How Aussie iPhone developers found success in the App Store

Behind the scenes at the Collect3 development house

Is there a reason you opted to develop utilities for the iPhone rather than chasing the pot of gold that is the gaming category?

Absolutely! A lot has been printed about the games and entertainment categories and the rags-to-riches stories of a few developers (Trism, iShoot, Ocarina, or iFart for example). Rightly or wrongly this has meant a huge surge in both the number of individuals getting into developing for the iPhone and increased competition from some of the heavyweights.

Just before Xmas despite having dozens of game ideas we made the conscious choice to shift focus to utilities for three reasons: firstly there was less competition, secondly they are quicker to develop (unless like us you add a lot of polish), and lastly the average price was higher than $0.99 because it is generally accepted that they have real usefulness.

So that'd be my first tip for would-be developers or those coming in to the iPhone marketplace: the fishing is often better away from the pack.

We love games and, longer term, have no doubt we’ll go there but we chose this route as a somewhat strategic gamble that would hopefully provide us with the resources to fund our future efforts.

Collect3's current apps tend to enhance the media features of the iPhone. Do you see this as a particularly rich area of development for the handset, or is this simply your chosen path?

Dave: I think media apps are really suited to the iPhone as the device itself has been designed with media in mind. The iPhone certainly opens up many possibilities with media and this gets us thinking, but we also like to play with other ideas that let people use their iPhone in ways they haven’t thought of before.

Wayne: There’s no escaping the strength of the iPhone and iPod Touch from a multimedia standpoint. People are often smitten by the look and feel of the device (myself included) but that belies the incredible flexibility and therefore usefulness of the device as a mobile computing platform. Add in the big change taking place in social networking, user-created content and always-on streaming communications, and it’s not hard to envisage the iPhone (and its inevitable successors) as an integral part of people's daily lives. The playing of media and making calls are just the tip of the iceberg.

Your relatively niche offerings have attracted attention from iPhone users internationally as well as locally. Do you see focussing on niche markets as a necessary step for being competitive in the App Store?

You’re right that they are niche, but I think what you find when you have a device that appeals to such a broad spectrum of people from all walks of life, is that everything becomes niche. It’s possible to have a wide range of apps (30,000 at last count right) that appeal to very different groups of people. Because Apple is doing such a bang-up job of selling the device, as a developer you can still make a decent living selling to people interested in that particular niche because they are most likely a large group.

With Picture Safe/Video Safe we chose an app we knew there was obvious mass-appeal — being able to password protect images and videos on your iPhone — but beyond the obvious uses, we have been surprised to get very positive feedback from some very diverse users. They range from people working with kids in hospitals through to a group of air crash investigators who needed a way to take and store highly sensitive photographs.

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James Hutchinson

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