The importance of Carrier Billing

Last week when looking at the increasing popularity of carrier billing I noticed that the percent of purchases made through carrier billing was larger then the percent of customers who had access to carrier billing. A quick look at the number for December then showed that users of AT&T were more then twice as likely to upgrade from Pixelated to Pixelated Plus then users from Verizon, Sprint, and T-mobile.

I attributed this difference to having the option of carrier billing, but AT&T is also the only one of these carriers to offer RIM’s flagship BlackBerry Torch. In order to double check these assumptions I looked at the three largest Canadian carriers who all offer the Torch, and only one (Telus) offers carrier billing through AppWorld.

In the interest of not actually reveling upgrade rates, the below chart instead shows rates normalized to the rate at Verizon, such that Verizon is always 1.0 and carriers with a higher upgrade rate show values higher then one. Additionally this is not a true measure of upgrade rates but a value of paid downloads over free downloads which is good enough to normalize the amount of purchases over the relative size of the carriers. This data is from the month of January.

As the chart shows the two wireless providers that offer carrier billing through AppWorld have roughly double the percentage of customers who are willing to spend money on an upgrade. As such one of the best things that RIM can do to help developers is to get more providers on board with carrier billing.

Hockey Scores updated to version 2.5

The Hockey Scores BlackBerry Application has been updated to version 2.5 this weekend. This version fixes a bug so you can once again see the goal scorers in the game, and also includes improvements to some of the team logo graphics.

In-Application Payments

You can still make an optional in-application payment to remove the advertising from this application. This application’s use of this feature was recently highlighted on the official Inside BlackBerry Blog.

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Call-A-Human updated to version 1.2

The Call-A-Human application has been updated to version 1.2 with expanded listings, and updates to some current ones. This application allows you to easily call straight to a customer service person at hundreds of companies without having to go through the hassle of going through a phone tree. The application also includes a built in search field, and for BlackBerry devices running OS 6.0 or higher it integrates with universal search so you can just start typing without even opening the application.

Efficiency Improvements

Using this application is far faster then manually going through the phone menus or even just pounding zero. The first three columns in the chart shows the time (in seconds) it takes to get to an actual human by using the menu, by just hitting zero, and by using the Call-A-Human application. The final two columns show the percent increase in efficiency that the application provides.

Corporation Phone Menu Zero Strategy Call-A Human Efficiency (menu) Efficiency (zero)
American Eagle 44 17 14 214% 21%
FedEx 136 35 14 871% 150%
Hertz 33 24 18 83% 33%
Mutual of Omaha 31 18 17 82% 6%
Norwegian Cruise Line 32 11 11 191% 0%
RBC 72 33 14 414% 136%
Time Warner Cable 60 36 26 131% 38%
US Bank 62 40 18 244% 122%
WalMart 56 XXX 11 409% ∞%

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Carrier Billing increasing in popularity

Carrier billing has increased from account for just 3.5% of sales in August, to 17.5% of sales in December. This method of buying applications so far is proving to be very popular, and will only continue to increase in popularity as the option becomes available through more wireless carriers.

During this time frame carrier billing was available only to customers of AT&T which has made these BlackBerry users more likely to purchase applications. In December 2010 the upgrade rate from the free version of Pixelated to Pixelated Plus among customers on AT&T’s network were over twice the rate of customers of Verizon, and T-Mobile (USA), and over three times the rate of customers on Sprint network. As such RIM adding more partners for carrier billing is great news for developers.

Version 2.5 of Pixelated Plus released

Pixelated Plus has now been updated to version 2.5 and is available for download through BlackBerry AppWorld.

As previously announced, this new version of Pixelated Plus adds support for the upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook. Additionally improvements were made to navigating the application on trackpad devices, as well as some other minor improvements and bug fixes.

Improved trackpad navigation

For users navigating Pixelated Plus with a trackpad or trackball rather then a touchscreen, version 2.5 adds a number of navigation improvements. First you can now scroll up and down on the trackpad to move the colour selector in the game. While at first this may not seems as intuitive as scrolling left and right, many users feel scrolling up and down is a more natural motion. Additionally after a game is over you can now use keyboard shortcuts to decide between replaying the same game or starting a new game.

BlackBerry PlayBook

In Version 2.5 of Pixelated Plus support has also been added for RIM’s upcoming tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Customers who have already bought Pixelated Plus on their BlackBerry will be able to download the application to their PlayBooks without having to repurchase the game.

About Pixelated

Pixelated is currently the second most popular game in BlackBerry AppWorld, and is an addicting puzzle based strategy game that requires a mixture of skill and luck in order to accomplish.

The object of the game is to change the colour of the squares until the entire screen is a single solid colour. Starting with the square in the upper left corner you can change the colour of the blocks in order to match that of the surrounding squares. This is done repeatedly until the entire screen is a single colour.

The object of the game is to clear the screen in as few moves as possible. Under the default settings you must do so in under 22 moves in order to win.

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Version 1.2 of Xploding Boxes

This weekend Xploding Boxes has been updated to version 1.2 adding 10 new levels to the game, bringing the total number of levels up to 130.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes (also known as Exploding Boxes) is a strategy game for BlackBerry where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of clicks, and requires a different strategy to solve. The first 25 levels are free, while the rest of the levels can be accessed by making an in-application payment.

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RIM taking steps to prevent BBM pin spam

Back in January I complained about how the reviews in BlackBerry AppWorld were beginning to be overrun with people posting their BBM pin rather than leaving useful reviews of the applications. At the time I proposed that RIM filter out reviews in the same manner that they filter out curse words.

In the past two weeks it has appeared that RIM has begun to do this. While some pin spam is still getting through, around 80% of the reviews that include a pin have been automatically denied. Hopefully this is enough that it will discourage the whole culture of trolling for BBM contacts in application reviews. Then when looking for new applications, users will have actually relevant reviews to look at instead.

10 months of BlackBerry OS usage

Usage of OS 6.0 in February was only up slightly from the month before. The increase was only a little under 1.4% and the growth of OS 5.0+ was even smaller. RIM is continuing to not make these upgrades as much as a priority as they should, and it is looking doubtful that there will be any more significant growth until OS 6.1 is released this summer.

This data is taken from downloads of the popular BlackBerry strategy game Pixelated. Data starts from the release of version 2.0 in April of 2010, and goes through the end of last month.

Why Android development is not a priority

The last few weeks have seen a lot of attention given to a report from IHS Screen Digest giving the overall amount of revenue being generated through Apple’s AppStore, RIM’s AppWorld, and Google’s Android Market. While Apple’s store is far and away larger then the others, what I found interesting is how BlackBerry AppWorld continues to generate significantly more revenue then Android’s market, and gave some numerical confirmation to some gut feelings I had in regards to the Android ecosystem.

Given Android’s growth over the past year, many people have suggested that I spend some time developing for the platform. However there does not appear to be as much of a market there as one would think based on the number of devices sold. As shown in the above chart significantly more money was spent on BlackBerry applications despite there being more applications available for Android. Not only does the platform have a reputation for mostly free applications, as shown in the below chart even the paid applications are not making as much money.

Jeff Bacon compared these numbers based on the number of applications in each store. The most interesting of these comparisons is revenue per paid application as show in the chart below.

Not only does RIM do much better then all other platforms, but Android in particular does exceptionally poorly. By not including the free applications, you can see that Android’s problem is not only an expectation of free, but that the paid applications to do exist, are not making all that much money either.

As such, while Android remains an interesting platform, there is no compelling reason to focus on it when such work would have to come at the expense of BlackBerry development.

See also Is Android the new Linux?

New Simple Dice application

New this week in BlackBerry AppWorld is our Simple Dice application, that true to its name is just a simple virtual die that you can have on your phone. This free application is handy if you need a die to play a game, or just need to have a random number between one and six.

This application is available on all touch screen BlackBerrys including the Storm 9500, 9520, 9530, and 9550, as well as the Torch 9800.

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Just two commands

Apparently in the last week there has been a lot of complaining about how hard it is to compile and package applications for the BlackBerry PlayBook. However all of this is just two commands. They are amxmlc and blackberry-airpackager -package -installApp -launchApp along with a few variables. It really is that easy, and any time that RIM spends trying to simplify that further is just time wasted, while the PlayBook is already taking long enough to get released.

Instead however RIM is apparently more interested in catering to random whiners who have never developed an app then working on features that would be of actual use to real developers.