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Feature phone apps set for strong growth

App adoption is sinking down to the feature phone range of handsets, with the global market for feature phone apps set to double to $1bn by 2016.

Telecoms analyst Ovum said Tuesday that while the feature phone apps market has not taken off in the same way as its smartphone counterpart, it is beginning to take strides forward. Improvements that have made both developing and publishing feature phone apps easier, the larger size of the market and reduced competition mean that the sector has the potential to be more lucrative for some developers than the intensely competitive smartphone sector.

Ovum analyst, Nick Dillon, said: “While feature phone users vastly outnumber smartphone users, the apps market hasn’t taken off in the same way. This is largely because it has lacked the distribution channels to enable widespread adoption.

“However, inspired by the success of apps in the smartphone market, the options have improved drastically, with many larger handset manufacturers, operators and third parties now offering improved distribution programmes for feature phones.”

Addressing the feature phone market is not as easy as the smartphone market, but has the potential to be more lucrative for some developers. The larger size of the market combined with higher barriers to entry means that there is less competition than in the smartphone market.

JavaME software is the best option for developing feature phone apps, but Nokia web widgets and Opera Mini widgets also enable simple applications using web technologies, Ovum said. In addition, options for web development will be further improved by the introduction of HTML5-capable browsers, which Ovum anticipates will become widespread on feature phones in the next 12–18 months.

According to Ovum, the number of feature phones worldwide will reach 2.3 billion in 2016, when they will continue to dominate the market, with a 63 per cent share, compared to 37 per cent for smartphones.


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