Stop the Noiz

Why Is There an App for Everything?

Frank Fox - 2009.08.06 - Tip Jar

The iPhone has a guaranteed wider set of possible interactions.

The iPhone is much more than a desktop or laptop computer. A basic computer includes a keyboard, mouse/touchpad, monitor, and a processor. You really should throw in a printer, but it's technically not a requirement.

Compare this to an iPhone, which has a virtual keyboard, touch screen/monitor, processor, USB connect/hot sync, WiFi, Bluetooth, headphones, camera, motion sensors, some type of GPS positioning, and a cellular phone. There is also a selection of apps you start with no matter what else you do - web browser, email, clock, etc.

No iPhone comes with less, and except for storage size or 3G support, not much is built into the newest iPhone that's not found in an older model. Sure, all the missing items can be added to a desktop or laptop, but it is not a guarantee that every computer - or even a large number - will have all the same features.

Every app for the iPhone can mix or match the built-in features for a huge combination of applications. You can have a game that uses the motion sensors for control, add in GPS positioning to assign a location to where you are playing, and connect via cellular or WiFi for network competition/interaction. For a computer game, it would be hard to find a large customer base that had all of these features installed on the desktop to allow such a new game design to succeed.

These combinations allow you to create novel apps to separate your product from thousands available elsewhere or to compete with an entrenched big budget program. Would a Mario-like game be more fun with a GPS feature, or if you could add your own photos, or if it allowed you to use songs from your own iTunes collection? The possibilities are huge.

The iPhone is there when you need it.

Of course, both the iPhone and a laptop computer are portable. You see laptop computers at the airport or Starbucks. Even though a number of people like to lug a laptop computer everywhere, a much greater number of people have their cell phones with them. There are countless CrackBerry addicts checking their email, or young couples on dates not talking but text messaging each other.

Why aren't these people using laptops? It's because a phone is much smaller and easier to carry.

When we went on a family vacation, there was an iPhone app for Disneyland. You could use it to check wait times at different rides. This kind of app works great while at the park, but it would be useless at home or in the hotel. Our laptop stayed in the hotel room during the day, and it would not have been fun to carry on Space Mountain. The iPhone is more likely to be there when you need it.

An iPhone app is easy to distribute and sell.

The app market for the iPhone is completely unlike applications for computers in general. It is not because they have to be, but Apple has lowered the bar for making, selling, and especially distributing apps.

Sure, everyone has heard of Microsoft, and you can buy its product at any large box store. But what about all the little guys like Lemke Software, Freeverse, Pixelmator Team, etc.? There are thousands of computer apps, but where is the best place to shop for them and to find the one you want? New companies are making a name for themselves on the App Store without having a $300 million marketing budget like Microsoft.

iPhone apps are 'fun' and tailor-made, while web pages are slow and you have to search too much.

There is an iPhone weather app, or you could go to and get the same information from a web page. Why have a separate app when the Safari browser can find thousands - or even millions - of useful web pages? Dedicated apps, with their icons, help you quickly find what you are looking for. Browsing the Web requires extra steps and can take longer.

Since the iPhone includes both the browser and focused apps, you get the best of both worlds. It is like the fact that I have both a Swiss Army knife and a kitchen knife. Sure, the Swiss army knife can do it all, but I'd much rather cut up vegetables with a kitchen knife. A tailor-made tool is more enjoyable to use than one that is merely adequate.

The iPhone is a great gift for a spouse.

Suppose you don't like something about the iPhone, maybe the battery life is too short. Give the iPhone as a gift to your spouse, who will think it's a great present. Then ask them to look up directions for you, or check a web page for prices, or download a game for the kids to play. This way you get most of the benefits of having an iPhone without having to own one yourself. I call this the win-win scenario, as long as the monthly phone bill isn't your main issue with the iPhone.

The iPhone bridges gender and age differences.

Note that I said spouse; the iPhone is great for the husband or wife, son or daughter. The appeal cuts across gender lines and across age differences. Programs are popping up to appeal to the broad range of users. It is not just for geeks, hard core gamers, or business users. The iPhone has a little bit for everyone to enjoy, and this is being fed by an increasingly larger number of apps to choose from.

Is it any wonder that sales of the iPhone have continued to grow even in this down economy - or that the App Store is the latest Apple idea that everyone has to copy? When you consider that Apple wasn't going to have an App Store, it is truly amazing how important the app has become for the iPhone system. It has made the whole much greater than the sum of the parts. LEM

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