What's Next for the iPhone? (Hint: Not from Apple)
Mobile startups came to Silicon Valley to parade their iPhone-related offerings at the DEMO Fall 2010 event earlier this week. Like vendors equipping miners during the California Gold Rush, many startups showcased services for mobile app and content developers.
Services ranged from a mobile e-commerce engine to analytics to a publishing platform. The goal, of course, is to help app developers succeed in a multi-billion-dollar market that sprang up only a few years ago with the launch of the iPhone.
It's no surprise that mobile startups, along with social networking newcomers, stole the show at DEMO. Worldwide revenue from paid apps, related advertising and virtual content will reach $17.5 billion in 2012, up from $4.1 billion this year, according to a study commissioned by GetJar Networks, a mobile app store.
In my view, four mobile startups with an iPhone twist stood out, largely because their services take dead aim at massive market opportunities within the greater mobile app movement.
1. Adrenalin: Publishing on the iPad
Much has been written about the iPad's potential to breathe new life into the embattled publishing industry in the form of paid subscribers. After struggling with the notion of free content on the Web, publishers see the iPad as "a do-over," Gordon McLeod, president of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, told app developers at the AppNation conference in San Francisco this week.
Giant publishers are already scrambling to create solutions. One DEMO startup, Adrenalin, unveiled a publishing platform for both big and small publishers. Adrenalin handles content management and delivery, subscription services, and provides an advertising engine.
Basically, Adrenalin is a free app that delivers a magazine or newspaper tuned for the iPad. Thumbnails of story pages fill up the screen, and a tap brings up the story. Like the Wall Street Journal's iPhone app, subscriptions and payment are not handled by iTunes, rather by Adrenalin. Advertising flows through Adrenalin's ad network, not Apple's iAd.
The timing of Adrenalin's launch is interesting given that the latest Apple rumor has Apple announcing an iPad subscription plan for newspapers, whereby Apple may take a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue and a 40 percent cut of advertising revenue.
"We won't take that kind of cut," an Adrenalin spokesperson at DEMO told me.
2. ApScience: Mobile Analytics
App developers need to know how their apps are doing on mobile devices like the iPhone, Droid, and BlackBerry. By understanding user trends, developers will be able to sell advertising more efficiently, as well as cross-sell apps. Gartner predicts the U.S. mobile advertising market to hit $7.4 billion in 2014.
ApScience, a mobile analytics service developed by Ansalar, allows a developer to see how many people open a certain app, how long they interact with it, and when their usage drops off, among other data points. Armed with this information, the developer can push advertising or cross-sell other apps at the most opportune times.
"There are other mobile analytics out there, but not at our deeper level," says Michael Oiknine, CEO of Apsalar. The software service also included ApFeedback, an in-app survey tool, and ApBuzz for social sharing.
3. MobiCart: Start Your M-Commerce Engine
iPhones and other smartphones are fast becoming point-of-sale devices. Coda Research Consultancy predicts U.S. mobile commerce sales doubling to $2.4 billion this year and hitting $24 billion by 2015. MobiCart has a m-commerce engine that lets any retailer play in the mobile app space.
MobiCart is a free app for the iPhone, iPad, and Android that serves up a mobile store chock full of a vendor's goods. There is pricing and in-stock information, a shopping cart and an account profile. For vendors with an e-commerce Web site, MobiCart has an API for updates.
Sure, other companies offer m-commerce engines, such as Magento Mobile, which charges users $800 and an additional $700 a year for maintenance. But MobiCart doesn't cost users a dime out of the gate. The company is working on an open-source revenue model, likely charging for support and integration.
4. myShopanion: The Smart Shopper App
Thanks to the Web, consumers can research products quickly, read product reviews, compare prices, and tap friends for advice via e-mail, texting, and social networks like Facebook. In essence, consumers have become super-savvy, informed shoppers.
Now, all of this can be done from a single, free app on the iPhone: myShopanion, developed by Zappli. While myShopanion is one of the few truly standalone iPhone apps included on this list, its value comes largely from partnerships.
Just fire up the app and search for products by name or type. Or scan the barcode of a product. MyShopanion's partners include RedLaser for barcode scanning, Shopping.com for access to millions of products, and Epinions for product reviews. (myShopanion also uses ApScience.)
The app lets you research products and share product information and images with hookups to Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. "This is especially critical," says Philippe Suchet, CEO of Zappli, "since a majority of consumers are heavily influenced by friends and family when it comes to purchasing decisions."