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HTC could miss out on holiday sales, faces US ban

by Kristen Nicole

Google’s Android platform reached 46 percent market share for October, says a recent comScore report, while Apple stayed steady around 28 percent. While iOS got a tiny bump from international iPhone 4S sales, Android’s ongoing success can be attributed to several factors, the most prevalent being the fact that there’s no shortage of Android-powered handsets flooding the global market. In China, a Huawei Android phone costs as low as $20, while carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile subsidize Android 2.3 Gingerbread device costs in the US with contract deals. There’s plenty of hype building around the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, as well as the extended potential behind Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which could deliver the Motorola Droid 4 before the holiday season ends.

But for HTC, popularity has its price. The Taiwanese device maker has shipped more than 5.7 million smartphones to the US last quarter, according to Canalys, topping Samsung and Apple as the country’s leading smartphone vendor. But now HTC faces Apple’s wrath in the form of an import ban. The six-member panel at the International Trade Commission in Washington will rule on the ban Tuesday, Dec. 6. Dealing with the same legal woes as Samsung, HTC is one of the Android OEMs being targeted by Google rivals. In July, an ITC administrative law judge determined that HTC’s phones had violated two Apple patents, downplaying an earlier acquisition HTC made to beef up its patent portfolio. This sets a bad precedent for HTC, which could lose out on holiday season sales should tomorrow’s ruling go in Apple’s favor.

The rise (and fall) of mobile apps

With the rise of mobile devices comes the rise of mobile apps, and the marketplace as a whole is on the verge of reaching a major milestone. According to Mobilewalla, mobile apps across the major platforms are inching towards one million. At the time of Mobilewalla’s report last week, mobile apps totaled 987,863. The number has since grown to 995,171, according to PCMag. “This is truly an astonishing accomplishment that cannot be ignored,” says Anindya Datta, Mobilewalla's founder and executive chairman.

But as we know, not all apps are good apps. Last week uncovered the dark side of pre-installed apps on various Android devices, and this week brings to light another recent app phenomenon: sneaky mobile ads. PCWorld notes a growing trend around Android apps that come with software to place marketing icons on your phone’s start screen and notification bar, with little or no warning. Firms like AirPush, Appenda and Moolah Media are just a few of the companies behind the new forms of marketing campaigns, working with developers willing to diversify their ad efforts to generate more revenue. These push notification and icon ads are garnering the expected amount of backlash, confusing consumers all the while.

Though there’s growing privacy and security concerns for Android devices in particular, the backlash against these new ad forms will likely have little impact on the emerging industry. The future of mobile ads seems to take on the seemingly intrusive nature of web ads, and with a lucrative business in the making, ad companies and willing app makers are unlikely to slow down. According to AirPush, an Android app maker can earn $6 to $12 for every 1000 push notification ads delivered to handsets, compared to a meager 20 cents to $1 for mobile banner ads. But such rapid expansion of new ad forms will also prompt some industry standardization. The question of how best to manage this new market remains: should advertisers disclose push notifications and icon ads before an end-user downloads the associated app? Should they be opt-in only? It seems the line between useful shortcuts and annoying ads is blurring in the mobile realm as an entire industry vies for the attention of consumers.