With Notekeeper, we have our first paid app in the Nokia Store. So, why did we create an app for Symbian, despite it being one of the least popular smartphone platforms out there?
Back in July 2011, I had just started using Evernote on my iPad, and I really liked the service. But I missed having access to those notes on my Nokia phone. The Evernote discussion forum had quite a few requests for a Symbian client, but Evernote had made it clear that they had no plans to make one.
Given that background, it’s no surprise that I started thinking about writing an Evernote client for Symbian myself. Here’s my thought process on deciding whether to go ahead and do it or not:
Market size: There are significant number of phones running Symbian^3 today. Given that Notekeeper is Qt-based, I could have picked Symbian^3 or N9 as the first release platform. Symbian^3 won purely on market size.1 The number of people who buy Symbian^3 phones is on a steep decline, but Notekeeper targets those who already have these phones, not those who’re going to buy them.
Niche problem: The addressable market might not be as big. The prevalent perception is that the subset of Nokia phone owners who would want to pay for an app is much smaller. So, an app that solves one niche problem well is a good fit for iOS, but might not be a good idea on Symbian. Can accessing Evernote (or, to generalize, accessing a cloud-based note-taking service) in Symbian be considered a niche problem? Maybe. Maybe not.
Pricing: On a somewhat related note, even if the app solves a problem people have, and solves it well, there might be a reluctance to pay a premium price (like in the case of PaperMill for Android). Of course, there have also been instances where a quality app has sold well: Gravity.
Given these, I thought the risks were well worth taking and went ahead with creating Notekeeper.
Future: Symbian isn’t quite dead yet, but it’s days are numbered.2 Qt5 won’t support Symbian, as was known long back,3 but it has no business doing that – major Qt releases are for the long term (Qt4 was released in 2005, and will be in use for a few more years to come), and there’s no need for Symbian support when Nokia’s strategy is to move out of Symbian. That said, there’s a lot happening with the immediate future of Symbian in mind: Qt 4.8 already runs on Symbian, and a good amount of Symbian-specific work4 has gone into Qt 4.8.1, released last week.
So, given that the future is not with Symbian, we won’t be writing Symbian apps a few years from now. But right now, it doesn’t look like it’s such a bad idea.
- 16.8 million Symbian^3 devices sold in Q3 2011 alone, given that the “Smart devices” mentioned here couldn’t have included the N9, which started shipping only in the last week of that quarter. The number of N9s shipped has not been made public, but my guess is that it’s far less than the number of Symbian^3 devices sold. [↩]
- Updates and support for Symbian will continue “atleast upto” 2016. [↩]
- “The initial thinking is that Qt 5 will focus on a small set of operating systems/platforms (i.e. platforms Wayland and X11 on Linux, Mac and Windows)” – Qt Blog, May 2011 [↩]
- Changes in Qt 4.8.1 [↩]