Why You Shouldn't Build An iPhone App

  • Author: Niall
  • Niall Harbison,

iphone_apps

There is a huge virtual gold rush on at the moment with all sorts of people trying to cash in on the huge jackpot that is a successful iPhone app. Marketing companies are advising their clients to build them, developers are queuing up to partner with people who have good ideas or wicked content and all sorts of other speculators are trying to get in on the action and make a quick buck. Like any gold rush that attracts thousands of speculators there are some massive rewards to be had and the barriers to entry are very low. Lets start off by having a look at some amazing stats from the app, Flight Control, which became a massive overnight success, the figures are really mind blowing....

FlightControl-SalesNumbers

So with up to 20,000 sales in one day alone you can see how people would get excited after seeing something like this and start thinking to themselves that maybe they could build something similar and have an early retirement. The document above is a very tangible example of some outstanding sales results but before you get carried away and think about finding somebody to code up your brainwave let me give you a little bit of advice.....

Go and spend your money/time on something else!

For all the success of the iPhone app store (over a billion downloaded apps to date) there is one massive flaw that will only get worse as time goes on and to help illustrate the size of the problem I would like you to take in the following picture...

Croke_park_all_ireland

Now before you go and build your app I want you to imagine some of the following things....

  • Every single one of the 80,000 people in this stadium is an iPhone app that does something that it's creator thinks is amazing and will deserve your attention
  • Among these 80,000 are some of the really big boys including Google, Facebook, Twitter, News organizations, game manufacturers, professional publishers and huge brands to name but a few. These huge companies will be putting massive amounts of cash/labor and marketing dollars into just one of the 80,000 people.
  • The app store is very much like the stadium in that it is closed off by the people who own it. They don't want all 80,000 people getting the attention equally. Just like the 30 players who will line up on the pitch a small select group of apps will be featured by Apple to be showcased to the wider public. There is very little guarantee that it will be your app.
  • Although many people will have a huge interest in the stadium and what happens there they are not going to come along and pay every single day of the week for a ticket and this will reflect how people use the app store, sure people will stop by and make purchases but they will choose the bigger apps and the trusted brands and they won't be doing it every single day.

I don't want to seem like I am beating up on the app store with this post (My other company Lookandtaste has 3, one of which makes a nice 4 figure sum per month and has been featured by Apple on iTunes extensively) but what I do want to try and do is make people stop and think carefully about building iPhone apps especially if they are for the specific purpose of marketing. For all the popularity of the iPhone (there is no doubt that it will continue to see explosive growth and adoption all over the world) you have to ask yourself how many people actually have iPhones? Are mums really using their iPhone to choose cereals or do your parents use an iPhone to find the nearest shop or is it just the marketing guy and all his cool friends who have iPhones beating the drum for you to go ahead and build that killer app? Think about it.

The iPhone and its amazing apps are around to stay and there will be thousands of success stories but just think long and hard about the ROI and the real benefits before you waste a ton of time and cash on something that sells a handful of copies a day which is the case with over 60,000 of the people in the picture above.

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