Here, take my money. Do you have an iPhone app?

Android is 97% of the market in India. And it is only growing. It’s complete annihilation. Android, and the Play Store are more developer friendly. You get phones comparable to iPhones at less than half the price. Then why build an iOS app? Let’s stick to Android. That was how we thought.

At Sensy, we are building Smarter Live TV User Experiences. We wanted to focus on the dominant operating system, build and iterate fast and be with in the reach of the majority of the audience. Why? Some Android phones even have Infrared Emitters inbuilt inside them. Sensy has been on Android for a long time now.

When we launched Sensy Home, our Smart Remote hardware, we participated in many real world events. We won the mBillionth Award for media and entertainment, we were the best exhibitor at BengaluruITE.biz, we got selected in Amazon.in Launchpad, we were one of the busiest stalls at Mini Maker Faire in Bangalore, and at the India Gadgetz Show 2016. Everywhere we went people loved our product, and what it brought to the TV Experience.

But some questions always haunted us. “Do you have an iPhone app?”. “Does it work with an iPhone?”. “iPhone app ilva?”. Most times, we’d see this enthusiast just remove money from his wallet to make a purchase. At ₹999/-, we are (or used to be) a One-Note Buy. We’d then ask, “Uhh, wait. Are you an iPhone user?”. When someone made such an impulsive purchase, we’d quickly guess (and rightly so) that she must be an iPhone person.

Android users are in stark contrast. They ask if batteries are free, if the device works for him and their neighbours, and how much discount they’d get if they buy it at the stall — as against online. Many even checked our online price in front of us. They’d bargain and ask, “If I buy online, you’ll lose commission and shipping. Give me that discount right here”.

A lot has been studied and written about the Android vs iPhone stereotypes. Some of them even seem to be planted by the iPhone PR.

Some iPhone people were adamant. “I am going to buy the device today. Can you promise me you’ll launch the iOS app in two months?”. “Here take my card, tell me when your iPhone launches. Will buy 2.”. The demand for an iOS app surpassed our understanding of market share.

The iPhone demographic in India is very savvy. An incremental ₹999/- for a small gadget is minuscule compared to the iPhone’s price. They are mostly placed in a much higher disposable income bracket, not an aspirational class, but a class of achievers. An incremental purchase is not something they think about. Many of my colleagues and fellow entrepreneurs even say they get looks across the deal table if they keep an Android phone there.

The difference showed. At every event, we found that iPhone users were more easily convinced to buy us. For a small startup like ours — the early sales numbers matter a lot. The first 100K buyers make or break a startup. And the first 100K are mostly early adopters, savvy buyers, that have disposable income. The market share of iPhone versus Android is not the same here. Shopping intent and conversion rates matter.

When this pressure became too strong, we took a strong decision 2 months back. We asked the software product team to stop everything they are doing, and get the iOS app ready. This was a big thing, for a small team of engineers. At Sensara, we are a 12 people company, spread across product, platform and hardware, and just 3 people doing the software product. And they’ve never done iOS development. We bought our first iPhone as a company, installed XCode, and started learning Swift. The result you see today, in less than 2 months, — Sensy live on the App Store, is testament to how nimble and diligent our product team is. To get this done faster, we looked at our Android app in and out, and looked at the most used features, prioritised them for iOS. In some sense, this is like a re-architecture, where we keep the stuff that works, and keep the nice-to-haves for later.

Yes, we are now open for sales. What next? Windows phone? Nope. But keep guessing ;)

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