January 20, 2011, 11:37 AM

Retailers developing apps must pay heed to Android as well as the iPhone, expert says

Marketers and developers need to know the similarities and differences of the popular smartphones.

Lead Photo

Ken McDonald

As BlackBerry continues to drop in smartphone market share, the iPhone and Android are fighting for supremacy. That means retailers designing mobile apps need to break their sharp, sometimes exclusive, focus on iPhone development and ensure they also target the increasing base of Android users, m-commerce experts say.

In a session entitled “What you need to know about Androids” between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on June 17 at the 2011 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, Ken McDonald, vice president of marketing at LifePics, will discuss the ins and outs of the Android mobile operating system and the devices on which it runs, and dig into the differences between Android and its No. 1 rival the iPhone.

“Even with the iPhone coming to Verizon, it is pretty clear that the smartphone market is going to be dominated in the short run by both Android and the iPhone,” McDonald says. “At the same time, there are some critical differences between the platforms. For example, the process of getting an app approved for download on each platform is very different.”

He says the main difference is that Apple Inc. tightly controls new apps. “They test each app and can reject or delay your app for a variety of reasons ranging from technical issues to legal concerns,” McDonald explains. “Google has a much looser process that basically means that almost anyone can get their app in their marketplace.”

Attendees at the session will learn best practices in app development so they can be prepared to dive into the Android realm, McDonald says.

“I plan to go through the best practices for developing and marketing apps for the iPhone versus Android, speaking to where the best practices are the same and where they differ by platform,” he says.

Managing app ratings is one example of where they are the same, McDonald says. “Once your app is out, users can submit a rating about your app and everyone else sees that before they download your app,” he says. “As such, ratings are critical to your success. On both platforms it is critical to pay close attention to what consumers are saying, modify your app to respond to feedback and encourage favorable ratings.”

One example of where platform best practices vary, and vary quite a bit, is hardware capabilities, McDonald adds.

“On the iPhone there are just a couple phones and one tablet,” he explains. “As such, you can quickly test your app on all the major devices and see how the app works particularly with regard to how the app looks on that size screen. On the Android, there are so many different phones—and soon to be a ton of tablets—that you need to put a lot of up-front design in making the user interface flexible, whether someone has a small screen or a large screen, a physical keyboard or no keyboard.”

Internet Retailer’s editors asked McDonald to speak because he has been with LifePics, which provides photo-finishing services to consumers and retailers, for more than six years. He oversees all marketing and manages a team that supports LifePics’ consumers, professional photographers and retailers. LifePics runs 5,000 web sites and has millions of consumers. McDonald previously spent five years at Oracle where he helped drive Oracle’s e-commerce initiatives. He has also worked at Sequel Venture Partners, investing in software companies, and has been on start-up teams of two software companies, Topica and Open Horizon.

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