Mobile app development is dead, or is it?

More appsEvery other month or so I get another comment from Joe Koufman, the VP of Business Development and Marketing at Engauge, on how Android is gaining ground on Apple’s iOS. These reminders are actually friendly — Joe and I have been at it ever since I wrote late last year about whether developers should embrace the Android OS. Joe knows that I’m passionate about my iPhone as he is about his Android. And we’ve spoken on numerous occasions about how Android is available on smartphone devices by multiple mobile equipment makers where Apple’s iOS is only available through AT&T (well, at least until the upcoming rumored announcement by Verizon this December) so the deck is stacked in Google’s favor.

As I was crafting a rebuttal to Joe’s latest tweet, I uncovered a recent study from international accounting and consulting firm Deloitte that suggested that apps do not appear to help companies sell more smartphone. According to the study, 58 percent of US consumers say a smartphone’s size, quality, keyboard style, and price factor into their smartphone buying decisions whereas just 18 percent of respondents said that mobile applications influence which smartphone they eventually decide to buy. NOTE: survey is based on responses by 1,960 people between the ages of 14 and 75 in June and July 2010.

Now before you call your marketing agency or tech department and cancel your mobile application development project, you should consider that research firm Nielsen revealed in an earlier article that Smartphones in the US are primarily used for email, a feature that doesn’t require custom mobile applications. If email is such a critical component of a smartphone, then it could explain why application development is not key in buying process. Additionally, consumers have come to expect that mobile applications are either currently available for their platform or will be in the near future so these apps are not critical to the decision making process.

The key to the success of these smartphone devices continues to be developers. If you need more proof that applications (and app developers) are critical to smartphone and OS development companies, then just check out the recent announcement by Nokia and AT&T regarding an application development challenge with $10M in prize money for N8. Nokia is attempting to attract mobile application engineers in the US and convince them to develop appsĀ  for N8, the next Symbian^3 device. If Nokia believed in Deloitte’s research, they’d certainly wouldn’t need to bribe entice application developers to come to the Symbian side. As Balmer says, it is about developers, developers, developers (see video)!