Business Tips

Why You Should Localize from Day 1 (And How to Do it Painlessly)

Localization is rarely discussed (and often overlooked by developers), but it is increasingly important in today’s economy where mobile development is a global industry. The United States ranks fourth, behind South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan in the number of mobile device users per capita. Singapore, Israel and a quartet of European countries round out the top 10.

Localization is certainly worth the effort. A 2007 paper by the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA), for instance, reported that $25 dollars was returned for every $1 invested in localization. And a 2012 publication from Distimo revealed that on average, applications increased their download volumes on the iPhone by greater than 128% the week after introducing the app in the user’s native language.

But localization can also be a huge undertaking.

Localization can be expensive and cumbersome

But it doesn’t have to be.

Currently, there are three approaches to translation: manual, automated, and hybrid. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks:

Manual – Employees, contractors, volunteers, or language vendors serve as translators. Emails, FTP servers, and spreadsheets are the primary tools for workflow management.

  • Benefits: Accurate, aware of brand identity, and sensitive to context, tone and style.
  • Drawbacks: Expensive, cumbersome and slow
  • Examples: Applingua, LocTeam, WordCrafts

Automated – Computer software is used to translate text from one language to another. Also known as “Machine Translation.”

  • Benefits: Fast, efficient, and low cost
  • Drawbacks: Imprecise, lacks keyword recognition, and insensitive to style
  • Examples: Google Translate, Bing Translator, SYSTRAN, SDL Language Weaver

Hybrid – Human translators are paired with a localization platform that helps automate the localization workflow for developers, product/localization managers, and translators. It brings the benefits of the manual and automated approaches and the drawbacks of neither.

  • Benefits: Efficient, accurate, and sensitive to context, style and tone.
  • Drawbacks: Initial learning curve upon startup
  • Examples: Transifex with Gengo, OneSky

After a few years of trying to build super-computers that understand human language like only a human can, the localization industry is now leaning toward the hybrid approach that still brings a great deal of processor power to bear. The difference though, is in the personal touch that only someone with skin on can provide. A machine cannot understand context or tone. A machine cannot understand the difference between “manual” meaning “by hand” or “manual” meaning the skateboard trick. It can’t inject energy into a paragraph with an unexpected word choice. Those are things that only humans can do.

When to localize?

Once you select from one of the above solutions, the issue of workflow remains. Decide how your localization will get done, and you will also need to decide when in the development process your app will be translated. Developers traditionally approached localization in one of two ways:

In Development– Some developers opt to add an extra step to the release process after which no strings (also referred to as “segments”) may be added, edited, or deleted. This is sometimes called a string freeze. This gives translators the necessary time to work on and test translations without fear of changes. Following this point, only minor bugs may be addressed – strings cannot be changed.

After the strings are translated, they are returned to the developers for use in the final release. This process is then repeated for the next release of the software. This process slows down the release of the software in all languages quite a bit.

Post-Release – The second approach is to release the software and add translations afterwards. This means some pages will be not translated at all, or for software with a previous release that has been translated in the past, only partially translated. With this approach, companies are unable to do a simultaneous release in multiple languages.

Introducing: Continuous Localization

Using either of these traditional workflows means localization will be performed in large batches, making it incompatible with today’s agile processes. It delays the availability of the software in languages other than the source language. And every delay is a missed opportunity to create new customers and generate more revenue.

A new solution is available that moves at the speed of today’s development teams, without demanding development stoppage. The idea is that as soon as a new piece of content gets generated for your app, it’s made available for translation. As soon as a new piece of content gets translated for your app, it’s made available to your users.

It looks like this:

Continuous Localization

We call it Continuous Localization, and it is really only possible with the use of a Continuous Localization Platform to house and manage the entire localization process in the cloud. These systems, now emerging on the market, harness the power of the cloud and APIs to enable a nuanced human-driven translation at the speed of continuous deployment.

News and Resources

India – your next apportunity?

The world is getting ‘App’ified – and India is entering the fray at full force! Apps are an important element of consumer mobile behaviour – share of time spent on voice calls and texting is reducing, while time spent on apps and internet browsing is rising. With India rapidly growing as a major app superpower, it is important to understand the underlying drivers of this rapidly growing ecosystem.

Is there an “apportunity” for your app in India?

The Rise of India as an App Superpower

If you are creating an app in a localised language, you should also read The App Localisation Opportunity.

APIs Tools

Which apps make more money? App monetization insight from our Developer Economics 2013 report

[This post by Andreas Pappas, Senior Analyst at VisionMobile, first appeared on the VisionMobile blog on April 3, 2013.]

[How do app developer revenues vary by country, or platform? Does the number of platforms make a difference to app revenues? Which models bring in the most revenues? We revisit Andreas Pappas’ November analysis of app monetisation with more insights from our Developer Economics 2013 survey across 3,400+ developers – while launching our latest survey, which is available here]


Back in November, we looked at which apps make money based on research on how app revenues vary by platform, app category, country and more. In this article we update our analysis on app monetisation based on the latest research from Developer Economics 2013 across 3,400+ app developers, including analysis that did not make it into the report.

We ‘re also proud to launch our very latest Developer Economics survey, which reaches across thousands of app developers and provides the data for our famous state of the developer nation reports. Thanks to the sponsorship by BlackBerry, Mozilla, Intel and Telefonica it possible to provide these reports and additional insights, for free, to the entire mobile community.

Take part in the survey, spread the word and help us drill deeper into the app economy and what makes it tick. We have prizes aplenty for developers, with 7 devices up for grabs (one iPhone 5, two Samsung Galaxy SIII, two Nokia Lumia 920 devices and two BlackBerry Dev Alpha handsets) – plus an AR Drone 2.0, a Nest Learning Thermostat and a Nike Fuel Band for participants who also subscribe to our developer panel. Last, but definitely not least, our friends at Bugsense are giving away one month of free crash reporting to each and every participant.

Survey Q1 2013


Developers in North America lead the revenue leaderboard

We’ll start by taking a look at income distribution by the region where app developers are based. Last time we saw that US developers earned almost double the revenue of UK developers. Based on our Developer Economics 2013 data, North America (and particularly the US) is still in the driving seat of the mobile app economy with developers in North America generating about 30% more than their european counterparts, who in turn generate 47% more revenue than developers in Asia. To some extent higher revenues for NA developers are explained by higher consumer spending in the US and higher penetration of iOS, which as we will see later on, still generates higher revenues than other mobile platforms. Note that across this analysis we are restricting our sample to mobile app developers, and have excluded the top 5% of revenue earners in order to minimise the effect of outliers.

North America leads app revenue leaderboard

While app development activity is booming in Asia, the average app-month revenue is quite lower than in the US and Europe, although developers in Asia develop, on average more apps and use more mobile platforms. As we explained in the previous article, there are multiple reasons for this revenue gap, but the prevailing reason is the fact that paid apps are not popular in most of Asia, the country that drives the Asian app economy. Instead, developers in Asia rely much more on advertising revenue, which, according to our findings is the least profitable revenue model.

iOS still monetising better than other platforms

iOS continues to dominate platform revenues, generating, on average, 30% more revenue per app-month than Android. The revenue gap has reduced by 5 percentage points compared to that reported in our Developer Economics 2012 report in June 2012.

iOS continues to dominate revenues

At the same time, Windows Phone has caught up with Android and seems to be doing slightly better. Although the 5% advantage is arguably within the margin of error, Windows Phone has significantly improved its position relative to the figures reported in the Developer Economics 2012 survey, when it generated, on average, about half as much revenue as Android. How has the landscape of platform monetisation changed in Q2 2013? Join the survey and help us track the state of the developer nation.

Multi-platform developers earn more

Developers using more platforms earn more

There is a wide revenue gap between developers/publishers using 6+ platforms and those using 5 or fewer platforms, with those developing for 6+ platforms generating, on average, 75% more revenue. However, only a small part of the developer population (4%) develops on 6+ mobile platforms; these are probably established services with a large footprint that want to ensure that their apps are universally available (e.g. Facebook, Skype etc.) or large software houses with a large enough pool of resources to target multiple platforms for their customers.

Those developers employing just one platform are probably solo, amateur developers or have not yet had the success that warrants (and allows) an expansion onto more platforms. As developers become more successful, they will expand onto new platforms and generate more revenue. So while, expanding on more platforms is not sufficient to generate more revenue on its own, those that do find success are likely to invest in a multi-platform strategy.

Extending apps to new markets is a profitable strategy

We asked app developers how they decided on which apps to develop or work on next and then looked at the way revenues vary depending on their strategy. While most developers will develop apps they want to use themselves (50%), this is apparently the least successful strategy and should not become the sole deciding factor for your next app.

Extending apps into new markets pays better

Developers that use some form of market research such as discussing with users, monitoring apps stores or directly buying market research are much better off, generating at least double the revenue of those who just develop the apps they want to use. However, market research is not widely used among the developer population: only 24% of developers discusses with users, highlighting a lack of business maturity and also a gap in frictionless 2-way communication channel between developers and users.

Overall, the most successful developers are those that extend apps to new markets, either to new geographies or different verticals. To some extent, these strategies rely on copying the recipe of an already established and successful business: these are apps that have been tried and proven in at least one market and are generally less risky options or “low hanging fruit” for developers. Why start from the ground up when you can stand on the shoulders of giants?

The most lucrative revenue models are off limits for most developers

When talking app monetisation, there are over 10 different revenue models to chose from. Device royalties and distribution licensing fees are the top-grossing models but are quite rare among app developers due to their high barriers to entry. These models imply deals with device manufacturers and distributors which means long, expensive sales cycles and a successful app to start with. Among the rest of the revenue models, commissioned apps (development for hire) come on top since they come with a low risk and guaranteed income for developers that work under contract.

Royalties & licencing fees pay better

The next most lucrative revenue model is the subscription-based model but this also comes with caveats: a subscription service implies a significant investment in licensing, and maintaining quality content or services that keeps users engaged on an ongoing basis.

Among the revenue models that are most popular and more accessible to developers, In-app purchases come on top, generating, on average 34% more revenue than Freemium and 43% more revenue than Pay-per-download. In-app purchases and Freemium models are becoming increasingly popular, now being used by a quarter of developers as they seem to be appealing to consumers. We ‘re revisiting the topic of most lucrative revenue models in our latest survey. Join in and help us size the app economy.

Smart developers use smart tools

Finally, we take a look at how developer revenues correlate to the use of third party tools and services. It’s interesting to see how app revenues correlate with usage of performance tracking and management tools like user analytics and crash reporting. Developers using crash reporting and bug-tracking tools such as Crittercism or BugSense generate on average, three times more revenue than developers who don’t use these. Similarly the usage of User Analytics (e.g. Flurry, Apsalar) services is also associated with much higher revenues, with those using user analytics services generating 168% more revenue than those who don’t.

Higher revenues for developers using dev tools

Both user analytics and crash reporting services are used by experienced developers who recognise the importance of optimising for user acquisition, activation and retention, while reducing in-the-field crashes and the resulting user churn.

Track the state of the developer nation

[tweet_this content=’App developer? Take the new Developer Economics survey and win prizes!’ url=’’]These insights are made possible by our ongoing surveys. Join the latest Developer Economics survey to help us draw deeper insights into monetisation, the size of the app economy and the debate of HTML5 vs. native. In this survey we ‘re focusing on the population of iOS, Android, WP, BlackBerry and HTML5 developers, across countries, app categories and developer types. If your are a developer take the survey, or otherwise spread the word and watch this space for an update on revenues, platforms and the state of the developer nation.[/tweet_this]

And don’t forget to fire away with those comments, rants, criticism, praise or simply feedback on what you ‘d like to see next.

Andreas (follow me on twitter @PappasAndreas)


Kids’ Educational Apps – An Indie Dev’s Final Frontier


I am wondering if you know that there is an SXSWedu event. Well I can’t blame you if you don’t, it is the third year it is running and it sounds a bit off when you think of SXSW and “Keep Austin weird”. If you don’t then it will even come more as a surprise to learn that Bill Gates delivered the closing keynote to a standing-only room of 2,500 people.  On top of that, Apple revealed to TechCrunch a couple of weeks ago that they have sold more than 8 million iPads to educational institutions worldwide (4.5 million to U.S. schools).

You might have started thinking that putting together an educational app may not be such a bad idea, I mean how hard can it be? How about checking out the App Store’s top 200 paid list of iPad educational apps? Just by going through it, even if you don’t know who is who, you will see a lot of indie developers. Let me save you the trouble and give you the rundown. Of the top 200, 70% are kids’ educational apps. Out of these, roughly 80% are by independent developers, and only 20% from well-known publishers like Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, etc. This is really impressive to say the least.

But before you team up with a teacher and start coding that idea, hold on. For every developer who is succeeding, there are 20 who are struggling to see noticeable sales. To make matters worse, only 20% of the developers present in 2009 were still active in 2012 (iLearn II – “An Analysis of the Education Category of Apple’s App Store”).

All of this translates to the indication that there are still great opportunities in kids’ educational apps right now, but there is also a lot of risk. That is why the kids’ educational apps market is an indie dev’s “final frontier”. So before you set off to “boldly go where no man has gone before”, here is a survivor kit to keep in mind when navigating those treacherous waters:

1)    App stores lack specific categorizations

No single app store has a separate category of kids’ educational apps. So kids’ educational apps are all scattered in a number of categories. In the Apple App Store they are scattered across Education, Games/Educational, Games/Kids, Books, etc., and in the Windows Phone Marketplace between Education and Kids + Family. Keep that in mind as you pick your category and since there is no right or wrong,  don’t be afraid to experiment.

2)    Never ever forget market segmentation

It is an easy assumption to make but it is one that you must always keep in mind. Education differs across countries considerably, it is not only the language and cultural barriers, but also that educational topics are approached in different angles. In the US the past three years the Common Core Standards initiative has been put together that provides a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so teachers and parents now what to do to help them. CCS can be a very useful roadmap when you are thinking of your app. Lastly always factor in that localization will not be easy and it will cost more than it would normally do.

3)    You have limitations on your monetization strategy

With stories of a 5 year old spending $2.500 on iPad apps in 10 minutes hitting the news frequently be very careful of your monetization strategy. I am not arguing to exclude In App Purchases but be very cautious about your implementation and disclose this information to parents.

4)    Be wary of COPPA

Talking about disclosures you need to get up to speed with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. You need to have a privacy policy, provide disclosure about data practices and take responsibility for data practices of 3rd party code. Lorraine of Moms With Apps has put together a great reading list on the subject here, which is always updated.

If then you are up to being one of the risk-takers that Bill Gates mentioned in his speech, help change the face of education and make money on the way keep in mind his closing words “In this space, we either improve the quality of education or we stay flat, like we have for the last few decades”, put your soul into it and make great educational apps.

Business Tools

Tradable vs Non-tradable Apps

We’ve previously discussed the major opportunities that are emerging for developers globally, fueled by rising demand from BRIC countries and other emerging app economies, representing at least half of the world’s mobile subscribers. In order to capture these opportunities, developers can focus on two broad strategies: to “reach-out” or to “search within”. Developers that “reach-out” will address international app-demand by supplying apps that appeal to users across borders and continents (tradable apps). These apps can reach far and wide but in order to do so requires a moderate level of localisation. Those developers that “search within” will look at gaps and opportunities in local markets. These apps have local reach and require a high level of localisation.

Business Tips

10 Million Apps: the emerging world app demand opportunity

In a recent post on the app localization opportunity we highlighted the potential for targeting growth markets in the emerging world. Not all apps are equally suited to doing so though. For some high-profile apps such as Facebook, Google Maps or Angry Birds the demand is  global and these apps easily penetrate local markets. For other apps — like a taxi booking, cinema schedules or restaurant reservation apps — what works with US consumers will not work in the local business environment or culture in a European or Asian city. Different language, culture, business environment, promotional channels, regulations, brands and local consumer behaviour will mean that many apps will need adaptation to penetrate local markets. It also means that much local app demand is currently undersupplied. China, Brazil and Russia are good examples of major markets that are hard to penetrate, yet present major opportunities for mobile app developers globally. We believe that in the app economy, global demand for top-seller apps will dominate downloads in most regions. At the same time, regional demand for localised apps will drive the production of the next 10 million apps.

Business Tips

The App Localization Opportunity

As we showed in our Developer Economics 2012 survey, there is a massive gap between the number of developers creating applications for local languages (other than English) and the demand for local language content. For many app types, app localization is only a relatively small incremental investment on top of the original app build costs and yet has the potential to generate significant new downloads and revenue. How should developers decide if it’s going to be worthwhile?