Purpose and Method
The reason I wanted to do a competitive analysis was to see what other ISS-tracking or sky-watching apps had to offer. There was not a specific question I started out with, though thinking back, it should have been, how do these competitors get their users to convert to paying customers?
I started out with a general internet search and then got more specific as I saw what the landscape looked like. The general search led me to an article about several ISS tracking and sky-watching applications, I did searches on Google Play and iTunes to see what apps popped up. Between the article and the app store searches, I had quite a list of apps to go through.
To get the details on each application, I started looking at AppBrain, but they only look at Google Play, and I wanted to see data across Android and iOS app stores. I found App Annie offers statistical data across app stores. Of course, on a shoestring (aka non-existent) budget, I wasn’t going to sign up for the premium content that probably could have made compiling this data a little easier. And finally, only Google Play gave information on the number of downloads of apps, so for iOS, I could only use the number of reviews to get an idea of the app’s popularity.
After looking through different sky watching apps, I noticed two different categories of apps: 1) apps that are specifically for ISS tracking and 2) apps that are for sky-watching and happen to include satellite tracking (ISS included). Since ISS Detector starts as specifically for tracking the ISS, and Iridium Flares, as part of their free offering, and then offers add-ons for looking at more celestial events, there is value in looking at both sets of apps.
ISS Tracker Apps
|ISS Spotter||Sputnik!||GoISSWatch||ISS Locator||ISS Tracker||Satellite Safari|
Sky Watcher Apps
|Stellarium Mobile Sky Map||SkySafari5||Night Sky 4|
Key Take-Away Items
ISS Tracking Apps
ISS Detector is most like the ISS / Satellite tracking applications I examined.
- Free with option to upgrade for a small fee
- Simple in structure and functions
- List of fly over times
- Alerts or notifications of fly overs
- Simple maps – either 2D, globe, or sky map
- Not heavy on graphics or aesthetics – unpolished
Satellite Safari is the exception to what the other ISS tracking apps have to offer, as it looks complex, aesthetically pleasing, and does not come with a free option. This was the most popular of all the ISS tracking apps I included.
I noticed that Satellite Safari uses a sky map with high quality graphics that simulates the visual field of the horizon, meant to look as close to what the user is seeing in front of them as possible. This fits in with the Neilsen Norman Groups Usability Heuristic of having the system match the real world. Sky maps that are as close to what users will actually see when they look up from their phone will be the most useful in helping users find the ISS in the night sky.
Sky Watching Apps
The sky watching apps are more like alternative products, rather than substitute products for the ISS Detector.
- No free options – users pay for these apps from the beginning
- LOTS of information about celestial objects – large database
- Multiple ways to view these objects, skymaps, globes, zooming into the object, etc.
- ISS or satellite tracking is incidental
- High quality and aesthetically pleasing graphics
I think there can be a take-away from looking at the sky watching apps: the high quality graphics give the apps a polish the ISS tracking apps don’t have. From the high ratings and large number of users who left ratings, I would think that users feel they are getting quality for what they are paying for.
I’d like to know if users of the ISS Detector have used these other apps, and which of the features they felt were the most compelling. I’d like to know if they successfully converted, and the reasons behind why or why not. There are a lot of good questions that came out of this exercise that I can use in user research.
I would also like to learn more about doing a competitive analysis, and different techniques. I feel I could have done this more efficiently rather than just going in it with a very broad goal of seeing what’s in the market.