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Top 10 Developer Tips for Verizon

LAS VEGAS -- VDC Conference 2011 -- Verizon Wireless has made a lot of promises to developers about its revamped Verizon Apps store and development process. (See Verizon Starts Over With Apps, Verizon to Launch Enterprise App Stores and Verizon Rallies Developers for LTE.)

Now the developers have a message for Verizon: Deliver! Mobile apps makers have a lot of choices when it comes to where to hawk their wares, and wireless operators haven't been top of mind for many years now. That could slowly start to change, but there are a few things Verizon -- like its fellow carriers -- will have to do to make its store an attractive alternative to Android Market, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s App Store and the bevy of other options available.

Here's the top 10 suggestions that developers at VDC were throwing around for Verizon Apps to earn its spot in the hierarchy.

1) Offer exposure: "The biggest issue with Android is it's a mass market of apps," says Brett Gough, CEO of gaming startup Toy Studio. "With 250,000 apps, how can you get exposure?" Toy Studio develops children's games for the Nook e-reader and is evaluating working with Verizon to expand to other Android platforms. But, with such a niche audience -- women and their children -- Gough wants assurance Verizon will help them segment marketing enough to put their apps in front of the right buyers.

2) Bring the users: "Verizon is the biggest carrier in America; it has a lot of captive customers out there," says Cathy Edwards, co-Founder and CTO of new Verizon search partner Chomp, in a panel. The more they can use this reach to preload Verizon Apps on phones, upgrade consumers from feature phones to smartphones and educate consumers on apps, the more attractive Verizon Apps becomes, she says.

3) Deliver in-app purchases: In-app purchases are huge for game developers, according to Josh Hartwell, CEO of Mobile Delux, a boutique mobile gaming company. Freemium is the way games are moving. Verizon has promised to make it available on Verizon Apps, and developers say it can't come soon enough.

4) Play nice with others: Verizon has done a good job opening up its APIs, but Sam Knight, VP of carrier and industry relations at TechnoCom, says that Verizon's stumbling block in working with developers, is that it only thinks only of its own role -- not its walled garden anymore, but still its vertical, its network and its devices, not those of other operators. "It's an act of faith for a carrier to think, 'If I get people to develop apps to run on every carriers' smartphone, it's good for us; it's good for everybody,'" he says.

5) Share the wealth: Sheana Hogan, head of partnerships for Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications , says Verizon should break the mold on its revenue-sharing model. A 70/30 split is the industry standard now, but if Verizon went below that, it would really cause developers to jump at the opportunity to make more.

6) Be socially relevant: Verizon should launch a recommendation-based social graph like Facebook Connect, suggests sCommerce founder and CEO Kevin Heidorn. "There's no way Verizon is in the capacity to fully categorize all the apps that are out there, so it'd add social relevance to app discovery," he says.

7) Have the guts: Heidorn's other hat is VP of business development at CrowdMob, which is working to integrate group-buying sites with mobile apps. Thinking from this role, he suggests that Verizon also integrate an alternative payments platform, a way to pay for digital goods that isn't just carrier billing. Users could then earn goods instead of buying them. "If they don't have the guts to try it, we will never build on their platform," he says.

8) Offer feedback -- for free: "Reporting is something that Verizon as a carrier can really innovate on," says Shai Deljo, co-founder and COO of video discovery startup VideoSurf. The carrier has access to all kinds of subscriber information, and Deljo says it would be a true differentiator to offer its reporting as a built-in free function of developing for Verizon Apps.

9) Be transparent: As a huge game developer with 500-plus binaries, Lennon Arcaro -- senior manager, publishing, North America, Gameloft -- wants a better way to see at a high level how many programs a developer has with Verizon, but then also provide a way to drill down into binaries for specific devices.

10) Keep your promises: More than a few mobile gurus believe Verizon Apps is already off to a good start, so delivering on its promises (ahem, in-app billing) will be a huge step toward winning them over. Distimo analyst Hendrik Koekkoek says that Verizon is looking pretty good. "I think with the new discovery they can really compete with Android Market," he says. "They can easily implement carrier billing too." — Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:53:48 PM
re: Top 10 Developer Tips for Verizon

Can't see carriers like VRZN and AT&T working on any kind of interoperability assurances for apps, given that they can't even work on LTE roaming.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:53:47 PM
re: Top 10 Developer Tips for Verizon

That's true, but they all say the point of their Innovation Centers is to create apps for the entire wireless ecosystem, not just their networks. I haven't seen any examples of this yet though. So far everything just gets absorbed by the carrier who owns the center.

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