NY Times: When iPhone Apps Are Too Smart

The big secret of iPhone apps is coming out of the bag: most apps that are downloaded are rarely, if ever used.

While I’m not saying we’ve jumped the shark here, it is important to note that if the New York Times has picked up on this fact, then it’s approaching common knowledge.  Read their article, “When iPhone Apps Are Too Smart” here.

So, for every zealous owner whose iPhone is loaded with little-known programs that predict asteroid fly-bys, there are many more Caroline Cuas, who seldom venture outside the predictable. Most say they’re too busy, too lazy or just plain flummoxed by the choices.

“I think I’m supposed to want more of them than I have,” said Julie Graham, a psychotherapist in San Francisco who echoed Ms. Cua’s vague anxiety. “There’s this sense that I’m missing out on something I didn’t know I needed.”

Ms. Graham, 50, said friends were shocked when she confessed to having failed to download Urbanspoon, a compendium of restaurant reviews. She now has it — and seldom uses it. “I don’t have time,” she said.

So what does it all mean?  I’ll put it simply: don’t put too much stock into how many times your iPhone app (or any other) was downloaded from the App Store.  More importantly, build in the appropriate mechanisms to allow you to find what the actual usage was.  Once again, it comes down to a pure matter of metrics.  How many page views, how many purchases, etc.

Similarly, we’ve got to bridge the gap between coding neat little apps that get downloaded and get to the point where we have serious apps that get used.

A few things to consider:

  • What is the core user need your app is fulfilling?
  • If there isn’t an existing need, what need are you creating?
  • Are you applying the tenets of online community building to maintain user interest?
  • What are the top apps you use?  What is it about those apps that makes them compelling to you?
  • Have you closely examined competitor apps?  What’s good about them?  What isn’t?  What can you do better?
  • What are the real metrics for your app?  Compare downloads vs. actual usage.
  • Talk with real iPhone app users, not the Tech/SM crowd.  What do they really use for apps?

Let me know what you see…I’d love to share info on this!

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