On Friday I had lunch with the founder and CEO of Return7, Amro Mousa.Â The discussion of course covered the state of iPhone development and what makes money on the App Store. Sure there are some folks putting deposits on Ferraris because they built super useful or fun apps. But there are other’s in the Ferrari dealership because they made something like iFart or SoundGrenade. Apps that don’t really do anything, but are cheap and appeal to sophomoric sensibilities.
Amro spent some time soliciting stupid app ideas. It wasn’t until later that the realization that these aren’t dumb app ideas. These ideas are brilliant.
Fart apps and their ilk were simply too hard in the past. First, there are technical hurdles. Any mobile platforms do not allow speakerphone access from an application. A desktop version is too bulky for an effective prank.
Then there’s distribution. If someone pranked me with such an app, there would be significant effort involved obtaining the app for a counter attack. The App Store makes it easy to get revenge, adding to the app’s viral nature.
Finally, the cost-benefit analysis is crystal clear. I know what the app does. It’s a dollar and it makes a fart sound. If that floats my boat, I get it, otherwise I pass. Simple and without the hidden cost of a time investment.
Which is why these ideas are brilliant, they created something that did not exist in the market place before. The vast majority of useful apps are a variation of “something that I use, but mobile.” There are two problems with these apps. First, most apps that are useful that I should be using a lot, I simply don’t. Pandora, RememberTheMilk, Mint, etc are all great, but I simply don’t check them enough. Second, I, like most folks I know, are near a computer almost every waking hour of the day.
I don’t really need a mobile version of the apps I’m not using. I would pay for a mobile version of an app that I never had before. The road to riches on the App Store is figuring out what that is.
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