Editorial:Will the iPhone Appstore force Handango to lower prices, improve service?

Handango is likely the largest mobile software vendor in the world, but even they must have been astounded by the rapid success of the iPhone Appstore, who have already seen more than 100 million applications downloaded in less than 3 months and has generated more than $30 million in revenue.

Handango is privately held, so we do not know how much revenue it generates of its 190 000 applications, but there is no doubt that the company could do more to increase the sale of applications to end users.

The need is certainly clear – Handango is excluded from the hottest application marketplace in the world at present, and Android, while more open, will also be hosting their own application store, meaning most sales will be funneled well away from the Texas company. In addition developers earn more developing for these outlets, as Handango charges an exorbitant 50% of the sales price of the software they sell, vs the 30% of the iPhone Appstore and the much lower but variable price of the Android application store.

Of course Handago could probably lay claim to having the first Windows Mobile on-device application store, in the form of the Handago InHand client, which dates back to at least 2003. The software however remains much as it did in 2003, mainly consisting of a top-10 list of applications by category and lacking the polish of other application stores.

Handango has a much larger installed base of consumers to leverage – they serve 9 operating systems, including the dominant Symbian smartphone OS, and of course Windows Mobile with a +35 million installed base, but they need to make their distribution system much better, and need to reduce its commission, or else risk losing both developers and customers to other platforms from which, unlike on the Windows Mobile platform, they are excluded.

WMPoweruser’s advice to Handango – redesign your Inhand client, make it more attractive and allow for on-device reviews of software, and make sure the whole of the Handango software catalogue is accessible. Reduce your commission to at least the same rate as the iPhone app store. Keep track of the version of the software installed on the device, and alert the user when updates are available. Make the software compelling to have on your handheld by giving away free ringtones and wallpapers on a weekly basis or providing discounts on software bought directly from the device.

Do the above, or risk having the 3rd party application rug being pulled right from under your feet over the next 12 months.

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