20 April 2010 ~ 0 Comments

So you want to make an iPhone app

OK, the app store has over 130,000 apps and the retention rate of users is pretty bad. So what kind of app should go on the iPhone? I am going to separate apps into three categories – games, useful apps, and novelty.  There was a time when you could make a novelty app like iFart and hope to make some money.  Now the chances for that are very low. It is possible to have a successful game on the iPhone though. Games on the iPhone are different than on most platforms. They are made to be very simple and so that you can pick them up play for a few minutes and then the bus finally arrives. Games are fun, but I’m going to focus on useful apps this post.

To make a useful app, the app has to solve some sort of problem. Getting people to take money out of their pocket and into your bank account is not a problem! Some people think that once someone pays 99 cents for their app it doesn’t matter how many times the person uses it. I think that is wrong for many reasons and in the end you up making more money in the long term if people like and use your app. Also as an engineer you have an obligation to help people. Check out the talk from Mike lee for more about that.

If you want to make a useful app, you have to think of when someone is going to use it. People use their iPhones when they are not at home and either want to find out some information very quickly such as to find a restaurant near where they are, or to check the latest score in the baseball game since the restaurant they found doesn’t have a TV. Or they want to upload some information for people to see, such as tweeting to their friends- wow this baseball game is in the 19th inning. Basically most apps that are used have an existing web service that they connect to. The iPhone is a software platform and it is possible to have things specifically for the iPhone and nothing else, such as games, but when it comes things people use all the time, the iPhone becomes an extension of the internet. The apps that are used time and time again are ones that connect to your bank, the Weather Channel,  Facebook,  or the New York Times. The iPhone also has some cool hardware features that are useful for an app- specifically the GPS and the Camera. Twitter, Foursquare and Ustream take advantage of those things.

So if you want to make an iPhone app, and it’s not going to be a game or some novelty, think about why someone would open the app more than once, and make sure it has a web service that the iPhone can connect to. Oh, same thing applies for the android or any other would be smart phone.

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