IPhone, economy spur better phones, apps

Some of the traditional mobile phone makers will struggle in the upcoming year under pressure from the iPhone and the economy.

Just two years ago, the mobile phone market was pretty ho-hum. You had your candy bar phones and your flip phones. There were BlackBerry devices and Windows Mobile phones. Those phones had calendars and contact lists, and a few other apps that were too annoying to use. Few people ever added any new applications to their phones. Surfing the Web was for emergency use only, since it was slow and ugly.

Fast forward to this year. You've got the must-have iPhone. For open source fans, there's the Android phone. The idea of shopping for, buying and downloading new apps isn't remotely unusual. Browsing online means seeing Web sites that look just like they do on a computer.

It's the ultimate dream of the mobile phone industry, but it wasn't created by the mobile phone industry -- the dream was actualized by outsiders. The result is that today, the traditional phone makers are playing catch-up and some are in such a struggle to do so that their future existence is uncertain.

What the traditional phone makers must view as a double whammy -- competition from the iPhone combined with the economic nose-dive -- end users are finding translates into better phones with more applications.

Apple's introduction of the App Store this year dramatically changed the way the people use their phones. While in the past users rarely downloaded applications to their phones, now the experience is easy enough to go mainstream. That's good news for users of essentially all smart phones, who can expect to see a steady stream of new applications in the future.

In addition to ease-of-use for end users, the App Store also has made it dramatically easier for developers to build applications. As a result there are now 10,000 apps in the store, a figure disproportionately high for the number of iPhones on the market, compared to other phone platforms.

Prior to the App Store, developers had to negotiate with operators to convince them to preload the application on phones, sometimes offering the application to users for free or including the application in a portal where users could buy it.

That's very different than the environment that the App Store has created, said Satoshi Nakajima, president of iPhone application developer Big Canvas and founder of UIEvolution. When he launched UIEvolution, long before the App Store, and released certain applications, "we couldn't even recoup the cost of business development. We're not talking development costs, I'm talking calling AT&T and saying we want to sell this app. Wining and dining and negotiations costs a lot. Then we'd launch and sell 200 copies. What's the point?" he said.

The beauty of the iPhone is that it gets rid of the business development cost, Nakajima said. The 30 percent that developers share with Apple in order to sell the application in the store "is nothing compared to the painful cost of dealing with wireless operators worldwide," he said.

While the Internet bust around the turn of the century sent many wireless application development startups out of business, the effect might not be so dramatic in this market downturn, Nakajima said. That's because while venture capital is drying up at the moment, small developer companies have the potential to earn revenue from their applications in the App Store with relatively little outlay as compared to the old process, he said. "It's not all that difficult to become cash flow positive as long as you keep your company small," he said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iPhonesmartphones

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?