One year after Amazon opened up Alexa to third-party skills, there are 1/10th the number of skills compared to iPhone apps built the first year of the App Store, with close to the same install base.
When people first got their iPhones, their natural question was “what apps should I get?” Nine years after Apple launched the App Store, people are asking the reverse – what apps can I delete?
If you’re considering building a voice app, before you write a single line of code, one question worth answering is: will enough people be able to find out about it to make it worthwhile to build?
Two major factors that impact discoverability are Channels – the number of places where the app can be discovered, and Competition – the number of other apps that are also trying to get attention.
Right now for those building for the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other voice-first platforms, there is some surprising data that shows it might be a great time to start building.
The App Store on the iPhone sat right on your home screen, native to the device where you used the apps themselves. Amazon Alexa has a website which features apps, a dedicated email which sometimes features skills (but often focuses on holiday and other time-related easter eggs). However the only native skill discovery, “Alexa what are new skills” responds with three features skills to try..
It’s worth comparing that discovery experience with data from the app store in 2014, a mid-point or perhaps even late in terms of all saturation. In 2014, nearly 70% of iPhone apps were discovered directly within the App Store, either through search (47%), topping a category chart (10%), being selected for the featured section by Apple (9%), or being featured in a specific category (2%). It’s hard to see the Amazon Skills Store getting as much traffic, as it’s not native to the Echo (i.e., it lives on the web). The alternative channels to discover iPhone apps in 2014 were: Friends/family telling you (15% for apps), reading about it on the web (11%), searching the web (2%), and unpaid discovery through social media (1%).
So on one hand, skills are currently limited to about ⅓ of the volume of distribution as compared to iPhone apps. This makes things difficult for developers.