How can developers best take advantage of the new form factor?
From a mobile developer’s point of view, the iPad is a revolution waiting to happen. The gadget’s 9.7-inch screen, allowing for glorious visuals and vastly superior touch navigation, simply can’t be duplicated in the world of phones. And because it runs the iPhone OS, it automatically opens the App Store’s 140,000 offerings to a brand new medium — giving developers a fantastic opportunity to draw attention to their titles on Apple’s overstocked shelves. With that in mind, then, I offer a few strategic ideas for developers looking to exploit the new tablet.
1) Don’t expect your iPhone hit to be a hit on the iPad. The best iPhone titles are the ones that minimize the gadget’s small screen and limited controls — hurdles that will be minimized (at least to a degree) on the bigger device. Instead, take advantage of the bigger screen by improving graphics and finding innovative ways to leverage touch and accelerometer navigation. Present more on-screen options that enhance an application’s user experience. Experiment with better sound and video if it provides a more immersive experience.
2) Don’t rush, but don’t be late. Despite all the hype, the iPad could be an epic flop. Even if there’s untapped demand for tablets — a prospect that is still uncertain — the iPad might not find an audience amid a wave of new devices from heavyweights including Dell, Lenovo and Microsoft. Plan to leverage the new form factors, but don’t spend valuable resources tweaking your app for any specific tablet until it gains some traction. But be ready to move if it does, because sitting on your hands can be costly. Just ask Glu Mobile.
3) Think about how to monetize your app. The App Store quickly became kind of massive outlet mall where most offerings are free and most of the others can be had for a buck or two. Yes, some developers have struck it rich, but many are struggling to earn a living. But users who shell out a minimum of $500 for the iPad — which is a complementary device — will be far more likely to pay a premium for quality apps. So price top-notch offerings accordingly, at least as they come to market. And aggressively embrace the kind of in-app advertising that has caught fire both in mobile and via online social networks. If tablets gain traction, tablet ads will skyrocket.
4) Cross-promote your app. It’s already exceedingly difficult to draw attention to specific titles in the App Store, and it will get tougher if the iPad takes off. So use your smartphone apps to tell users why they should take a look at your tablet apps, too.
5) If you’re not already writing for the Mac, use the iPad as a springboard. Apple’s new tablet has been described as “a Trojan horse for Mac development” because it presents a new platform to the user without forcing developers to learn anything new. That feature opens the door for Apple to essentially develop a single OS and tweak it for specific devices while the development process relatively seamless across platforms. That strategy mirrors Google’s plans for the Androidification of everything. And it offers developers a second attractive way to deploy apps across a broad variety of devices.