Competition in the mobile industry has gotten so intense during the past 2 years that it’s becoming virtually impossible to find categories or even sub categories that aren’t over inflated with competitors. Game categories are long gone, and no utility categories are now free of strong competition. In fact, competition in the app stores is so intense, that even sub-sub-categories are now packed with more than a few options for any user to install. The Lock Screen market, reasonably quiet until 2012, is no different now.
Lock Screen apps allow users to change, edit and customize their Lock Screen, providing quick access to different tools, apps and social media, without having to unlock their phone. The average lock screen app will offer direct access from the home screen button to text, call, email, take pictures and use any other popular tool. Most Lock Screen services enable news feed from all social media sources as well as top global content providers (news, sport, music, etc). In addition, lock screen apps provide access to at least 10-15 more apps, at the user’s discretion, from the home screen.
Until last year, many companies and service providers tried their luck with building a product that will become a market leader. As technology progressed, so did the number of competitors. Currently over 200 different Lock Screen apps are available on Google Play, and as Apple does not allow any Lock Screen products to exist on iOS, the competition is at its peak. If that wasn’t enough, big companies, such as Conduit have entered the field in hopes to become a genuine player, attract users and integrate other services they provide their mobile users. However, an average user will find little difference between the abilities of 80% of the lock screen apps, leaving the entire field without a natural market leader. An increasing number of categories and sub-categories in the app stores suffer from the same situation.
The number of mobile devices is growing, true. The number of similar apps an average developer has to compete with is growing even faster. So, how can a developer in the lock screen market, or any other market for that matter, succeed in gaining a critical mass of loyal users? The answer, it appears, is not in Google Play. A highly fragmented marker requires a different approach. In these over competiative markets, a developer’s true challenge is to choose the right path – either differentiate his product from his competitors in a big way, or generate business opportunities that will distribute his app much faster than the rest.
The personalization category in general and specifically the Lock Screen arena who became a highly competitive market during 2011-2012 give us good examples of companies trying to approach their business to a different angle:
Product wise, Everything.me, a launcher with some lock screen atributes, has launched a service truly different from the rest, as it changes the entire smartphone theme according to the user preference and content use. With a true innovative angel on personalization but with no guarantee of success, this app at least has now better chances of maximizing its marketing efforts and reaching the audience.
From the business angle, 2 companies decided to focus their efforts on other businesses. Widdit provides a service that allows other content related apps to implement Widdit’s SDK to create their own Lock Screen experience, thus increasing user engagement. It is a complete White label solution, which creates a second channel of distribution. This sollution may fits many content providers.
The biggest endeavor on the business end comes from Celltick, a veteran content solution provider for low-end and feature phones, which launched its own B2B product, Start, this summer. Celltick made a strategic decision early on and to focus its efforts mainly in the B2B market. During the past six months, Celltick not only signed two strategic white label agreement with ESPN and Yahoo who will now offer ‘Start’ as their own service, but also signed partnership with a major Chinese phone manufacturer (yet to be disclosed). In the carrier section Celltick used its over 10 year long raletionships with carriers and signed distribution agreements with America Movil, AIS (Thailand), Airtel & Vodafone (India), in which the Carrier will offer the lock Screen service as a default solution, accompanied with a quick costumer service access.
With partnerships and distribution taking longer than expected and with neither of these companies to gain priority over the rest, 2014 can become a critical year for many of the competitors in the Lock Screen market. Those who have enough money and resources to invest in marketing on Google Play, may exist to fight another day. However, those who have yet to find alternative ways of distribution will not be able to create a viable business model.
With all this said, one huge question mark is hanging over all the players in this field – Facebook. The social media giant who launched Facebook Home with somewhat negative feedbacks has yet to say the last word. A new service to be provided by Facebook and offer additional services, as the the rest do, may change the entire Lock Screen market for good. However, until that happens, Lock Screen market reflects the classic mobile developer’s challenge – with over a Million apps in each app stores and distribution being the main issue to solve, there are only 3 ways to beat your competitors – invest huge sums of money in marketing, create a truly unique app that offers something new or partner with others to distribute your app. Without choosing one of these paths, chances are your app will remain anonymous.
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