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Amazon Appstore Launches with Free Angry Birds Rio

Today Amazon launched the Amazon Appstore for Android (more here and here). At this point, there are a slew of app stores (from your phone, computer, tablet, browser, television, alarm clock, etc. But this is Amazon... so it's worth paying attention because: 1. their scale and brand makes them a major player 2. they will do it in the Amazon way... technology, recommendations, price competition, etc

Did I mention price competition? Amazon launched behind Angry Birds Rio - giving the uber-popular game away... for free. It's the #1 selling and grossing application on the iPhone. On Amazon, it's free for today's launch. That's quite a promotion.

And it represents a larger pricing move: Amazon Appstore will give "a great premium app for free every day."

Nike Releases Nike+ GPS iPhone App - $1.99

Nike has released the Nike+ GPS iPhone application to help you track, map and analyze your runs. It is a paid $1.99 application. Without needing the shoes, wristband, and/or monitor, the Nike+ application uses GPS to track your runs. It is very well done and can run in the background using iOS4. It is noteworthy that Nike has decided to sell the application. The Nike+ gear (shoes, monitors, etc) can cost $100+. The application does everything the gear does... but $1.99 won't exactly make a dent in Nike's sales. You would think they would opt for mass distribution and view it as a way to promote the Nike Running line, community, and events. Furthermore, it is a relatively competitive space - some of the most popular applications are markedly more expensive (~$10) but there are free alternatively (despite having less functionality). Again, $1.99 is not priced for market share and some buyers will ask themselves if it is worth spending money after having already purchased a running app(s).

For past users of Nike+, it is a familiar interface. The app can track an entire run or guide you to a pre-determined distance or speed. Once you complete your run, you can sync it with, earn badges based on your historical performance and connect with friends.

But the best part is the mapping. Below is a heatmap from a walk to the grocery store. It shows speeds at different points and then charts against the fastest / slowest moments of the run / walk. Simple concept - but it is very well done and surprisingly very fun to use:

Tapulous' Tap Tap Revenge: A Top Grossing App Despite Being Free

A week ago, I wrote that only three of Apple's top twenty grossing iPhone Apps feature in-app purchases. I wondered whether developers have determined that direct sales were more dependable and profitable than relying on user-engagement to derive revenue. Proof it can be done the other way: Tapulous' hit iPhone application, Tap Tap Revenge, is a free application... and it has now cracked the top twenty-five grossing apps - purely through the in-app downloads / purchases. Tap Tap Revenge went free just before Christmas and had over 2,000,000 downloads in the subsequent week:

Tapulous, developers of the popular Tap Tap Revenge series, check in with good news. They’ve pulled down over 2 million installs of Tap Tap Revenge 3 since going free last Wednesday, 700,000 of which came on Christmas day. Between Tap Tap Revenge 1/2/3 and the Metallica/Lady GaGa editions, Tapulous now has 5 applications in the Top 100 grossing apps. (More on TechCrunch from Daniel Brusolovsky)

Tap Tap Revenge's top in-app purchases are all 'packs': nine of the top ten are either two or six-track downloads. Two-packs are $0.99 and six-packs are $2.99. Interestingly, the only individual track is the Avatar theme song (Avatar also has the #22 top-grossing app at $6.99). The paid applications are in addition to the weekly free apps released each Thursday:

Tap Tap Revenge comes with more than 40 free songs! Best of all, we offer Tap Tap Thursdays: every Thursday we feature a FREE hot new or exclusive track from top artists. So far we've featured songs by Katy Perry, Anberlin, Everlast, Michael Franti, Lady Antebellum, Lee Perry, 3OH!3 and Bitter:Sweet, to name just a few. Check out the full list here.

Not that it is directly related to the their revenue success, but Tapulous also does a great job communicating with their users through their outstanding blog. It is regularly updated with status updates, contests, new music, etc. But despite having over 4,000 Facebook Fans, their Fan Page is totally empty:

Doodle Jump's iPhone App Warns: "Insanely Addictive"

Most iPhone apps do not come with warnings - but Doodle Jump, the #2 paid application by Lima Sky, has built an advertising campaign around the addictive gameplay: Be warned: this game is insanely addictive!" The ad unit then cycles through anonymous iTunes reviews that highlight just how addictive the game is. Once clicked, the ads take you directly into iTunes so that you can download Doodle Jump for $0.99 and spend hours draining your iPhone's battery!

Google iPhone App Version 0.3.1448

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Strangely, I read through all of the update announcements for my iPhone Apps. And I enjoy it.

Sometimes you learn about bugs - either common (slowness, crashing) or unique to that app. Sometimes you wonder who wrote the marketing blurbs (for instance, 'this version now comes with ads! Yes: ads!')

And then there is Google, who released version 0.3.1448 of the Google Mobile App yesterday. Included in their enhancements: - Speed improvements for voice search (thank you!) - British and Australian accents (great?) - Various bug fixes (very descriptive) - Longer version number (akin to still being in "beta") - Ninja (really?)


1 Billion Apps - So Now What for iTunes' App Store?

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It's a staggering number: 1,000,000,000.

The iPhone App store launched in July of 2008 and grew faster than most anticipated - both inventory and adoption. The App Store's 25,000 apps will reach one-billion downloads sometime in the next 48 hours. That's an average of 40,000 downloads per app.

billion-apps So what's next for Apple's App Store? The iPhone 3.0 OS that will launch this summer will create a new wave of applications and inspire a new series of innovations. But equally important, the App Store needs to change. It needs a total overhaul.

The App Store is overwhelmed by the flood of content - which is sorted in only three ways: - recency - popularity (which is somewhat of a black box) - featured content

The result is that users are left downloading already popular applications or sifting through new content (25 at a time). It is akin to buying music from either the Billboard Top 25 or being placed in front of a rack of everything else - sorted only by release date. Shouldn't my recent purchases play a role? Better yet, my reviews and defined preferences? How about my social graph and their selections?

Another great example is the difference between shopping on Amazon and on eBay / Craigslist. They both have seemingly unlimited inventory - but Amazon's shopping experience is efficient because it is based on recommendations and user history / data. Meanwhile, you have to sift through listings on eBay and Craigslist to find the right product, seller and price.

The other constraint is that the App Store is most conveniently accessed on the iPhone / iPod Touch - which makes search-based navigation even more cumbersome.

I think there are two clear solutions:

1. Integration into the Social Graph

Ideally, iTunes would integrate Facebook Connect. I want to know what apps my friends have downloaded and how they were rated (and it's in the developers' best interest to share that information). Furthermore, most applications are more engaging if connected to the social graph (whether socially or directly through Facebook Connect).

2. Premium App Store

I believe editorial can and should play a role. Whether it's featured content or paid placements (a revenue opportunity for iTunes) - there is an opportunity to expand on what they already do for music (Editor's Picks, lists, etc). A pay-for-placement (or performance) marketplace could arise as well.

13 iPhone Apps I Want Developed (Google, ESPN, FriendFeed)

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1. GMail The improved Gmail iPhone site is just that: improved. But a true GMail iPhone App would allow fuller cusotmizations, run faster, better integrate calendars and contacts... and soon utilize the new push notification systems of iPhone 3.0.

2. Google Reader / RSS I use my iPhone as much for email as I do for content consumption. A Google Reader App would instantly be my starting point for iPhone-based web browsing. It would also increase my activity on Reader - particularly the social aspects (sharing, commenting, etc).

3. AdWords / AdSense Ever been without a computer and needed data associated with AdWords or AdSense? Happens to me all the time... Better yet, the ability to lightly manage campaigns (particularly with AdWords).

4. Facebook Connect + iTunes & App Store This is a pipe dream, but I would love an Apple built app that, via Facebook Connect, created personalized histories and storefronts for iTunes and the App Store. I find both stores increasingly unusable due to the overwhelming inventory... Facebook Connect is the solution.

5. ESPN Fantasy Is there a better use case for an iPhone App? Fantasy sports require on-demand knowledge and management. Fantasy sports players would never put their iPhone down again. 6. FriendFeed Perhaps this would be solved for me by a Google Reader App... but FriendFeed would provide more social functionality and would certainly make me a more loyal, active user.

7. Techmeme I visit Techmeme daily. It is particularly difficult to navigate on the iPhone. A simple iPhone App would make the on-Techmeme / off-Techmeme navigation more efficient. It would also allow for history and search functionality.

8. Starbucks I drink a lot of coffee and use a lot of Starbucks' free wifi. Some sort of location finding application that provided coupons and incentives would be very appetizing.

9. MLB.TV is my favorite product of 2009: amazing HD streaming quality with every conceivable feature request (fantasy tracking, four-game split screens, DVR controls, etc). I would pay an additional $10-$20 to get the streaming on my iPhone (when 3.0 arrives).

10. Google Analytics Makes total sense. All I need is basic statistics.

11. Aardvark I love Aardvark... but my most frequent use-case is when I am away from my computer. With an iPhone App, I would use Aardvark far more routinely and it would be my Q&A service of choice (perhaps replacing Yelp and others on mobile).

12. To the best of my knowledge, there is not an equivalent of the great iPhone App for blogs running if there is, please let me know. If there isn't, please build it.

13. USPS Tracking The FedEx App is terrific and solves a big need - and with 3.0 it will be even better. I would love the same for USPS (but certainly do not expect this to be built!).

Rich Media Advertising Comes to iPhone

We have seen the iPhone provided rich advertising experiences on branded sites like Yahoo and ESPN... but this is unique:

Mobile advertising agency Medialets has created ads utilizing the iPhone's accelerometer and audio capabilities. The below interactive ad is a full take over on the iPhone (shown in SGN's iBowl game). When a user shakes the iPhone, the Dockers model break dances accordingly.

Here's the simplest way to think of campaigns like this: A. The consumer enjoys the ad and interacts with it... often repeatedly B. The advertiser wins because the consumer is proactive and motivated to share C. The publisher wins because A+B = far greater CPMs (supposedly 10x here) If advertisers can effectively and meaningfully engage consumers (the A in this equation), B and C fall into place. That is why I firmly believe that the most valuable ads will also be the most engaging and/or relevant... and that targeting and interaction are critical:

Other formats and ad actions from Medialets:

Available Ad Formats Chiclet - Clickable content that can be stylized to fit app by app developer Icon - Icon which can be manipulated to fit app display. Clickable Banner - Fixed size clickable content Text - Clickable text Overlays - Translucent popup that supports image, text, video, full button, or combination Interstitial - Full screen ad shown between pages of an app Branded Experiences - Custom built applications to your specifications. You’re only limited by the capabilities of the device. Splash Screen Placement - Full screen ad shown before app home screen Home Screen Placement - Full screen ad on home screen that scales down to a banner, chiclet or logo. Custom Brand Placement - We’ll work with you to create a unique brand placement that caters to your needs and imagination.

Available Ad Actions Click to Call Click to Full Screen Video Click to Overlay Video Click to Video In Ad Video As Ad Video Text Overlay Video Graphic Overlay Video Button Overlay Click to Embedded Web Page (Online) Click to Embedded Web Page (Offline) Click to Online Web Page Click to Offline Microsite Click to GeoLocate Click to Email Click to App Store Click to iTunes Library Content Click to iTunes Store (Audio & Video) Click to Lead Capture (Online) Click to Lead Capture (Offline) Click to Share

Digital Chocolate Talks iPhone Apps, Gaming

Terrific interview over on VentureBeat. Dean Takahashi speaks with Digital Chocolate's Trip Hawkins about their success on iPhone's App platform.

I encourage you to read the full article but have included two highlights:

About the odds of becoming a #1 iPhone Application and reaching 10 million downloads in 100 days:

There are 35,000 apps [competing on the iPhone]. Thousands are free. To get to No. 1, it’s pretty rare. There is a rotation where something stays at No. 1 for a week or two. The odds are very low. If there are maybe 25 products that have hit No. 1, then your odds are one in a thousand. Penguin was No. 1 through Christmas. Tower Blocks was No. 1 in February. Brick Breaker Revolution made it to No. 1 in April. That’s a mathematical freak. We have now released a fifth game, and a couple of more are coming. The first four games, in less than 100 days, hit 10 million downloads.

On deriving revenue and finding the right price point:

All five of our games are in the top 100 for revenue. Four of our games are in the top 100 by unit volume even though the prices for them are $3 each or more. If you weed out the really cheap products at 99 cents or free, then you find there are only three companies that can command a price of $3 or more and to rank high enough in the top 100 units sold.