Pico Brothers to talk Qt mobile success this afternoon

Published Thursday March 31st, 2011
10 Comments on Pico Brothers to talk Qt mobile success this afternoon
Posted in Qt in use | Tags: , ,

This week, the developers at Pico Brothers reached the impressive milestone of 20 million downloads in Ovi Store.

Led by Niklas Karlström, Kristian Engsjö and their dog Viggo, Pico Brothers have created more than 65 apps that are available in Nokia’s Ovi Store, from entertainment and utilities to sports. We’ve been excited to see their success skyrocket and their development times shrink since they started creating apps with Qt.

In 2010, Pico Brothers selected Qt to help them meet consumer demand and provide a framework that could support more innovative capabilities and better performance for app development. Pico Brothers used Qt for some of their newest and most popular apps, including The Flashlight Extreme, Decibel Meter and Night Light Pro. They are also planning to use Qt Quick for future apps.

Today, they will be talking about how they use Qt. If you’re interested, check out Forum Nokia’s Twitter Café with Pico Brothers this afternoon, where Nick from Pico Brothers will be covering a variety of topics, including their experience with Qt. The Twitter Café will take place this afternoon at 3 p.m. GMT (11 a.m. EDT and 8 a.m. PDT in the USA).

Follow @picobrothers and @forumnokia or #PicoNokia on Twitter to participate.
For more details on today’s session, please read the blog post on ForumNokia.com.

To hear more about Pico Brothers, check out their story on the Ovi Publisher Success blog.

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Posted in Qt in use | Tags: , ,


serkol says:

I like the interface of “The Flashlight Extreme”. Very clean GUI!

knobtviker says:

They are inspiration for all other Qt developers like me!!!


Congratulations for the download milestone !

We published several apps on Ovi Store by using Qt and we are amazed about the number of downloads our apps achieved.
We want to share some of our experiences too (positive and negative)

For example we developed a Tron Legacy themed screensaved which emulated the door unlocking app seen in the movie:

Yesterday our app had 16000 free downloads in a single day!

video of the app in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FhvPpIF_zM

link to Ovi Store: Code Unlocker Screensaver

And the app is not even published for Symbian^3 yet, only Symbian^1 (due to a small QA problem which we fixed, so it should appear for Symbian^3 on Ovi Store in about a week).

As said we used Qt to develop the app and it took us about 2-3 days.

We developed Android apps too but we could not achieve comparable numbers of downloads as on Ovi Store.
Developers should not dismiss Nokia and Qt yet, the userbase is (still) very big.
Of course if we talk about paid downloads our experience isquite disappointing, on both Ovi Store and Android Market the paid to free ratio is 1:100 to 1:300.
Our take on the matter is that it seems that most phone users do not want to pay for apps so the only way to make some money as a mobile apps developer is to publish free, advertising supported apps, except for some blockbuster apps (like Angry Birds etc)

But of course you need to achieve big download numbers (we think >10 thousand downloads per day are needed to earn some real money), but it’s not always easy. Sometimes you need luck to get discovered, even if your app is much better than the others.

The mobile app world is not a pot of gold, a few devs are lucky but 95% will probably be disappointed.

We have not used in-app advertising yet so we cannot say if was a good move to develop phone apps. We are luckier than others, not every Ovi developer has an app that makes 16000 downloads in a single day, but our paid apps performed very bad.

For example MouthPot is a funny virtual mouth app for all Nokia Symbian phones, written in Qt too:

Link to Ovi Store: (Symbian and Maemo)

Despite similar apps enjoying quite good success on the iphone ( we talk of 100000 paid downloads or more), MouthPot on Nokia does only a couple of daily downloads and the resulting earnings per month is a negligible sum compared to the time investment it took to create it (a couple of man-months for the graphics, animations and code).

We could try to make MouthPot free and advertising supported but we fear the paid downloads will go towards zero.

We wish all Qt mobile developers luck, since Qt gives you some platform independence. We try to use Qt as much as possible (we develop desktop apps too), but it is not always possible.

For example if you want to write a game in OpenGL target the iphone too then Qt is not yet an option (and OpenGL with Qt cannot be yet used to publish Ovi Store apps).
For example we developed Sphyro 3D, a cross-platform 3D strategy game in C++ and OpenGL ES 1.1
Lite: http://store.ovi.com/content/103699
Full: http://store.ovi.com/content/105525
Lite: http://store.ovi.com/content/98050
Full: http://store.ovi.com/content/105094
Lite: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.crudebyte.sphyro
Full: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.crudebyte.sphyroFull
iphone,ipad version already in apple QA review
windows and OS X versions coming soon

Although it was a bit of work to create the basic framework (OpenGL setup routines, OS specific stuff), we think C++ with OpenGL is still the way to is go if you want to write a game and target as much as platforms as possible.

Using Qt to implement Sphyro 3D would not have been fleasible (at least not yet):

– Qt for Symbian (4.6.x accepted by Ovi Store) not supporting OpenGL yet

– Qt for Android not officially available, although necessitas and ministro installers are available (a sort of Qt smart installer for Android), and then there is the question if/how well OpenGL works on Qt for Android. So without a smart installer one would need to bundle Qt with each app which would increase the size of the app by 10-15MByte

– Qt for iphone not availabe yet (although on youtube you can find nice videos of a user written Qt prototype running on the iphone)
then there is the question whether apple allows you to use Qt for developing iphone apps. In theory you could link statically, but this again would increase the app size by 10-15MBytes.

Sphyro 3D Lite has achieved a couple of dozen of K free downloads (Symbian+Maemo+Android)
Sphyro 3D Full has done a few dozen of paid downloads, again very disappointing considering that it took a few man-months to implement the the game.

We will see whether the iphone paid version will perform better, but we are a bit sceptical.
We have not used in-app advertising in Sphyro yet so we do not have data about earnings yet.

Another drawback of Qt on Nokia phones compared to native Symbian apps is that you need to bundle the app with the Qt Smart Installer which installs Qt libraries in case they are not yet on the System.
Qt needs to reside on the internal flash memory ( C: ) and old Symbian^1 phones have only a few dozen MB. Qt uses 10-13MBytes on C: and often the download and install of Qt app fails since users have their C: almost full. This causes lots of unhappy users giving negative reviews to apps, especially the paid ones.
MouthPot got bad reviews mainly due to this problem, which is not our fault but it negatively impacts the sales and the rating of the app.
We even had a case of a N8 user not being able to install MouthPot despite having enough free space on C: calling us on the phone and insulting one of our programmers telling us that we are swindlers and we did rob his money (he probably spent much more than 1 EURO for the phone call).
The smart installer stuff is entirely a Nokia issue but developers are suffering from its problems, especially for paid apps.
Reports of install problems for Sphyro 3D which is a pure symbian app are close to zero.

We hope you found the sharing of our experience useful since we want to say that mobile apps do have potential since the userbase is so massive, but you have to be lucky and get noticed too, otherwise you sink into oblivion like a drop in the ocean.

best regards and good luck to all,

serkol says:

Re: “it seems that most phone users do not want to pay for apps so the only way to make some money as a mobile apps developer is to publish free, advertising supported apps, except for some blockbuster apps (like Angry Birds etc)”

I make an iPhone app. It sells for $4 (my cut is $2.80). It’s not a blockbuster. Yesterday (Saturday) it was only number 80 in Health and Fitness in U.S. Yesterday it earned me $300. It normally earns me $200-500 a day.

So, it looks like the “most phone users do not want to pay for app” applies more to cheap users with Nokia and Android phones, and less to iPhone users.

serkol says:

I wonder how WP7 phones will be positioned in the future. Currently some WP7 phones are given for free in U.S. and Canada. I live in Canada. Today you can buy a WP7 phone in Costco and pay $-50. Yes, they will pay you $50 for taking a WP7 phone. The catch is that it comes with a 3 year phone plan (2 years in the U.S.). But anyway, free phones in U.S. and Canada = cheap users who don’t pay for apps. I wonder if this will change in the future, with Nokia phones.


Thanks serkol for sharing your data, congratulations!
ATM we can only dream of ythe numbers you are getting and we think on the whole Ovi Store only a few lucky guys will achieve those numbers in our opinion.
It is certainly true that an user that has a $500 user has more expenable money than an user that owns a $100 phone. For example even though Symbian^3 phones have sold AFAIK only about 5-6M units to date, most of our sales come from the N8,C7.
But what I don’t understand is why Android paid apps perform so bad, most Android phones cost $300-$500 (recent HTCs, Samsung Galaxy, Droid etc).
Are iphone users special beings which are willing to spend a lot of money for apps? Keep in mind that you can get iphones on contracts for low prices so even a non rich user (at least in the western hemisphere) can afford it. But then it could be that he is too stingy to spend a few $ for apps.Just like people with big cars with no money for gas.
As said we have no data yet about iphone since our app is in QA review, but we are of course eager to see that comes out.
Writing crossplatform apps is certainly a good method to assess whether it pays off to continue to develop for a certain mobile platform.

Nokia unfortunately took way too much time to deliver Qt on Symbian, and it still is not finished (no OpenGL yet, no low latency audio).
Apple took multimedia serious, video and audio works smoothly. audio latencies <20msec.
On Symbian (with and without Qt) you have audio latencies of several 100's of msec which prevents you to implement the cool multimedia apps which made the iphone famous.
Come on Nokia, Symbian is a realtime OS, can run the GSM DSP in software, and you cannot export an API which allows for at least 20-30msec audio latency. It is technically possible since Skype on Symbian works but Skype got special treatment and got access to non official APIs.
How ridiculous is this? Just export the low latency audio API through QAdudioInput/QAudioOutput and lots of cool audio apps will crop up.
(to be honest Android does not support low latency audio yet too but they are requiring it in the hw specs of the upcoming Android release)

And now this WP7 stuff, learn a new API from scratch, no way to use Qt, no C++. From a developer's point of view it is simply depressing.
At least apple lets you develop in C++ and once you have your OS abstraction library you have not to touch iOS specifics anymore.
Prohibiting C++ on a phone platform means alienating a big part of developers. Android gave in too and published the NDK which allows you to write C++ apps, and look, now there is Qt on Android, which is starting to work quite nicely. We hope Nokia does not throw away the developer base and the assets it has (Qt). We think Meego still has a nice future, hopefully Nokia will be wise and not put all the cards on WP7.

best regards,

serkol says:

I actually first made an Android version of my app, in 2008, when Android was still in betas, because I did java programming for living. But eventually I’ve got tired of waiting for first Android phones, and there was a lot of uncertainty about Android market, so when Apple opened App Store for 3rd party developers, I’ve jumped the ship. I don’t regret.

I did not know anything about Mac OS or Objective C, I did not have a Mac, but this did not stop me. This did not stop thousands of other programmers who bought Macs and learned Obj-C.

If WP7 is successful commercially, programmers will learn whatever programming language it uses. If it’s not commercially successful, programmers will ignore it, regardless of programming language…

I bet Microsoft wants to have 1st class games on WP7, so there are or there will be ways to use low-level API.

Regarding the spending habits of smart phone owners… I paid $175 for my iPhone 4 with a 3-year plan. You cannot buy it for much cheaper in Canada, regardless of the phone plan. And you will not find a cheap iPhone 4 in the U.S. – only iPhone 3Gs (old models) are discounted, regardless of phone plans. On the other hand, there are dozens of $0-$50 Android models in the U.S. and Canada (with plans).

Apple’s business idea is: sell high-quality stuff with high gross margins. You cannot sell expensive stuff to 100% of the market, so they do not want to reach 100% of the market. You cannot maintain high margins selling cheap stuff, so iPhone will never be very cheap.

Google’s business idea is: make everyone use Google web search, so that Google has the largest possible advertising base. They want to reach 100% of the market. You cannot reach 100% of the market with expensive stuff. They do not make phones, so they do not care about margins. So Android phones will get cheaper and cheaper.

I don’t hold my breath for Android. I have a slight hope – In-App Payments. Let’s see if people will really use this…

Symbian is officially declared dead…

I have some hopes for WP7. If it does not go Android way, I will learn whatever mumbo-jumbo it speaks 🙂

If all iPhone competitors go Google way (low prices, cheap users), than one will really need something like Angry Birds to make money with them…


serkol, in principle I agree mostly agree with what you said. The problem for WP7 I see is that developers prefer a more open system. WP7 is more closed than Android and even iOS. If you allow C/C++ as a development platform you can in principle port any language, interpreted or compiled giving the developer the maximum freedom. Microsoft has big money and can acquire marketshare by marketing and paying partners but to anything there is a limit.The mobile OS universe is already crowded. It’s amazing that Apple can succeed by charging those high prices and attract so much people.The locked down their devices so you can get software only from their appstore, made it hard to pirate apps compared to other mobile OSes so I think the developers revenues are higher. Maemo has no copyprotection at all, Symbian “copyprotection” is very easy to break unfortunately. It is disappointing that people go such great lengths to pirate apps which cost $1.
I think part of the success of apple is making it that hard to pirate software so that most people are giving up and go the legal way by buying them, and once you are used to spend a few $ for apps per month you don’t bother to go the pirate way anymore. I’m surprised that apps like Tom Tom which costs $59 are amongst the top grossing on the apple appstore. For about $100 you get a Nokia 5230 without contract which has Ovi Maps preinstalled with free worldwide maps, updates, car,pedestrian navigation etc. Yet iphone users are buying the Tom Tom app en masse.

We still hope that Qt will conquer Android and Iphone too since it’s a handy tool to write any kind of apps (except mobile 3D games).

As a developer you have to protect your time you invested into writing the code for your apps. If you write a pure iOS app and apple kicks it for some reason you are screwed and your code is worthless and you have to start from scratch to port it to other platforms. At least with Qt or C++ with your own OS abstraction layer you need to rewrite only a small port in order to make it run on a new platform.
Rewriting it from scratch in order to make the app WP7 compatible often means a big time investment and you have to assess it in advance in order to evaluate if it is worth porting it.
This is why I think many developers are taking the wait and see approach and probably a reason why users are not flocking to WP7 (lack of apps).
Of course the creators of Angry Birds can afford to port the app from scratch, they are a household name and it will be an instant success on WP7 too and the effort will pay off.
Overenthusiastic smaller developers which undertake the task of porting their non trivial apps to WP7 will probably be disappointed, the userbase is simply still too small (according to wikipedia <2M devices sold to date) compared to 100M+ devices on Symbian,iOS,Android.

serkol says:

>> It’s amazing that Apple can succeed by charging those high prices and attract so much people.

Good for developers 🙂

>> If you allow C/C++…

Sure this is the way to go. But even if WP7 does not open the native development option (C/C++), many devs will still program for it, if they can make money with it. My app is big, but I will not mind spending 6 months on the WP7 port, if that can add another $100-300 a day for several next years. I’ll wait for Nokia WP7 phones to see if it’s worth porting for WP7.

>> pirating

My app is pirated… but one needs to crack his iPhone to be able to install pirated apps. In the past many people cracked their iPhones to get more functionality (copy/paste, multitasking, tethering). Now iOS supports all that natively – less reasons to crack the whole iPhone. If iOS allowed installation of cracked apps without the need to crack the whole iPhone, more people would pirate iOS apps, for sure.

You can get some money back from pirates. One option – show them adds that will use a portion of a screen – some pirates will decide to buy your app to get rid of adds. Another option – use in-app purchases to unlock premium features. In iOS only legitimate users can use in-app purchases, so some pirates will buy your app.

>> If you write a pure iOS app and apple kicks it for some reason

If you don’t plan on violating Apple’s rules (for example use of undocumented API), there’s practically zero chance that your app will be permanently kicked. They don’t kick apps because they ate something wrong today… 🙂

If they kick your app, they will give you the reason why, and you can resubmit your app again. My updates were kicked a few times for small reasons. I resolved them within 1-2 days. The reasons were: bugs that I needed to fix, inappropriate use of graphics (I used the picture of the standard “disclosure” button to do different thing, and that was not intuitive).

>> We still hope that Qt will conquer Android and Iphon

I would not hold my breath 🙂

I think that currently Qt for mobile is a waste of time (big file size, bugs, uncertain future). Since Nokia dumped Qt, just forget about Qt for mobile, don’t waste your time… If you invest this time into developing “native” ports, you will get better apps, and you will be able to support them in the future. What will happen with Qt for Android and iOS next year? Do you want to bet your time and money on it?

I like Qt, I used it for the desktop version of my app (it’s not released yet). I wish Qt long life on desktop and in embedded applications!


serkol, what you said makes very much sense and I think most developers would agree with you. About WP7 we will see. I think most devs hope a too closed system does not get too popular otherwise they are at the mercy of the dictator. Apple is a dictator too, no question but as things are now, it provides more ways to develop for their platforms than WP7. Of course if Microsoft sees that C/C++ is very much requested it could be that they give in and provide a native development kit, just like Android did.
About betting your future on sunsupported Qt ports: it’s true that it’s a risk but sometimes the open source community makes miracles.Who would have thought that IBM,HP and other big firms are betting their future on an open source operating system written by a few nerds (at the beginning). I could certainly envision that Qt becomes as good on Android as on Symbian soon.Qt for Android is mainly the work of a single guy working on it in his spare time for less than a year. And now there is Qt Creator integration, ministro (the equivalent of the symbian Qt smart installer).We wrote some test apps using the recently Android Qt SDK and honestly said it’s as easy if not easier to use as the official Nokia Qt SDK for Symbian. The Qt Android guys are finishing Qt Mobility for Qt too so it could really become a viable platform to develop for.

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