There is this idea that if you can build an iPhone app you can ride the next dot-com type wave to millions of dollars. Take the guy who made the iPhone app that tells you you’re rich and lets you know if anyone else with the same app is nearby. He sold 8 copies for $999 each. Now granted that is only around $8000, but for a picture of a gem that lights up, it’s pretty ridiculous money.
The problem as I see it is that just like Facebook, Twitter and mySpace marketers and their clients are jumping into the fray without any thought as to “should I really be here?” Before a company invests considerable time and money in developing an iPhone app they should consider that the usage rate drops considerably after the app is first downloaded.
This is because most apps suck.
They suck because marketers and developers have not considered the audience, the iPhone usage and whether or not they even belong in that space. I know from my own iPhone usage I have downloaded about 40 apps and use 5 on a consistent basis. I use each one in a different fashion, for different reasons and at different times.
For example I use a little app called Majong fairyland twice a day on the subway, once on the way to work and once one the way home. The average game lasts 45-50 minutes which is perfect for my commute. The game is complex enough to occupy my mind, but allows me to listen to my own music or audio book so I can multi-task while playing.
Another great app I use is Run Keeper which I have blogged about before. In both these instances the app is useful and appropriate for the audience. But they are only used in very specific instances. Something like a news app would be useless to me since the only time I have time to read is on the subway, which has no Wifi connection, meaning I cannot read updated news – ergo useless. When I get home I could the iPhone app but I’d rather just turn on the TV.
Now I realize that not everyone takes the subway but what other conditions should developers be thinking about? Say, you drive to work. Gotta keep your eyes on the road, can’t be looking at an iPhone (or at least you shouldn’t be) so what to do? How about an iPhone app that reads the news aloud? It could allow users to select via RSS the types of stories they want. Then it would be like having your own customized news broadcast.
Another group who should be on the iPhone is MLS. Imagine walking with your spouse along a street lined with trees in a neighbourhood you both like and you think, “Gee, We should move into this area.” With an iPhone app it could use GPS to identify your location and show a Google map (which MLS are already using) and display the homes for sale in that area. Then you could change the settings, filter the results and walk over to the houses in the area that your are interested in!
Now there are reasons why this app won’t work, MLS has a strangle hold on the data, for example. But the idea is solid, realtors (especially selling realtors) would love it, and it has a defined use. To make an app successful developers, marketers and companies need to look past the “buzz” and the quick money and consider “would I actually use this?”