The iPhone is a smart phone, but it’s a smart phone that appeals way beyond the traditional smart phone!
The iPhone: its sleek design, always-on connectivity, enterprise support, application platform, quirky third party apps and the fact that it’s made by Apple keep the iPhone in the headlines. Those who have one say they’d never go back, and the iPhone wins hands down in comparisons with other ‘smart’ phones. The iPhone is rapidly expanding in global markets; already in 80 countries, it’s set to be in 84 countries soon. The iPhone 3G launched in the UK in July 2008 is even more popular than the original iPhone having already sold over 17m units worldwide (1 million in the first weekend it went on sale). The ‘device’ itself seems to transcend mobile phones; creating a new product genre; it sure is a market.
iPhone is first and foremost a phone (you can make phone calls with it); and whilst there’s arguably relatively little innovation to be made in terms of voice, Apple has indeed innovated everywhere; including in voice, as you might expect. iPhone boasts a fully featured web browser via Safari, email via Mail, Events and Calendars via iCal as well as great Utility apps from a calculator, to Address Book, to Notes. Oh, and of course all of your mobile ‘stuff’ is synched to your computer via Mobile Me; even PC users get great synchronisation capabilities. When you’re not at work there’s YouTube to play with, and it’s an iPod; so it holds all your music, and TV shows. Oh, and all of that just comes as standard in a super-easy-to-use interface.
It seems you either love it, or you love it, unless you haven’t actually held one yet, in which case you should, so you can make up your own mind. It’s not just the iPhone device though that’s being described as a ‘game changer’ heralding in Mobile 2.0; there’s more to it than that. iPhone comes with its own marketplace; the App Store where third party developers can distribute their software. The App Store, controlled by Apple enables anyone the chance to either distribute an application for free, or to charge for each download.
Whilst Apple takes 30% of sales revenues, the 70% revenue to the developer is appealing and previously unheard of in the mobile applications business. Whilst Apple moderates what goes into the App Store; essentially it is far more open that any other mobile ecosystem to date. Anyone can create an application and apply to become an official iPhone SDK developer, anyone can submit an application to the App Store and if successful, as most are, anyone can sell their application to a consumer base that is easy to target with one point of sale. Even niche services can reach their longtail audiences via the App Store.
Apple has not only created a new breed of phone, and marketplace, but a new way of thinking about mobile content and what makes a good mobile service or application. Unlike any other previous mobile platform, Apple is enabling the consumer to decide. Whereas previously, application developers would need to do deals with either handset manufacturers or network operators to get their apps pre-installed on phones or accessible via a list of ‘recommended apps’, now, the field is much more open to all.
The iPhone App Store is a groundbreaking strategy for a handset manufacturer; enabling third parties to create great content and applications for your device; building yet more appeal for consumers; and more revenue. The App Store launched in June 2008; it already boasts over 20,000 Apps and over 500 million downloads and is as diverse as the capabilities of the device itself. You’ll find high quality games, addictive time-wasters, city guides, social networking and location aware apps, music recommendation apps, health and fitness aids and productivity tools. And unlike traditional mobile applications, the experience is in a class of its own.
iPhone does things other phones don’t do (yet); it comes with GPS location awareness built in delivering a new plethora of ‘Location Based Services’. iPhone also has a touch screen meaning previous keypad restrictions on handsets are effortlessly overcome; making for a much more intuitive user experience. It comes with an ‘accelerometer’ meaning you can make applications based on gestural input (such as motion, vibration and tilt) – enabling really fun games.
The SDK (Software Development Kit) enables developers to access various parts of the device; for example the camera and the photo album that takes pictures, geo-tags them with your location and allows you to see other photos taken ‘nearby is just one example)’. Most iPhone owners have downloaded a range of applications; some for work, some just for fun, and the App Store is fast becoming a showcase of mobile application innovation. High-end games sell for £5.99 or more whereas other apps are selling for 59p; and many are free. The attraction for developers is clear; even at 59p (the 99 cent equivalent) the App Store offers a powerful way to reach your consumer base; just 10,000 downloads offers developers a healthy ‘carrot’ to develop new innovative applications.
So is the iPhone platform creating an explosion of developer-entrepreneurs; all looking to make a fast buck? Well, yes and no. Like the web, developers have no, or low barrier to entry; in theory anyone can now make a mobile app, and there are plenty of ideas out there. Unlike the web however where you can develop web applications in a variety of programming languages, the skills required for iPhone development are more specific; and arguably harder to come by. Developing an application for iPhone requires skills in Objective-C programming; although other Mac development experience from Cocoa to WebObjects also comes in handy. There are plenty of PHP and Ruby on Rails programmers out there who would love to make the most of this platform but who don’t (yet) have the skills.
A quick search for iPhone developer positions vacant will confirm that the few developers who are skilled in this area are in serious demand. Hot on the heels of this new breed of mobile developers will doubtless come iPhone strategists and iPhone designers; the platform indeed requires a new way of thinking about mobile services. The iPhone opportunity is appealing across the board, and not just to independent developers; games companies are developing special versions of their games for iPhone, web services are going mobile on iPhone, brands want to be in your pocket (on iPhone); the possibilities seem endless.
Corporations are building in-house development teams to create corporate applications, brands are commissioning independent developers, and web design agencies are branching out, adding iPhone development services to their offering. For small businesses too, iPhone offers a way to reach a new, content-hungry audience; for many, creating an iPhone App is the new way of looking at ‘online and mobile marketing’.
Whilst iPhone is redefining the mobile landscape and taking the world by storm, it is still very new; in its infancy. We’ve yet to see the market for apps saturated and there’s still plenty of room for innovation. Everyone working in this area is indeed still learning: what makes a great app how to monetise an app, how to take web based services mobile. And iPhone represents a significant investment opportunity; US based venture firm KPCB announced iFund So what does this new platform represent to technology companies, developers, brands and business owners?
The Amazing iPhone project is a report (and accompanying events) on the iPhone device, platform and opportunity for both business perspectives. We have been watching the iPhone space, from the device, to the apps, to the developers, to industry reactions, and will share this insight alongside direct experience of developing an application for iPhone.
In this report we will cover the basics from development and location based services, so it’s possible to create feature rich integrated applications, (an app1, offering $100 million worth of investment.using iPhone and for creating apps for it).
Download The Amazing iPhone Report below.
Download The Amazing iPhone Report v1.2 (Feb 09)
“Coffee Buzz” is a new social tool for sharing and finding great coffee experiences; an idea we developed especially for the iPhone platform. We’ll be sharing our experiences of developing the concept and the application itself via a separate report “The making of Coffee Buzz” which is also downloadable below.Download The Making of Coffee Buzz v1.1 (Jan 09)