Apr 6th, 2008

At this year’s CTIA Wireless conference there was plenty of interesting news, but something we found particularly interesting was the types of mobile applications being offered. More specifically, services that will cost you money when an Android application will likely do the same thing for free in the very near future.

Take, for example, Verizon Wireless’ Friend Finding service offered by Loopt.  The opt-in program allows you to broadcast GPS location to friends and family members that you accept and you can receive alerts when someone on your list is within a certain distance. When Android was first announced, this feature was among the first to be discussed as an “obvious fit” for the platform and you can bet there are plenty of developers working on the application as we speak. And, you can bet you’ll be able to get your hands on at least one for free.

If these mobile software companies were smart, they would begin to refocus their energies on free applications that run on Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, etc… which they are also somehow able to monetize. In my mind, that is where the real value for both consumers and businesses will see the largest growth.

But instead, you see announcement after announcement about paid mobile applications that seem destined for extinction in the very near future. Talk about a short product life cycle? Android might kill the hopes of many of these software guys whose paid service becomes free via a different source.

Another example is Kajeet. The company uses GPS tracking to allow parents to sign online and view a map of their child’s current location. The first 3 months are free and then the fee is $9.99 per month. An Android equivalent will probably be free for the first 3 months.. and the second 3 months… on and on and on.

Affle is brightening up your text messages with what they call SMS 2.0, allowing users to customize them with background colors, text colors and fonts. It is supported with little scrolling ads that run in the corner of the text messages. This is a little more on the track of “getting it” but we’re guessing a free “customized tech” service will launch and Android. And if it isn’t already being developed…. listen… that’s the sound of developers right now rushing out to copy the idea.

The most successful developers will be the ones who can balance great mobile phone software CONCEPTS with creative ways to monetize their use without being intrusive to the user. For example, the ability to easily order food for delivery/pickup through  your mobile phone would be amazing… and if the creator worked in a simple way to receive a commission for every order placed through their system – BINGO. Get it done folks.

Surely, Android will see it’s fair share of software packages that will only be downloadable for a fee. But many of the existing mobile software companies are going to need to rethink their strategies.

When Android is first released to the wild they will be in the extreme minority. But as more and more people realize the doors that Android opens and they see the free services and features they can get with Android that they are currently paying for… the inevitable switch will occur.

It’s a new age folks. It’s the Android era. Someone tell these software companies to get their act together… time to open up your Android divisions, folks.