BEIRUT: Making a mobile phone application has just gotten easier in Lebanon, thanks to new app stores and platforms launched by Lebanese phone networks Alfa and touch as well as global phone giant Nokia.
The new services – announced at this week’s Arabnet Beirut 2014 conference – will allow app developers to reach the public more easily, change platforms and receive payment through phone bills, thus increasing revenue. Like Apple does with its App Store, Alfa and touch will take 30 percent of the profit, while the developer will keep 70 percent.
“The idea of the app store is to bring content back to the operator, which means more content and more revenue,” said Fadi Boulos, presales manager at Berycom, a Beirut-based telecom and IT services company that is partnering with Alfa to host several hundred local apps. They are intentionally keeping it below a thousand to maintain quality.
“Content will be local, and this is very relevant to Alfa subscribers. As a user, if I want to look at Lebanese apps I can go to one [virtual] store where they are easy to find. We want to have local content that’s culturally relevant.”
Just as important as the convenient platform is the option for payment through a mobile phone network, an increasingly popular approach throughout the developing world, where credit card use for online purchases is low due to consumer concerns over payment security.
“We’re looking at emerging markets. The operator billing goes through the Nokia store. You can buy an app and charge that to your phone bill,” said Praveen Prabhakaran, head of Nokia’s developer experience in the Middle East and North Africa.
Prabhakaran gave a presentation Tuesday afternoon on the first day of Arabnet to launch the company’s app store in Lebanon – now one of 43 countries that offer the service, which was launched last week at the Mobile World Congress Barcelona.
“This is important for emerging markets because people are nervous about using credit cards online. This lets developers reach new consumers and gives them new ways to make money.”
With Nokia’s focus on emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where they expect many people will have their first online experience on a mobile device, they are promoting their lower-cost smartphones, the Nokia X and Nokia XL, which generally start at around $100.
“We’re focusing on affordable smartphones to address the consumer need,” Prabhakaran said. “For the next billion people, their first Internet experience will be on a smartphone.”
In addition to focusing on the user experience, they are also working to help app developers. Developing an app on Nokia X requires little to no new coding when switching platforms using the same operating system, such as Android. And DVLP, Nokia’s loyalty program for developers, works like a game, allowing them to redeem points and win prizes – another incentive for creators.