iPhone a goldmine for geeks

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 9:16 PM | 1 comments »

The iPhone has become a virtual goldmine for budding software developers.

The iPhone App Store - like iTunes but without the music - allows iPhone users to buy third-party plug-in applications to expand the functionality of their devices.

Virtually anyone can create an application and list it on the App Store for sale or as a free download.

Games have fast become the most popular applications. Trism, a $5 puzzle game similar to Bejeweled, earned $US250,000 in profit in just two months, its creator, Steve Demeter, announced at the Mobilize conference in San Francisco last month.

Applications on the iPhone are usually small, simple ideas that can easily be built by software developers or by paid contractors for a small fee. There are more than 3000 applications to choose from so far and that number is booming as developers realise their money-making potential.

Mick Johnson, 28, born in Townsville but educated in Sydney, works as a marketing manager for an internet start-up in Silicon Valley and develops an iPhone application in the evenings.

"I don't sleep much. Sleep is for the weak," he said in a telephone interview.

Johnson's partners are two other geeks in Sydney and another in California. Their project is a tool called GasBag, which pinpoints the user's location on a map using the iPhone's built-in GPS and shows them all of the petrol stations in that area, including fuel prices.

GasBag relies on users to enter fuel prices when they are filling up or driving past a petrol station.

The app, supported by advertising, has already been launched in the US and Johnson said he was aiming to have an Australian version by next month. More than 100,000 users had signed up to the US version in under six weeks.

"We reckon we can monetise this to the tune of between $1 to $5 per user per year," Johnson said.

"We got 100,000 [users] in six weeks ... we grow at 2000-2500 users a day and that's just for the US."

Another popular iPhone app is Tap Tap Revenge, a music rhythm game in the tradition of Guitar Hero that is free to download and counts more than 2 million users. It is also supported by advertising.

Andrew Lacy, an Australian living in Silicon Valley, is the chief operating officer of the game's developer, Tapulous.

Tapulous is keeping mum on how much profit it makes but its CEO, Bart Decrem, recently told Wired that top iPhone apps made roughly $US5000 to $US10,000 a day.

New Zealand artist David Frampton's $7.99 helicopter game, Chopper, launched in July was earning Frampton $4000 a day, The Australian Financial Review reported.

But not everyone is in it for the money. Dean Robinson, 24, a web developer at the University of Newcastle, created an application called Hahlo as a way of "getting my name out there".

Hahlo is a version of the Twitter messaging tool optimised for the iPhone. It's free, contains no advertising and now services 150,000 users a month, Robinson said.

"One of the main reasons [for not placing advertising] was the limited screen space; I didn't want to fill it up with ads and push people away," he said.

Building apps and widgets for large internet and mobile phone platforms has become a thriving industry following the introduction of "applications" on Facebook, which was soon copied by MySpace.

Facebook has created an "FBFund" grant program, offering some of the best application developers between $US25,000 to $US250,000 each from a total pool of $US10 million in grant money.

On mobiles, the iPhone App Store is rivalled by a similar store for phones based on Google's Android platform. Research in Motion is also working on an "application centre" for its BlackBerry devices.

Apple, which takes a 30 per cent cut from all App Store sales, has been heavily criticised for rejecting certain applications for arbitrary reasons or because they compete with Apple's own products.

The company earned $US30 million from sales of iPhone applications in the App Store's first month of operation, CEO Steve Jobs told The Wall Street Journal.

1 comments

  1. Omni Tech Limited // October 30, 2008 at 3:28 PM  

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