Nokia Smartphones Finally Attracting Some App Love

Nokia Smartphones Finally get Some App Attention
Nokia Smartphones Finally get Some App Attention

Nokia (NOK) smartphone users starving for app extras may finally get some new toys for their handsets. Developers who previously stuck to creating apps for Apple's (AAPL) iOS and Google's (GOOG) Android mobile devices are probably going to branch out.

Developers appear poised to add a third mobile operating system platform to their efforts, according to a recent survey by Appcelerator and IDC, thanks to Nokia's bold partnership with Microsoft (MSFT) earlier this year to use Windows Phone 7 on its smartphone line-up and the introduction of its sleek Lumia 800 Windows smartphone eight months later.

Yes, We'll Do Windows, Say Developers

Of the 2,160 Appcelerator developers surveyed, 38% said they were "very interested" in developing on the Windows Phone 7 platform, an increase of eight points and the highest level of interest for the Redmond giant ever, according to the report. Meanwhile, Microsoft's mobile rival Research In Motion (RIMM) saw developer interest in its BlackBerry OS fall seven points to 21%.

When the survey drilled deeper into developers' interest in Windows Phone 7 compared with a year ago, the report found:

"A plurality (48%) are saying it is the Microsoft/Nokia partnership. Nokia also received high marks for its new Lumia Windows Phone 7 smartphone announcement last month. Twenty-eight percent of developers said they are 'very interested' in developing for the device. This is more than double the interest in Nokia's own Symbian and MeeGo OSes since Appcelerator began reporting mobile platform interest in January 2010."

With those figures, Windows Phone 7 jumped over the BlackBerry OS to land a decisive No. 3 spot among developers, behind Apple's iOS and Google's Android, according to the report.

New Game for Nokia

Over the years, Nokia has seen its smartphone market share shrink from the mid-to-high-40% range to 27.1% in the third quarter, according to IDC figures. The decline began in 2008 and by 2009 the popularity of the iPhone and Android devices took hold in a big way, says Scott Ellison, vice president of mobile and connected consumer platforms for IDC.

Of course, developers followed, especially those fed up with Nokia's reputation for being slow to launch new iterations of its phones and its "creaky" Symbian OS.

Nokia has tried enticing developers. Earlier this year, for example, Nokia and AT&T (T) held a "Calling All Innovators" contest, offering $10 million in prizes to winning apps and mobile games developers who focused their software on North American consumers.

The recent survey results indicate that developers are turning around on their views of the company, and with any luck, Nokia's fortunes and consumer attraction will follow.

What It Means for Nokia Users

As a result of the No. 3 spot, Nokia smartphone users should expect more consumer-centric apps for their devices in the near future, says Ellison. "Most mobile developers work in two platforms but usually no more than four," Ellison said.

Prior to landing the No. 3 spot among developers, Nokia was often in a neck-in-neck battle with Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS or Microsoft's Windows Phone, before it partnered with the software giant. In announcing its deal with Microsoft earlier this year, Nokia said it would step away from its longtime use of its Symbian operating system.

And while Microsoft has a reputation of attracting developers who focus more on business-related apps, Ellison believes Nokia's Windows Phone 7 devices will easily attract developers interested in consumer-focused apps, such as games, social-networking, or e-commerce applications. The survey was comprised of 63.8% consumer apps developers and 36.2% business-related developers.

Ellison notes that Nokia is also keenly interested in growing its consumer presence and is gunning for the same customers who would otherwise purchase an iPhone or Android device. A wide variety of apps can help push a smartphone sale, says Ellison, who ranks the availability of desired apps as the third top reason a consumer may select a particular phone.

Zynga, for example, does not currently have a version of its wildly popular FarmVille game that supports the Windows Phone 7 platform. It does, however, make FarmVille versions that support the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and various Android devices, such as Motorola Mobility's (MMI) Droid X.

Whether Nokia's recent switch to Windows Phone 7 and its Lumia 800 introduction will entice Zynga to rollout a FarmVille version that supports Nokia phones remains to be seen.

Motley Fool contributor Dawn Kawamoto does not own any stock in the companies listed.

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