Tag Archives: iphone app development

How to Determine Which of Your iPhone App Ideas Has the Most Merit

Seems there’s no shortage of good ideas for iPhone mobile apps. So, which ideas are worth pursuit?

Mobile app ideas with the most potential, meet these following criteria:

  1. Provide the highest payoff
  2. Have the strongest competitive advantage
  3. Require the least amount of resources to develop and market successfully.

First Criterion: Select ideas with the highest payoff. For each person, this may be different. Some seek monetary rewards, other seek fulfillment and yet others seek recognition. And there are those that have charitable motives and want to give back to society and their community.

For clarity, this might require some soul searching and goal-setting, beginning with the end in mind:

  • Where are you today?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How do you get there?

It’s a good idea to prioritize to determine what’s aligned best with your life’s goals, dreams and morals. Evaluate how you can best leverage your areas of expertise and interests. I’m a big believer in the notion that if you do what you love, the money will follow.

If you were to read one book on goal-setting, I recommend “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. What I like about Jack’s book is he taps into the ideas of thought leaders in personal and business development such as Jim Collins, Anthony Robbins and Stephen Covey.

Second Criterion: Select ideas that have a strong competitive advantage.

Close evaluation of the competition is critical and often forgotten step. You can have strong development, design and great marketing, but overlooking the competition can prove fatal.

The iPhone App Store is an open book with over 65,000 apps. Use this to your advantage. Scour the store for apps that appear to compete with yours.

  • Download free and paid versions to kick the tires.
  • Focus first on those with the highest number of reviews.
  • Read the reviews to see what people like about the apps and what they don’t.
  • Pay close attention to the feature requests.
  • Read the application descriptions to see how your competition is positioning their app and consider how you should differentiate yourself.
  • Make comparison of pricing and feature sets offered by your competitors.
  • Once you’ve identified your short list of competing apps, search Google to see how those apps are being promoted outside of the App Store via YouTube, Twitter, forums, publicity and websites.
  • Create a competing apps spreadsheet or database to capture all of your competitor information in one place and update frequently over time.

Third Criterion: Select ideas that require the least amount of resources to develop and market successfully.

So, how can you determine resources required to market your application?

  • It really depends on target your audience. Your strategy is going to be quite different if you’re trying to reach musicians versus physicians.
  • For each app idea, construct an audience profile so that you can begin to think about how you’ll reach them.
  • How accessible are they?
    • Where do they gather?
    • How do they consume media? (frequent users of Twitter, Podcasts, Blogs, watch TV, read Newspapers, etc.)
    • What are their demographic and lifestyle characteristics? Can they afford an iPhone/iTouch? Are they afraid of technology?
    • What is their potential for growth?

Regarding the app itself and its market potential:

  • Does it lend itself to a family of apps that complement one another for the same audience (using the physicians example, you might offer a drug reference guide, continuing medical education and a medical transcription app)?
  • Can the app be templatized and re-skinned to reach additional market segments (if you create a continuing medical education app for physicians, could that be repurposed for K-12 teachers who need to earn continuing education credits? Or really anything that requires recertification)
  • Does your app idea have potential to be sold as an app module where you could earn licensing fees from companies who use it in their apps? Perhaps your app has a unique and sophisticated scoring and reporting function.
  • How well does the app fit into your current business model? Ideas that are complimentary to your business model allow you to leverage your current customer base.
  • Reach out to through all of your customer touchpoints. For example announce your new app within:
  • Your Email signatures
  • On Customer Receipts
  • In Newsletters/Email blasts
  • Packaging, shopping bags, wherever you and your customer come into contact.

Finally, does your app have Apple Featureability?

  • Apps featured on Apples iPhone commercials typically get anywhere from 3 to 6 seconds of air-time.
  • Can your app’s benefits be made apparent in 6 seconds or less?

Thinking in these terms helps you to arrive at the true differentiation and benefits of your app over all the rest.

To recap, choose iPhone app ideas that meet these criteria:

  1. Provide the highest payoff for you.
  2. Offer the greatest competitive advantage.
  3. Require the least amount of resources to develop and market successfully.

Tim CascioTim Cascio is the author of the Mobile Marketing, Monetization and Methods blog, Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Mobile Visionary Roundtable at the Illinois Technology Association and Sr. Digital Strategist at Bader Rutter & Associates, an award-winning integrated marketing services agency that specializes in advertising, public relations, brand asset management, relationship marketing and digital solutions. Tim is @timcascio on Twitter and can be reached in the United States at 262-938-5543.

Please reach out to me if there’s any way I can help you through my network or otherwise. Your comments below are welcome.


iPhone App Developer Shares Playbook for Success on a Marketing Budget of Zero

An interview with Emanuele Vulcano, founder of Infinite Labs located in Milan, Italy and creator of the hugely successful iPhone “Mover” app. Emanuele is a self-taught, 23-year-old, application builder and designer. Emanuele describes his path and plans for an app that brought immediate success with more than 20,000 downloads in four days. He currently enjoys top rankings in the iPhone App Store and a steady 1,500 downloads per day. How did he achieve such a remarkable level of success that includes TV air-time, compliments of Apple, on a marketing budget of zero? Read on.

Tim: When did your “Mover” App launch in the iPhone App Store?

Mover, my most successful app to date, launched as a free app in the App Store on May 2nd, 2009.

Tim: How long did it take to know you had a winner?

Public reception was immediate, with strong download numbers of more than ten thousand in three days and reviews on prominent websites such as TUAW.com in the weeks immediately after the launch.

Tim: What process did you use to get reviews from prominent websites? Did you fill out online forms or use other methods?

For those sites that have a “send a tip” web form, I used that page; otherwise, I searched for a private e-mail address or used a posted in public forums associated with the site where this was not against the rules.

Tim: How long was Mover among the top ranked apps?

Thanks to Apple featuring the application, the application enjoyed a high number of downloads and a Top 100 position until the week of June 30th.

Tim: And how has it performed since?

The application fell out of the Top/New charts, and has held steady around 1,500 daily downloads since then. This changed in early August when Apple’s advertisement aired, causing the application to return to pre-June 30th levels and enjoy a return to the charts. As we speak, Mover is the Top 28th free application and the Top 5th free app in the Utility category.

Tim: What do you think led to Apple featuring your app in a TV commercial?

It’s my opinion that the immediate visual impact, alongside the relative popularity among App Store users, was judged optimal for a TV advertisement where a product has to prove itself in an extremely limited time. The animated sequence involving Mover in the ad is memorable, despite being just one second in length.

Tim: You’re located in Milan, Italy…what percent of downloads occur outside of the US?

As of early August 2009, 47% of downloads have been outside the US.

Tim: What marketing methods have proven to be most effective thus far for you?

In descending order of effectiveness: being featured by Apple in the New & Noteworthy section; being featured in the “Share” Apple advertisement; being part of one of App Store’s “top”/”new” lists (Top Free, Top Utilities, “Sort by release date” default view in the Utilities section); the Mover app YouTube video showing my application at work on my website; blog reviews (TUAW.com, 148apps.com…); word-of-mouth.

Despite being the lowest in the list, word-of-mouth is probably accounts for most subsequent marketing initiatives being pursued. I should mention that none of these initiatives were paid for by Infinite Labs.

My applications have been marketed on a monetary budget of zero, exploiting user satisfaction and free-to-use Internet channels rather than selectively using costly traditional advertising means. As a student on an extremely low monthly budget, I use “costly” to indicate that those means had a cost that was higher than zero and therefore unacceptable to me.

Tim: What do you think has helped push you up in the iPhone App Store rankings?

The unique, immediately understandable experience; the nonexisting financial barrier to entry (the app is free); the possibility of seeing the app in action without buying it through the website and YouTube video; the novelty of the experience, which prompted users to “show it off”; and the perceived lack of functionality in equivalent areas of iPhone OS when compared with other smartphones convinced a large amount of users to give it a try. The high download numbers did the rest.

Tim: To what extent do you think social media has played a role in your app’s success?

Word-of-mouth certainly accounts for most of Mover’s success, since it spurred the initiatives that placed Mover near the top of the charts in the last two months. Social media did play the part of an echo chamber for Mover’s strong points, allowing word-of-mouth to spread faster and more effectively. No single channel is responsible for Mover’s success — users of multiple tools that felt strongly enough about the application used them to advise others to try it, but the particular medium used was secondary to this.

Tim: What logic did you use to set the app price?

Mover was conceived as a proof of concept and a piece of programming “art” or “craft”, alongside being an useful utility, as detailed on my blog. Additionally, the laws of the country I reside in, Italy, prevent me from starting an entrepreneurial activity without undergoing appropriate bureaucracy, which I hadn’t completed at the time. Therefore, without economic consideration to worry about (in fact, being bound by law not to pursue them), I opted to provide the application for free.

Additionally, even now that I am free to have an income from this activity, I have in hindsight found that a free version of the application provides a workaround to one of the application’s main weak points — namely, that two or more parties have to own it in order to use it. Therefore, I have decided not to raise the price on the original version of the application and pursue alternate monetization strategies instead.

Tim: What do your alternate monetization strategies include?

On August 16, 2009, a Tier 2 ($1.99) “Mover Plus” version was launched with often-requested additional features including Bluetooth support, new item kinds (bookmarks and text clippings) and many UI and engine refinements. This will be followed by the release of an ad-supported “Lite” version with equal features. The Lite version would be released as an update to the current free application on the Store.

Depending on the performance of any of the two strategies, I will later fine-tune the release strategy with the aim of allowing everyone to enjoy the application with as few barriers as possible, while optimizing the overall gain. For example, if the Plus version performs better than the Lite version, I could add pay-only features, drop advertisements in future Lite releases, or release Plus versions with new features in advance of Lite versions. In the opposite situation, I could evaluate ad strategies, such as using multiple networks (for example, via AdWhirl) or offering nonstandard advertisements (for example, as slides that appear periodically on the table, rather than banners) instead.

Tim: Any plans for other device platforms?

Although there are contingency plans to port Mover to other platforms, no actual plans have been prepared yet. If Mover were to move, or be offered alongside the iPhone version, Android and Palm webOS would be the preferential choices.

Due to the uniqueness and limitations of each platform, having multiple versions of Mover could degrade the user experience due to the potential incompatibilities between those platforms. For example, webOS clients cannot access other Wi-Fi clients, and neither webOS nor Android can access clients over the Bluetooth protocol used by Apple to allow iPhone app communication.

Tim: What’s next for your Mover App?

I’m working on an initiative to leverage underused iPhone OS 3.0 APIs to allow for easy data sharing between applications, allowing App Store apps to access items (notes, songs, to-dos…) managed by other App Store apps. (The working title for this is “ItemKit” and partial open-source-licensed code can be found on my github.com web page. Mover would exploit this by allowing arbitrary items from other applications using ItemKit to be shared and received seamlessly.

There are many other features that are either highly requested or logical extensions of my work. Some of these are listed at the feature triage page  [partially outdated — for example, “Mover SDK” became the more generic ItemKit as described above].

Tim: What are your big picture plans, given your success with this app?

At the moment, none apart from expanding it to its logical conclusion: monetize it and observe how it is used in the real world.

Most of my plans are hampered by my enrollment in the second-level degree course in Computer Science Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, which is my main priority. It is my desire to turn to full-time prêt-à-porter and custom software development once this is achieved.

Tim:  When is your graduation date?

I expect to graduate in or before September, 2010.

Tim: What you’ve learned from your iPhone app success story?

That a well-crafted object speaks for itself. A paid marketing effort would have probably helped Mover achieve better success; but no amount of money could have saved Mover had it not been designed for usefulness and enjoyment.

Tim: Amen.

My sincere thanks to Emanuele for sharing his formula for success. I’ve learned a lot from him and look forward to following his accomplishments. He’s just getting started :).

Emanuele Vulcano is known for his great sense of humor as demonstrated in his blog. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, too.

Tim CascioTim Cascio is the author of the Mobile Marketing, Monetization and Methods blog, Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Mobile Visionary Roundtable at the Illinois Technology Association and Sr. Digital Strategist at Bader Rutter & Associates, an award-winning integrated marketing services agency that specializes in advertising, public relations, brand asset management, relationship marketing and digital solutions. Tim is @timcascio on Twitter and can be reached in the United States at 262-938-5543.

Please reach out to me if there’s any way I can help you through my network or otherwise. Your comments below are welcome.

Adapting Successful iPhone Apps to Nokia. Is This a Four-Fold Sales Opportunity?

An interview with Pasi Niemi, wireless industry expert who resides in Finland. Finland, by the way, is home to Nokia, the world’s largest maker of mobile handsets.

Nokia’s in a unique position as the leading provider of smartphone handsets worldwide. And not by a slim margin. Nokia has more than both iPhone and BlackBerry, combined. This begs the question: Is it a sound business strategy to adapt successful iPhone Apps to Nokia smartphones? Meet Pasi Niemi, an accomplished wireless industry expert and Senior VP of Strategy and Business Development for Anite Finland, Ltd.

Here are excerpts from our interview together:

Tim: Which one smartphone mobile device platform (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Nokia, etc) do you think has the most potential in Finland? Worldwide?

Pasi: Nokia in Finland. Worldwide, I would still believe that Nokia platform is most potential due to the huge volume of handsets that they have out there. If (and when) Nokia gets their act together with OVI (and it is already working nicely with N97) I anticipate it will have lots more users than Apple store.

Tim: What can you tell me about the apps sold at the Nokia OVI Store and the potential for adapting successful iPhone apps to work on Nokia devices?

Pasi: Right now, there are not a whole lot of apps available on the Nokia OVI Store yet. There’s an opportunity take the most popular iPhone App Store Apps and adapt them for Nokia. In Q4 2008, Nokia’s claimed 40.8% market share on the smartphone market with 15.6 million units. RIM held share of 19.5% (7.4 million units) and Apple came in third place with 10.7% (4.1 million units). If you look at the numbers and drive a very simple analogy…an application that has been successful on Apple could conceivably sell four times that amount on Nokia.

Tim: In your opinion, with which Nokia devices must the adapted app be compatible?

Pasi: The adapted apps should be put to two different categories. First, the ones that require touch operation…these would be then adapted to Symbian touch (N97, 5800Xpress and any future models). Secondly, the apps that would not require touch operation, but would instead be operated by directional buttons or menu selections…these I would adapt to Symbian v3 (N85, N95, N96, E72, etc.).

Tim: There’s been some speculation about the future of Symbian, the Nokia operating system. Do you think Nokia is headed for Open Source, perhaps Android?

Pasi: Nokia is definitively heading for open source. In fact, they are taking Symbian to open source also. They have had Linux based OS’s in their web devices such as the N800, however, I don’t believe that they would go with Android. If they go with a Linux based OS, then my guess is that they will have their own flavor of it.

Tim: What would be timing/approach to avoid adapting successful iPhone apps to an OS that is on its way out?

Pasi: I would not be worried about the timing of this…or that Symbian would be disappearing. Nokia is still very committed to Symbian and even if they would decide today that they would use another OS in their phones it would take 6 to 9 months for the new phones to come out and another 12-24 months before the existing Symbian customers would have swapped from their old phones to new ones.

Tim: What mobile technology advances and trends do you see forthcoming?

Pasi: When data speeds are sufficient, then the storage/applications can be hosted somewhere else. This creates big potential for new applications that require more storage and processing power than the handsets can handle. Voice control, 3d gaming, location based services and the RFID chip will each have a significant impact as well.

Tim: What benefits will an embedded RFID chip bring?

Pasi: RFID chip could bring bunch of benefits…using mobile for garage door opening, to remember your car settings when you enter into the car, payment at the gas pump, etc. DoCoMo is one operator that is pushing this the most and they have a variety of applications that they have trialed with it. (RFID chips are known as IC tags in Japan)

Tim: You knew I was going to ask…which mobile device do you use?

Pasi: Nokia N97

Tim: In your opinion, how well has the iPhone been received in Finland?

Pasi: Fairly well…but not a huge hit. People in Finland are still quite cautious on long-term contracts and the iPhone has been sold with 2 year contract.

I look forward to more conversations with Pasi, a wealth of mobile know-how.

Many thanks to Pasi Niemi, Senior VP of Strategy and Business Development, for his valuable insights on this topic. Be sure to check out Anite Wireless for more information on his company.

As a sidebar, here are a few opinions and factors that affect the iPhone’s adoption in Finland:

  • TeliaSonera is currently the only mobile carrier for iPhone.1
  • Ease of Apps shopping with the iPhone is considerably better than on the Nokia Ovi Store.1
  • Nokia’s top-of-the-line smartphones will be Linux-powered shortly in the future and, in the long run, open mobile platforms will win.2
  • iPhone was released to Finland in July 2008, 12 months after the U.S. release.


1Markku Lindell, CEO at Design Combus Oy, Finland
2Ville IIves, VP Sales and Marketing at APL Systems LTD Oy, Finland

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Tim CascioTim Cascio is the author of the Mobile Marketing, Monetization and Methods blog, Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Mobile Visionary Roundtable at the Illinois Technology Association and Sr. Digital Strategist at Bader Rutter & Associates, an award-winning integrated marketing services agency that specializes in advertising, public relations, brand asset management, relationship marketing and digital solutions. Tim is @timcascio on Twitter and can be reached in the United States at 262-938-5543.

Please reach out to me if there’s any way I can help you through my network or otherwise. Your comments below are welcome.