S4BB Limited

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Quick Facts

  • Began developing for BlackBerry® smartphones in 2006
  • As of November 2012, applications downloads have reached over 3 million
  • Have developed over 3,500 applications which are available on BlackBerry World™
  • Benefit from having free testing devices provided by Research In Motion® (RIM®), especially BlackBerry 10 prototype for building applications prior to its official launch
  • Developed a simple application using the new Cascade framework in just half a day, and completed it with graphics design in another half day

BlackBerry Developer Success Story — S4BB Limited

Founded in 2006, S4BB Limited is a young, leading-edge Hong Kong based company with a strong focus on the development of BlackBerry applications. Their BlackBerry products cover nearly all aspects of what is needed by BlackBerry customers, including e-book readers, games, productivity and utility applications, etc. In 2011, their Memory Booster™ application was nominated for Best Mobile App Award at Mobile World Congress 2011.

Patrick Kosiol, CEO of S4BB Limited, talked about why they focus on the development of BlackBerry applications, their winning strategy for attracting global customers and apps design, and their development experience with the BlackBerry 10 platform.

Q: How long have you been working with BlackBerry? Why? What is the percentage of your revenue from BlackBerry apps?

Patrick: It was actually RIM and its BlackBerry user community that got us started. When we started developing apps in 2005, we put our first mobile application on several platforms and we received the most enthusiastic feedback from BlackBerry customers. Given the engagement and size of the BlackBerry user base, we decided to focus our efforts primarily on developing for the BlackBerry platform, and it was that development that really built the company itself.

Currently, BlackBerry apps account for 80% of our total revenue.

View details in BlackBerry World
S4BB Memory Booster screenshot
S4BB Learn Chinese screenshot

Q: How many BlackBerry apps have you developed? Which one is your most popular app?

Patrick: We have developed 3,500 apps which are available for download from BlackBerry World. Currently, our Learn Applications, which include Learn Chinese, Learn Spanish, Learn Italian, Learn French and Learn English, are the most popular apps among our BlackBerry customers.

Q: What is your winning strategy for attracting BlackBerry customers across the globe to download your apps?

Patrick: I think it is essential to step up the relationship with the user base by engaging with them over social media like Twitter® and Facebook®, or via emails and newsletters.

Our Twitter followers are professionals from different backgrounds including journalists, bloggers, forum members and moderators. We have about 2,300 followers there.

Different from Twitter, Facebook customers are more end-customers. So far, we have over 130,000 fans on our Facebook Fan Page. The Facebook community is very important to us as it is the platform for sharing news, pre-releases, screenshots and ideas with our fans. We also use it to launch some promotions.

In addition, we use our subscription-based newsletters to inform customers about our upcoming releases.

All these channels allow us to develop close relationships with our user community, providing them with information about our new products, as well as acquiring important user feedback on what they feel is important to them. As a result we are able to launch new apps quickly and efficiently.

Q: Are there any apps integrated with native features and functions of BlackBerry? How does this level of integration compare to other platforms?

Patrick: Yes, we have quite a number of apps that are integrated with BlackBerry® Messenger (BBM™). For example, our application called Screen Shot, allows customers to share a screen shot with their BBM contacts with one click. This application is also integrated to the BlackBerry email application allowing customers to share a screenshot via email.

The tight integration with native BlackBerry features allows customers to use the app more seamlessly and have a better user experience. For instance, they can instantly share a screenshot without the need to go in and out of the application. In our experience, the BlackBerry platform offers the most seamless integration between native and third-party applications compared with other platforms.

Q: How important has the relationship with the RIM Developer team been? How does it compare to other platforms?

Patrick: The relationship with the RIM Developer team has been very helpful. We can easily contact the respective persons at RIM who look after matters related to monetization, distribution and BlackBerry World in Hong Kong, Asia Pacific or at RIM’s headquarters. This is in stark contrast to our experience with platforms like Android and IOS, where we have not been successful in finding anyone at these organizations when we have the occasion to need their assistance.

The most helpful part is having free testing devices that allow us to test applications before we release them to the market. With the upcoming BlackBerry 10 launch, we were particularly pleased that we were given BlackBerry 10 prototype devices for us to build apps prior to the launch, so that we have sufficient time to develop, test and launch products before the devices are officially released.

Q: Could you share with us your winning tips in application design?

Patrick: Simplicity is very important to us. We have always been very simple in how we design applications. It is never appealing for us to have complex apps with many features for many reasons. First, it takes a lot longer to create; second, customers do not want to think about what they are doing, they want to have something really simple and intuitive that works; and third, if customers do not know how to use the application because it is too complex, it would create a lot of support cases for us which will translate into additional cost.

We have consciously taken the path of developing applications that fit into the design of the device, for example the OS design, so that it is easier for customers to adapt to the app. This is not only very important from the design perspective but also from the integration perspective as it helps minimize network traffic, enhancing user experience.

Q: We understand that you have already started developing BlackBerry 10 apps, what is your development experience with BlackBerry 10 platform?

Patrick: The new BlackBerry 10 platform requires a slightly different skill-set when it comes to developing applications. The advantage of using HTML5-based applications is that it is fairly simple and straightforward. For example, we can use an existing BlackBerry® PlayBook™ app that is built using HTML5 and run it on the BlackBerry 10 platform.

The design of the SDK is very well constructed. It is fairly easy for us to integrate apps to the BlackBerry 10 platform. In addition, open source libraries and third-party libraries can also be integrated into our applications.

The new Cascade framework is easy to use. It actually only took me half a day to develop a simple BlackBerry 10 app and another half a day to design the graphics, making it very quick and easy to develop the application even for someone without any experience in using Cascade.

Finally, the WebWorks platform makes porting HTML5 applications to BlackBerry 10 platform easy. We can have the same app running on older devices as well as on BlackBerry 10 devices in a short amount of time.

Q: What are the best aspects of building for BlackBerry?

Patrick: The best aspects are the huge BlackBerry user base and attractive monetization. Since we started in 2006, we earn more revenue from the BlackBerry platform than from other platforms. We have tried monetizing other platforms but we found that it was not easy to do so.

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