Thursday, April 23, 2009

What I have learned from iPhone applications

My boss gave me an iTouch for Christmas and I absolutely love it. And I am not alone. There have been almost 1 billion downloads of i-applications since the launch of the system in July 2008, and more than 35,000 applications have been created (see here) Aside from the joy of using it, I have learned a great deal from the way the system works.

It is the best example I can think of for what I call the easy principle: the easier you make something the more likely it is that people will do it. The quicker and easier you make it for people to buy, the more they will buy. It is just so easy to buy an i-app, just a couple of clicks and $2 is debited from your credit card. Easy.

The easy principle encourages impulse buying. I was with someone the other day who all of a sudden wanted to record the sound of waves onto her iPhone. She thought it would make a fun alarm to wake up to. There and then she found a recording app, bought it, and made a recording, all in a few minutes. Easy.

There is no try-before-you-buy for i-apps, although some do offer Lite versions, so i find myself relying on the reviews and stars to guide me as to the value of an i-app that I am considering downloading. Interestingly if you delete a Lite version it will often ask you to rate the application just before you remove it. Easy.

So far so cool, but what could it mean for publishers?

Consider this scenario:

Suppose journal articles were available for download to a handheld device with a similar easy payment system. I am in the train on my way to the university, browsing my alerts that I have set up to keep me posted on publications in my field of research. I see something that looks interesting. Before I decide to purchase the article, I read the reviews from other scientists. Is it worth downloading? I decide that it is and go ahead. While reading the article there are links out to other articles. On an impulse I follow a few and download some more articles that look interesting. By the time I reach the university I have a small library in my hand.

1 comment:

  1. i would add to your easy principle that it needs to be more than just easy before people will use it (though this is hugely important) they need to like it/enjoy it and have some level of emotional reward as well.