It’s all about the apps

iphoneapps1 What’s the most significant thing about the iPhone?

Is it the gorgeous design, the near-perfect blend of form and function? The easy way to make phone calls and send text messages? Perhaps the simple fact that you just know what to do without reading up on anything?

Is it the exuberance you experience as a user with the sheer pleasure of using a device where everything you touch, feel and stroke has a near-hedonistic air about it?

Nope, it’s none of those things. It’s the apps.

iPhone is all about apps (applications): the software programs you obtain from the iTunes App Store either wirelessly, over the air, or via iTunes running on your computer, which you then install to the iPhone when you next sync the device.

This revelation occurred to me after seeing another iPhone ad on TV (like this one, for instance with its terrific tag line “Solving life’s little problems, one app at a time”) where it suddenly struck me – all the messaging in Apple’s recent TV ads for the iPhone is about apps. Nothing about the phone, using it, making calls, calendar, contacts, etc. None of that.

It’s all about the apps.

And that makes total sense from my experience as I use my iPhone 3G not for making phone calls (that situation changed yesterday) but for doing things that have nothing to do with telephones.

Things like:

  • Creating audio commentaries with Audioboo and posting them to the web.
  • Engaging with my broad Twitter community, wherever I happen to be, with Tweetie, and with a closer group with Yammer.
  • Blogging with WordPress.
  • Making quick videos of photos with 12SecondsTV or Animoto.
  • Checking in to Facebook.
  • Searching for anything and everything with Google.

And that’s just with some of the apps you see in the screenshot above that show on the first screen of 16 apps – plus the 4 permanent apps in the footer bar that appear on every screen including Skype for iPhone that I installed yesterday – and there are three more screenfuls, some 48 apps more.

So its plain to see that I use my iPhone as anything but a phone. In fact, I’ve not made a single “traditional” phone call with it (ie, over the O2 cellular network) yet this year. Note that the iPhone is not my primary mobile phone: that’s a Nokia N95 8GB with an account with Vodafone. And I use that device primarily as a phone (and as a camera).

One reason – the N95 8GB is great as a phone and as a camera (light years ahead of the iPhone in that regard), but the iPhone is amazing for running apps.

Why not have an iPod Touch if you don’t use the phone? I’ve been asked. It’s a good question (and see how and why I first got the iPhone). But I see the iPhone as a device that let’s me get connected whether it’s via wifi or a cellular network and whether the need is data (run apps) or voice (make a phone call). I have the choice.

So it is about the apps – over 30,000 of them so far in the App Store according to CNN. That it’s all about the apps is undoubtedly part of the thinking at RIM, the Canadian maker of the ubiquitous Blackberry, who has just launched an app store for BlackBerry.

Research In Motion launched the official BlackBerry App World application store today, giving BlackBerry owners an easy way to download new applications for their phones. Users can download the new store at or

[…] The App World will be available on all BlackBerrys with track balls, including Pearls, Curves, Flips, Bolds, and 8800 series phones, RIM said. The store will be available in the U.S., Canada, and the UK initially, according to RIM.

Apple probably has it easier than most on a number of levels, not the least of which are a single platform (well, two if you separate iPhone and iPod Touch) whereas RIM has loads as do others like Nokia who also have their own apps store of sorts; and clear first-mover advantage.

And if it really is all about apps, then Apple has some fast moving to do to keep its edge and keep developers and users loyal to improve the platform.

Being able to run more than one app at a time is an essential one. So it’s a pity that what’s in the works with the next version of the Apple firmware won’t address that (and see this video walkthrough from Engadget).

Still, things happen fast these days. Who knows what iPhone will look like in 12 months. Or what else will be there to tempt us and grab our attention.

I bet it’s still about the apps.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Richard Bailey

    Remember when we used to talk about the ‘killer app’?

    The killer app here is the web. I skipped the need for the phone and bought an iPod Touch – so I get the web and the apps (through Wi-Fi), without the cost of a phone contract or the nuisance of phone calls.

  2. Geoff Livingston

    That’s why this Android initiative should be scaring the daylights out of jobs and company. Google is wize to the game, and they have done a great job amassing apps, plus open architecture versus closed? iPhone vs gPhone wars begin in 2010!

  3. neville

    The killer app here is the web.

    Hmm, hadn’t seen it quite like that, Richard. Let me think about that one.

    Geoff, I think Android, BlackBerry, etc, with their app stores (let’s not forget Nokia, either, who’ve had theirs for a while) will keep Apple on their toes. Huge consumer benefit.

  4. dashford

    “Solving life’s little problems, one app at a time”

    Unfortunately, “one app at a time” creates its own little problem. What if you want to, say, listen to music on Rhapsody while you blog with WordPress? Seems like a reasonable request. Sorry, you can’t. One or the other, but not both at the same time.

    Whoops, here comes the Palm Pre!

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