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mobile app vs web app, question

loop101

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This is basically the "are mobile apps Fastlane?" question. Let's say there were several popular websites that exclusively used animated GIFs to sell (used) stuff, like a cross between Craigslist and GIFy.com. These sites created a need for a tool that easily let people create animated GIFs from their own photos. Would it be better if this tool was a web-app, or a mobile-app?

A mobile-app would be much easier for the user, they could take photos with their mobile phone, launch the app, generate the animated GIF, and have the app upload the GIF to the websites. This app might be free for people making 2-3 GIFs a day, and 99 cents for unlimited GIF creation. It would be super easy for the user, and a pain to develop it. However, apps are currently much easier to monetize, since the payment system is built in (phone bill).

A website would be a pain for the user. They would have to upload their photos to the webapp's site, generate and accept the GIF, have some kind of system for the user to pay for resource usage (CPU, bandwidth, storage). They might also have to download the GIF from me, and upload it to the selling-stuff website. While it would be a pain for the user, and harder to get an IAP on the web, the development of the (Python/Django) webapp would be easier than developing it for mobile (Swift or Kotlin).

IMHO, the mobile app is a natural fit, and the web-app is painful to use. The ONE thing that is blocking me mentally, is that mobile apps give up control to Apple or Google. Maybe I've read too may horror stories about app developers being at the whim of Apple/Google, but I have this nagging voice saying, "Yeah, go ahead and build a castle on someone else's land, see how that works out!"

So to recap, Mobile app is easy for the user, easy to monetize, a pain to program, and gives up Control. A Web app is hard for the user, hard to monetize, easy to program, and you keep 100% of control. Other people here have probably had the same question at some point, so I thought I would ask.
 

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LittleWolfie

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This is basically the "are mobile apps Fastlane?" question. Let's say there were several popular websites that exclusively used animated GIFs to sell (used) stuff, like a cross between Craigslist and GIFy.com. These sites created a need for a tool that easily let people create animated GIFs from their own photos. Would it be better if this tool was a web-app, or a mobile-app?

A mobile-app would be much easier for the user, they could take photos with their mobile phone, launch the app, generate the animated GIF, and have the app upload the GIF to the websites. This app might be free for people making 2-3 GIFs a day, and 99 cents for unlimited GIF creation. It would be super easy for the user, and a pain to develop it. However, apps are currently much easier to monetize, since the payment system is built in (phone bill).

A website would be a pain for the user. They would have to upload their photos to the webapp's site, generate and accept the GIF, have some kind of system for the user to pay for resource usage (CPU, bandwidth, storage). They might also have to download the GIF from me, and upload it to the selling-stuff website. While it would be a pain for the user, and harder to get an IAP on the web, the development of the (Python/Django) webapp would be easier than developing it for mobile (Swift or Kotlin).

IMHO, the mobile app is a natural fit, and the web-app is painful to use. The ONE thing that is blocking me mentally, is that mobile apps give up control to Apple or Google. Maybe I've read too may horror stories about app developers being at the whim of Apple/Google, but I have this nagging voice saying, "Yeah, go ahead and build a castle on someone else's land, see how that works out!"

So to recap, Mobile app is easy for the user, easy to monetize, a pain to program, and gives up Control. A Web app is hard for the user, hard to monetize, easy to program, and you keep 100% of control. Other people here have probably had the same question at some point, so I thought I would ask.
Your not technical are you? Web apps can handle most of that. Uber was running as a web app in a wrapper until last Christmas (gave they wanted to give up control for money) a wrapped web app gives total control to you.(well who ever has the server)
 
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loop101

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Your not technical are you? Web apps can handle most of that. Uber was running as a web app in a wrapper until last Christmas (gave they wanted to give up control for money) a wrapped web app gives total control to you.(well who ever has the server)
I am technical. I left out a lot of the complex parts of this project, which involves the manipulation of video files at a low level. Things like Cordova, and other wrappers, seem to only offer video recording and playback at a high level. Calling native API's from wrapped JS would be slow considering the number of frames I would be processing. There are some cross-platform imaging libraries for iOS/Android, but at that point, I'd just the native ones so I could debug easier.
 
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loop101

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Why are mobile apps hard to program and web apps not so much?
The apps I am interested in doing are harder on mobile because of the hardware limitations of the devices, and lack of documentation on the API's I need to use. On a cloud machine, I would have more system resources, and better documented tools.
 

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I'm only commenting on the technology part, leaving out speculation on whether there's a viable business model here.

I would make the service a website. From any browser, using a file picker, the user uploads their images to use. You process them in the cloud, using as many servers as it takes on the back end for quick response. (I'm assuming there's a way to make money to pay for all this.) The user can view the completed animation on your site, then click to download it, or to automatically transfer it into their ad on Craigslist, eBay or wherever.

Make a companion mobile app to wrap the user experience in a mobile-friendly format. From the phone, the user can select the images to use. Your app uploads them to your cloud API for processing, then gets back the completed animation for the user to approve. The user can tap to download the image, or tap to use your built-in integration with the sales sites. Billing can be all be done as in-app purchases.

If an app stores screw you over, abandon the mobile app on that store. You've still got the web version of the business.

But this is still a pretty low level problem you're solving for the user. Why not move up the stack to help the user take pictures, write descriptions, upload ads to multiple selling sites, then notify them as responses come in, and automatically cancel ALL active ads for an item as soon as an it's sold? "Animated GIF creator" doesn't sound like it's worth much. "Cross-platform online sales assistant" sounds a lot more valuable.
 

AustinS28

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The apps I am interested in doing are harder on mobile because of the hardware limitations of the devices, and lack of documentation on the API's I need to use. On a cloud machine, I would have more system resources, and better documented tools.
What stack would you use for web vs mobile?

What api calls couldn’t your backend handle. I mean backend can be the same regardless of mobile or web.
 

Late Bloomer

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. I mean backend can be the same regardless of mobile or web.
I got his concern as that depending on the phone's hardware, image processing and file concatenation could be pretty slow. If the image processing library runs in the cloud, it can be put on powerful hardware and scaled up to meet demand.
 

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There are some cross-platform imaging libraries for iOS/Android, but at that point, I'd just the native ones so I could debug easier.
If you only have two platforms, a cross-platform library might be more trouble than it's worth. You could write your own code to make the best available call on each platform. I don't think we're going to see a third dominant mobile OS any time soon, after the failures of Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Tizen, Palm etc.
 
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loop101

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I'm only commenting on the technology part, leaving out speculation on whether there's a viable business model here.

I would make the service a website. From any browser, using a file picker, the user uploads their images to use. You process them in the cloud, using as many servers as it takes on the back end for quick response. (I'm assuming there's a way to make money to pay for all this.) The user can view the completed animation on your site, then click to download it, or to automatically transfer it into their ad on Craigslist, eBay or wherever.

Make a companion mobile app to wrap the user experience in a mobile-friendly format. From the phone, the user can select the images to use. Your app uploads them to your cloud API for processing, then gets back the completed animation for the user to approve. The user can tap to download the image, or tap to use your built-in integration with the sales sites. Billing can be all be done as in-app purchases.

If an app stores screw you over, abandon the mobile app on that store. You've still got the web version of the business.

But this is still a pretty low level problem you're solving for the user. Why not move up the stack to help the user take pictures, write descriptions, upload ads to multiple selling sites, then notify them as responses come in, and automatically cancel ALL active ads for an item as soon as an it's sold? "Animated GIF creator" doesn't sound like it's worth much. "Cross-platform online sales assistant" sounds a lot more valuable.
Yeah, I've been thinking of making a native app to just upload and download the media assets to the cloud. I would have to meter resource usage, and require payment upfront. I think it was the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur book that talked about competing on one of three things, quality, convenience, or cost. A website would be hard to use and expensive, but would produce the best quality assets. An app would be very high convenience but lower quality, and I guess more expensive (schwing). I guess a free app full of ads would be low-quality, low-price, and high-convenience.
 

Ayanle Farah

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IMHO, the mobile app is a natural fit, and the web-app is painful to use. The ONE thing that is blocking me mentally, is that mobile apps give up control to Apple or Google. Maybe I've read too may horror stories about app developers being at the whim of Apple/Google, but I have this nagging voice saying, "Yeah, go ahead and build a castle on someone else's land, see how that works out!"
This is interesting to me as one who is attempting to put out a mobile app.

I never even thought I would lose control once I put my app on the app store. I was too focused on the next step rather than looking at the bigger picture.

I knew that being on a platform you don't own violates the commandment of control and puts your business at risk but somehow I thought the app store would be different.

I guess I was being naive.

In what ways can the app store screw you over? To what extent can you protect yourself if your whole business is based on an app?
 

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loop101

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This is interesting to me as one who is attempting to put out a mobile app.

I never even thought I would lose control once I put my app on the app store. I was too focused on the next step rather than looking at the bigger picture.

I knew that being on a platform you don't own violates the commandment of control and puts your business at risk but somehow I thought the app store would be different.

I guess I was being naive.

In what ways can the app store screw you over? To what extent can you protect yourself if your whole business is based on an app?
Apple (and Google) can screw you in a number of ways.

They can "sherlock" you by banning your app, and making a clone part of the OS.

They can ban you from the App Store for all kinds of reasons:

15 Controversial Apps That Were Banned From Apple's App Store

They can treat you bad enough that you form a union:

Fed Up With Apple's Policies, App Developers Form a 'Union'

They can also charge you $100 a year to write apps, lower your average price to 99 cents (or free), and take 30% of your revenue.

And they can just mess with you:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8yyT_E7fiY
 

LittleWolfie

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I am technical. I left out a lot of the complex parts of this project, which involves the manipulation of video files at a low level. Things like Cordova, and other wrappers, seem to only offer video recording and playback at a high level. Calling native API's from wrapped JS would be slow considering the number of frames I would be processing. There are some cross-platform imaging libraries for iOS/Android, but at that point, I'd just the native ones so I could debug easier.
Fair enough
 

LittleWolfie

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Note that there is friction with getting people to install apps. Browsers are still the most commonly used app on mobile.

What usually happens is people get intrested then they want an app.

Uber went with the wrapper because it have them all the appearance of an app. Icon in the store,installable etc, but they could change the backend (web app) in response to customer demand wirh out waiting for Apple approval.

It meant they SUCS, because of the quick improvements to customer service. It helped them grow but they were not dependent on it.
 
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loop101

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To what extent can you protect yourself if your whole business is based on an app?
If your app got banned, not much. You could license the source code to other companies. Maybe switch to Android (or vice versa), though you could get banned there, too. Generally, people beg to get their app reinstated. If you irritate them enough, you can get perma-banned.
 
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loop101

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Note that there is friction with getting people to install apps. Browsers are still the most commonly used app on mobile.

What usually happens is people get intrested then they want an app.

Uber went with the wrapper because it have them all the appearance of an app. Icon in the store,installable etc, but they could change the backend (web app) in response to customer demand wirh out waiting for Apple approval.

It meant they SUCS, because of the quick improvements to customer service. It helped them grow but they were not dependent on it.
Most web-browsing is not done on mobile devices, but most sales are still done on desktops. The new HTML5 Payment API is supposed to make purchasing easier on mobile, so more people will do it.

AirBNB just switched back from React Native to pure native app. It will be interesting to see how this affects React Native's popularity, especially with Flutter out now.
 

Ayanle Farah

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Apple (and Google) can screw you in a number of ways.

They can "sherlock" you by banning your app, and making a clone part of the OS.

They can ban you from the App Store for all kinds of reasons:

15 Controversial Apps That Were Banned From Apple's App Store

They can treat you bad enough that you form a union:

Fed Up With Apple's Policies, App Developers Form a 'Union'

They can also charge you $100 a year to write apps, lower your average price to 99 cents (or free), and take 30% of your revenue.

And they can just mess with you:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8yyT_E7fiY
Thanks for this eye-opener. Now that I know this I have to make a decision.

This is a huge issue because I want to have 100% control of my future company.

These aren't minor problems either, all my work could end up wasted through no fault of my own, I can't accept that.

I have to consider my options from this point.
 
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loop101

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Thanks for this eye-opener. Now that I know this I have to make a decision.

This is a huge issue because I want to have 100% control of my future company.

These aren't minor problems either, all my work could end up wasted through no fault of my own, I can't accept that.

I have to consider my options from this point.
As I mentioned in the initial post, this questions comes up a lot here. MJ has mentioned apps in the Fastlane books, but I forget if he has an official position on mobile apps. I *think* it is "No, they are not Fastlane, but they are better than not doing anything." Apps do scale, so at least there is the potential for reaching millions.

Ironically, if you made a cool app, and made a book or training video on how to make the cool app, that would be Fastlane. Apple would have zero control over training materials you sold. All these companies selling App Development courses are Fastlane.
 

Ayanle Farah

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As I mentioned in the initial post, this questions comes up a lot here. MJ has mentioned apps in the Fastlane books, but I forget if he has an official position on mobile apps. I *think* it is "No, they are not Fastlane, but they are better than not doing anything." Apps do scale, so at least there is the potential for reaching millions.

Ironically, if you made a cool app, and made a book or training video on how to make the cool app, that would be Fastlane. Apple would have zero control over training materials you sold. All these companies selling App Development courses are Fastlane.
I think apps can be fastlane, just like Amazon fba, youtube, instagram etc, but you don't own the platform you're using, you'll be at the mercy of whatever changes happen there.
 
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denis10

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I've been in this industry for a couple of years now, developed apps for dozens of start ups, from twitter for stocks to uber for dogs, so I know quite a bit about this topic.

As for productivity apps, what is the most important feature people are looking for? Convenience. There is nothing more important for an app. As a fun fact, productivity apps like this have only a 4% share of the app store market. Entertainment and social own the cake.

So - App or website?
With a website, you'd have to open your browser, decide if you open a new tab or reuse the one that's currently open, do two taps to open a new tab, enter the search term into google, tap the link, upload the picture. A lot of friction there. With an app, you should make it as fast and simple as possible - Open app, select picture, gif is saved for you, done. So you definitely want to offer an app.
BUT nothing keeps you from also offering a website, which does the same thing and also promotes your app. This goes the other way around, too, the app store can drive a lot of traffic to your app/website. My answer here is do both. You don't want to code a website and two apps, so you create a webapp in some js framework (pick the one you're most comfortable with), deploy a website and use cordova to bundle an app and upload it to the stores. I wouldn't care too much about app stores locking you down etc., never experienced this myself (and I had pretty big clients). If done well you can use the same code base for the website, ios app and android, so it won't take much longer to support all platforms.

Conversion - Local or cloud?
For converting the images to gifs either way is fine from a technical perspective. If coded correctly you won't have any performance issues if you do it on the device. Yes, you have to make a call through cordova to native code, but no biggie. Plus your users can use it offline and you don't have to pay for servers resources. Make sure you find a library that converts the images first. If you do it on the cloud, which you seem to be more comfortable with, do that. Don't rent a server, use AWS lambda, probably with this binoculars/aws-lambda-ffmpeg. Do the one you think you can do faster. You can always change it later on.


I think you're focusing too early on the technical details. Yes, your questions are valid and you should think about them at some point. But right now, you just want to get this out there to get to know your customers. You won't get 100k customers on the first day. Even if you do, you can still change everything later.
What's important now is to see if you get people to use this, so use as many channels as you can (app and website). The rest isn't important. Simply do what you can to make it work. If you get a couple of people to use it and you decide you want to take this further, that's when you start thinking about all these details. To say it in another way: You can either waste hours and days thinking about the best way to do it, without knowing if people even care about it OR you can hack this together in a couple of hours, go live, and, if successful, spend another day on making this right when you KNOW it'll be successful.
 

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I think you're focusing too early on the technical details.
Thank you so much for sharing your perspective from lots of experience in app dev, Denis. Do you have a more detailed thread of your own on the business of apps?

I agree about premature optimization. We don't even know for sure whether the image processing on a modern phone would take milliseconds or a full minute.
 

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Late Bloomer

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These aren't minor problems either, all my work could end up wasted through no fault of my own, I can't accept that.

I have to consider my options from this point.
The app store companies own the toll bridge between you and the users. For iOS, a lot of users who spend a lot of money on their mobile experience. For Android, a whole lot more users who spend at least some money on their mobile experience. If you want to cross the bridge to sell to their users, you pay their toll and follow their rules. The rules work out okay for the majority of app vendors. But there are a few who get kicked off the bridge for what seems like arbitrary, petty or jealous reasons, with no appeal. That's the risk and reward ratio available to you with this business model.
 

Ayanle Farah

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The app store companies own the toll bridge between you and the users. For iOS, a lot of users who spend a lot of money on their mobile experience. For Android, a whole lot more users who spend at least some money on their mobile experience. If you want to cross the bridge to sell to their users, you pay their toll and follow their rules. The rules work out okay for the majority of app vendors. But there are a few who get kicked off the bridge for what seems like arbitrary, petty or jealous reasons, with no appeal. That's the risk and reward ratio available to you with this business model.
Wow.

Someone should create a solution that remove these middle men.
 
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loop101

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Here is a related idea I was researching, and is a more exact example. This is not at all about the merit of this example.

Let's say a potential customer wants to redo a floor in their house. They decide to do something different. They decide to do it with pennies:



But they want something a little more interesting, so they make a design:



Then they decide they want to use a photo, so they buy a kit:



Unless your the 14th President, you might want to use a photo of your own. Not very hard with the right AI:



With a goal of something like this:



This could be a free app, it just makes a 2D mural from a photo, out of pennies. Maybe it generates a PDF containing the actual layout, and stores it in the cloud for a PC to print it from. This could be done with out too much trouble.

A $5 IAP might let the user choose other things to make the mural: dimes, nickles, poker-chips, Christmas lights, etc.

But a really killer feature - would be a 3D mural. Even without a Lambo, you would still be the BSD in your neighborhood. Everyone would want to see your floor.

Something like this:



The problem with 3D murals, is that they make no sense until viewed from the right spot, and no one is going to glue 10k pennies to their floor unless they know it will look good.





So now it gets tricky.

The cool way to show them how a 3D mural would look, would be to do it on their mobile device. With Apple's VR kit, maybe you could let them maneuver around and see the mural from different angles. My original plan was to generate a "fly over" animated GIF video, so that it could be shared with others.

Generating a 3D animated GIF from a photo could be done on a smartphone, but it would be a lot easier to do in the cloud. An actual video file would even more easier comparatively. So that is a more exact example (I hope).
 

LittleWolfie

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Wow.

Someone should create a solution that remove these middle men.
You can set up an android to put non approves apps, there are p3ople who buy set into debug mode and sell. (This is jailbreaking in iPhones, Apple is likely to sue) to scale you'd have to be a manufacturer.
 

LittleWolfie

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Here is a related idea I was researching, and is a more exact example. This is not at all about the merit of this example.

Let's say a potential customer wants to redo a floor in their house. They decide to do something different. They decide to do it with pennies:



But they want something a little more interesting, so they make a design:



Then they decide they want to use a photo, so they buy a kit:



Unless your the 14th President, you might want to use a photo of your own. Not very hard with the right AI:



With a goal of something like this:



This could be a free app, it just makes a 2D mural from a photo, out of pennies. Maybe it generates a PDF containing the actual layout, and stores it in the cloud for a PC to print it from. This could be done with out too much trouble.

A $5 IAP might let the user choose other things to make the mural: dimes, nickles, poker-chips, Christmas lights, etc.

But a really killer feature - would be a 3D mural. Even without a Lambo, you would still be the BSD in your neighborhood. Everyone would want to see your floor.

Something like this:



The problem with 3D murals, is that they make no sense until viewed from the right spot, and no one is going to glue 10k pennies to their floor unless they know it will look good.





So now it gets tricky.

The cool way to show them how a 3D mural would look, would be to do it on their mobile device. With Apple's VR kit, maybe you could let them maneuver around and see the mural from different angles. My original plan was to generate a "fly over" animated GIF video, so that it could be shared with others.

Generating a 3D animated GIF from a photo could be done on a smartphone, but it would be a lot easier to do in the cloud. An actual video file would even more easier comparatively. So that is a more exact example (I hope).
If I was doing that. I'd try, sending it straight through the desktop. Or setting it up locallu and using nachos, just to pass rdp/ssh in straight through the browser. Sure I've never tried it with anything as bandwidth heavy as VR, and you need 3 servers, a D your demo might well be single tenant for 3 instances, but 2 can be low minimum

From the customers perspective, it's just like going to www.google.com or m.uber.com, you can always change your backend later.

Though I like the take data generate in cloud 3xport video file etc back to app model too.
 
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Ayanle Farah

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You can set up an android to put non approves apps, there are p3ople who buy set into debug mode and sell. (This is jailbreaking in iPhones, Apple is likely to sue) to scale you'd have to be a manufacturer.
It doesn't matter anymore. I've made a decision to abandon mobile apps as a fastlane business.

They can't be scaled to billions anyway which is what I want and I don't have control which is the most important thing.

I'll start something else.
 

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Someone should create a solution that remove these middle men.
If you can figure that out, you'll definitely a billionaire, because multiple billion dollar companies have tried and failed. Nobody has been able to come up with a better way to sell top-priced phones and apps to loyal, enthusiastic buyers than Apple, and nobody has been able to figure how to have their app store on a wider range of phones at all price points than Google. For people who want to have one-click distribution and auto-updates to this duopoly, it's necessary to go through the two gatekeepers. If you're that someone who can make that solution, you'll be very, very rich.
 

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