Chomping At The Bit: How To Find iPhone Apps

Australian serial entrepreneur Ben Keighran is starting to make waves in Silicon Valley again with his new venture Chomp. With fellow Aussie co-founder Cathy Edwards and funding from Ron Conway, Blue Run Ventures and other Valley notables the business is aimed at enabling iPhone users to find apps.

Chomp has received some solid coverage on TechCrunch and an interview with Robert Scoble (embedded below) in which Ben explains their value proposition:

Next Line On The iPhone Horizon: Micropayments

Apple has a tried and tested approach of creating complete, yet simple ecosystems and the one it has developed for the iPhone is testament to this genius.

However, ecosystems need to evolve or they devolve to the lowest common denominator. Much has already been said about the “commoditisation” of apps to very basic one offs with gimmick appeal.

Allowing for a deeper level of engagement within an app is key to this “appolution”. And one of the most important steps forward in achieving this in my view is to open the spigot for micropayments.

Om Malik has also called for this:

I would be spending a lot more if Apple extended the API to allow for the ability to transact within apps.” Nothing like buying a song, an application or a ringtone with a simple click, only to be billed in a batch, later. Such buying habits are the reason why we believe Apple’s iPhone could prove to be an ideal micropayments platform.

Top 5 UiPhone Rules: Building Successful Apps

As the cult of Mac gives way to the cult of iPhone, it’s worth putting a peg in the sand around a set of design rules that define what makes an iPhone app work.

John Gruber has posited an excellent starting point with one overarching guideline for iPhone UI design:

Figure out the absolute least you need to do to implement the idea, do just that, and then polish the hell out of the experience.

From this starting point he goes on to list a set of five rules or guidelines to continually parse against:

1. Each screen should display one thing at a time. That “thing” may be a list, but it should just be a list.

2. Minimize the number of on-screen elements.

3. Make UI elements large enough to be easy to tap; place them far enough apart that there is little risk of tapping the wrong target by mistake.

4. Eschew preferences as much as possible, and assume that nearly all users will use the default settings.

5. As you show more detail, conceptually you move from left to right – but it’s best to minimize how deep you can get while drilling down to the right.

Craig Hockenberry, who put me onto John’s “First Law of iPhone Development” reduces this to a one word iPhone principle: simplicity. As he points out, “doing as little as possible” can be your greatest challenge, but it will produce the highest reward – a successful app.

Craig’s methodology is to seek out the core function of your app and keep yourself true to this every time you work on it. He uses the example of Twitterrific, a Mac OS X client for managing your Twitter account. This, however, is not the core function of Twitterrific. Say what?

In fact he sees the core function, or the “nut”, of this app as being reading:

Twitterrific is all about reading what other people are doing, thinking, or experiencing. Even its secondary function, posting tweets, is related to reading. The posting interface functions as a way for you to give your followers something interesting to read.

Knowing this core function, his team at Iconfactory could manifest it within their iPhone app in a number of ways that you can read about in his post.

I really like both John and Craig’s approaches and encourage iPhone developers to adopt their thinking and build upon it.

MySpace Taps The RIM: Record Breaking Blackberry App

Designed to help Blackberry users stay connected to the MySpace social network, a new app from the Fox Interactive company has been downloaded 400,000 times in its first week. This goes a long way towards dispelling the unhipster Blackberry myth.

A Facebook app, which launched in 2007, has been downloaded 2.5 million times.

Android Followed iPhone, But Wait (There May) Be More: The MicroPhone

The Inquirer reportedly has knowledge of a Microsoft Phone, which we are dubbing the MicroPhone.

Thanks to MG Siegler for bringing this to our attention. The veracity of this report is pegged as “highly dubious”.

Either way as I see it at the moment the two key platforms to focus on for native, mobile Internet-focused apps are the iPhone and Android, given that there are already millions of iPhones out there in the wild and it is anticipated that there will be millions of Android-enabled phones out there next year.

iPhone Image Recognition: Snap And Tell

Wouldn’t it be great if you could take a picture of a book someone is reading in your local coffee shop and before the sugar sinks into your cappucino you have all the data on it and where you can buy it.

Or similarly, what if you could snap a billboard as you hurtle down the 101 (preferably with someone else driving) and before you reach your destination you’ve already pulled up more details on the concert being advertized and bought tickets.

Palo Alto-based SnapTell has the solution. Their image matching technology handles real life photos snapped on the majority of cell phones and parses these against a growing database of products. They are also able to extract text from pictures and use this to drive search.

The company has recently launched an iPhone app – read Jason Kincaid’s review.

How To Price Your iPhone Apps

This evening I got a hold of Google’s Voice Search App for the iPhone. Something struck me as it was downloading – I had not even checked to see the price. In fact, up to a certain price point I doubt I would’ve balked at downloading it even had I checked.

I am perceiving, as are others, that there are certain price thresholds for iPhone, and in time – other mobile, apps.

Let me run through them:

* Blind at price
The combination of a trusted source and high anticipation results in a “blind at price” threshold. As with the Google app – I would not have hesitated, but see later for the upper ceiling. The caveat here is that subconsciously I may have anticipated the app would be free given it is Google’s modus to give apps away for free and make money off ads.

*Buy to try
$2 seems to be the common wisdom of a price point at which most people are prepared to front up with the cash simply to try out an app. It is also a price point at which you are not likely to make much noise if you don’t get sufficient value for money. Adam Ostrow, in reviewing PhotoArtist, agrees as do a number of the people who commented on his story.

In contrast, when I downloaded CameraBag for $3.99 I was disappointed with the initial functionality and seriously considered creating a stink. Thankfully the app has since wobbled straight and I am loving it. In fact it is the primary photography app for me on the iPhone, which I am experimenting with as my primary photography device at present.

* Excellent marketing
Between $2 and $5 an app needs to both satisfy an immediate need and promise sufficient value. This translates into having excellent marketing of the app – a great picture, brand and blurb about the app and most of us will download it. This is what hooked me on CameraBag for example. It took about three “look sees” before I decided to take the plunge, but their story eventually thresholded me.

* Trusted name, compelling app

Between $5 and $15 there aren’t many apps that get me interested. However, with Will Wright’s Spore app I had no hesitation in putting the cash. The combination of his name, the corporate behind him and the actual app’s reputation had me hooked.