2009 there were actually 100 million smart phone users. By 2013 they are predicting that there would be 1 billion! That's crazy. 1 billion out of 8 billion people or maybe less. So 1 out of 8 people in the world will have a smart phone. In 2009, 173.5 Million smartphone sales, 2010, 269.6 Million, so there is an incredible growth in smart phone sale. So that is the hardware. The platform where the mobile app runs.


What about the predictions for market and revenues for smart phone apps?


In 2009 the revenues for smart phone apps, 1.7 billion, so far August 2010, that was just 8 months. 2.2 billion so it is a growing market. It is a very big market and it is just going to grow even bigger in the future. Like what they said, it could reach 15 billion dollars by 2013. This is one market that I think a lot of people would want to be in. 4. 5 billion in 2009 and 25 billion in 2015. Another, or a different company release the projections. They are very optimistic about the mobile app market. 7 billion downloads of apps in 2009, 50 billion downloads by 2012, thats almost times 2 in a matter of 3 years. These are just projections, they might be optimistic, the might be even be pessimistic. No one predicted the growth of mobile apps  a few years ago. I mean, if you are going to ask a normal user of smart phones a few years ago, What apps do you have in your phone? maybe they would have one, two, or three. in my Nokia61 I have maybe 3 or 4 apps, but now on my iphone I have more than a 100 apps! I mean it's crazy.


How do you start developing you mobile apps and what platform would you suggest?


Of course you have to have your platform. Numlock is active in the Apple app store and active on IOS. We are starting to be active on Android though the streets marts since it has a tie-up with Globe, there is an agreement that they can exclusively distribute the app. Street mart for the Android. So as a personal choice, I chose Apple and Google Android. Remember, Apple is not the number one platform, worldwide. It is not even Blackberry, but Blackberry is a player with the blackberry app world. Nokia is the number one smart phone platform worldwide. Although they have not taken advantage of the developers, the platform is there. So you can signed up with the Nokia Ovi store. Pal was a big player 10 years ago. Palm Pre. Palm 3, the series of PDAs. Now they are a small player, but they have a very nice platform. If you want to take the risk, and recently the HP bought them. So they have the HP juggernaut behind them. So If you want to take the risk, go with the HP Palm, You can sign up for the Palm app Catalogue. We can never discount Microsoft. Windows CE was the darling of the mobile industry a few years back as well. I have this before and I loved it. But after Apple released the Iphone, after Android surged, they became forgotten. Recently they launched an outstanding platform, Windows phone 7. If you are a Microsoft guy, check it out.


So how do you start? What tools do you need?


For Apple, you have the IOSSDK and a MAC. So there is no way around it. If you want to develop for Apple, for IOS you need a Mac. For Android, you can choose your platform, Linux, Mac or windows and use Eclipse. Not only for Android but also for Blackberry and for Palm. That's the recommended setup. Eclipse plus any of those platforms. Nokia for the Qt SDK for the OVI store, any platform plus the Qt SDK.  Windows phone developer tools, requires Microsoft windows. You have a lot of choice, it is really up to you.


What are the differences in developing for the web and developing for mobile phones?


Devices. Here is the one big difference for developing for the web and developing for mobile. Actually when numlock started was starting in 2008, we were a web company. One of our partners, she was a PHP MySql veteran, we envision ourselves as a web company when  we started out. But after a few months we decided to do mobile.  One big difference  is that you have to invest to test devices. It would take up a big portion of your budget, no way around it. Unless of course you sign up to sites like device anywhere which provides outsource on device testing. But of course, there is nothing better in testing it in an actual device. if you thought that multi - browsers was difficult, can  you imagine multi devices. IOS is relatively easy. You only think about three devices: iphone, ipad, ipod touch. The Iphone and the Ipod Touch, The specs are normally parallel. The Iphone 4 for is with high resolution is another factor to consider. Android, there are tons of devices.  From the China - knock offs, A pad, The E pad, all those non - ipads, all the way to of course the Galaxy tab, as of now, the most lust worthy,  Android tablet in the market. You have the tons of tablets being introduced in CES, some run Android, some run on Windows. Although that is not the windows mobile, that is the windows desktop platform. Blackberry, lots of devices as well, but the selection is quite limited. So it's up to you. Meego, Symbian, Maemo, are all Nokia Platforms. Although If I am not mistaken, they have chosen Meego as a platform of choice moving forward. Palm Web OS and windows phone 7. So when you choose a platform, you invest to test device, and you go with it.


What can you say about the mobile developers in the Philippines? What about the start ups?


To be honest, the mobile developers in the Philippines, there a few companies that are dedicated to mobile development. Some of the big companies who started with the other platforms, they are also moving to mobile, or expanding into mobile. But among the startups, there are very few, mostly free lancers and entrepreneurs. Sometimes you need help, you have questions, I am actually a founding member of the Philippine Mobile Developers group. We are a small group. We're composed of developers enthusiast. You can sign up with google groups or Facebook group or find us in twitter.