iPhone Marketing 101: Gaming the App Store is Not Enough

That old song “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” (Roger Miller) comes to mind as I try to increase sales for my app, Tony’s Tips for iPhone Users, through the App Store. As an early developer I thought I could skate downhill, using the App Store’s own momentum as it grew (and pretty much that’s what I’ve done so far). But the roar I’m hearing is 3 billion app downloads in 18 months for more than 125,000 apps.

The App Store offers lists of the top paid and free apps in each category, and also lists the newest apps by release date, but unless your app is already successful and in the top paid or top free lists, its fleeting appearance in the list sorted by release date may only provide a short spike in sales.

The Release Date lists in each App Store category is the only list you have any control over. To game this system, some developers release updates often. These updates show up on the Release Date list, reaching more eyeballs. The problem with this trick is that Apple could change its policy overnight and not list minor updates in the Release Dates list. Even worse, customers might be irritated by frequent updates — it violates the first rule of marketing, which is to give your customers an overall better experience. And if you try to publish an “update” that is nothing more than a facelift, Apple might just reject it.

The Free Store (with Apologies to the Diggers)

A better method is to develop a free, or “lite” version of an app to draw attention to the paid version. Free apps are more likely to be downloaded because, duh, they’re free. And according to AdMob, upgrading from the lite version was the top reason given when users were asked what drives them to purchase a paid app.

Note, however, that the free “lite” version of your paid app must be a fully functional app, and can’t reference features that are not implemented or point users directly to the full paid version. What this means is that although you can publish a free “lite” app with fewer features than the paid version, the free version must be a complete app in its own right, and you can’t badger the free app’s users with reminders to upgrade to the paid version, nor can you use placeholders in your app’s interface for missing functionality that, when tapped, points users to the paid version. Tricks like these will get your free “lite” app rejected.

App Store Setup Tips

If you have properly categorized your app, it should appear in the proper category on the App Store Categories screen — in the Release Date list as soon as you release it. Attaching your app to the appropriate category is extremely important. Customers looking for a social networking app will go right to the Social Networking category to find the Top Paid, Top Free, and Release Date lists. Your new app may last a bit longer in the Release Date list of your category.

Some customers will take the time to tap the Search icon to search the store, and tap the entry field to bring up the on-screen keyboard. As they type a keyword you assigned to your new app, or something close to its name, your app should pop up right away as a suggestion. It is therefore important to use an appropriate name for your app (with terms that people might search for) and to assign appropriate keywords.

Developers also have In App Purchase at their disposal to offer their existing customers the opportunity to buy other apps, merchandise, game levels, premium features, e-books, and so on. You can’t sell real-world goods and services, only digital content, functionality, services, or subscriptions that work within your app. No intermediary currency is allowed (such as a virtual world’s currency), and no real gambling (although simulated gambling is OK).

You may also want to consider offering your customers an incentive, such as free deals through In App Purchasing, if they tell their friends about your app. Anyone browsing the App Store can tap the Tell a Friend button at the bottom of the app’s information screen to send the app information in an email.

Price Your App Right

The literature about marketing could probably fill all the Trump Towers in the world, but if you want to learn about marketing quickly, there are at least two apps for that. Marketing Master and MarketingProfs walk you through the basic concepts, and while you certainly could do better by enrolling at Wharton (where the first Marketing 101 course was taught in 1909), it’s a place to start.

One of the biggest lessons of Marketing 101 is to determine your target audience for your product. Assemble as much information about your target customer as possible — demographics, education, income level, and so on — because this information will influence all of your marketing decisions from the messaging you write in your descriptions and ads, to the channels you use to distribute your message.

Another big lesson is to determine the cost of acquiring new customers. The simple math here is to divide all the dollars you spend in marketing per month by all the new dollars you receive each month in sales. Once you know this, it begs the question of how much you should be spending. To figure that out, you need to know how much your customers are worth to you — the lifetime value of your customer. The secret to increasing the lifetime value of your customer is to increase the quality of the customer experience, thereby encouraging repeat business. You are not in the iPhone app game to do just one app; you need to develop more apps and build a customer base that will be happy to buy them.

Keep in mind that iPhone users download approximately ten new apps a month, according to AdMob, and those who regularly download paid apps spend approximately $9 on an average of five paid downloads per month. More than 90 percent of iPhone users browse and search for apps directly on their mobile device instead of their computer — more or less an “impulse” buy. You need to attract the right people, not just anyone — potential customers are those that will understand the value of your app.

But at what price? Much has been written about iPhone app pricing strategies. At the beginning of this gold rush, pricing an app at $0.99 helped to get the app into the Top 100. But now, with over 125,000 apps, that’s no longer true. All good marketers know that price is never a good selling point; anyone can come along and be cheaper. A better approach is to determine the true value of the app. People will pay for quality (at least I hope they will) — and as more business apps become available, their prices will likely reflect their value.

The best approach is to check out similar apps, especially competing ones (if any). Remember how costly it is to acquire customers. Starting at a higher price gives you some room to offer discounted prices at different times, such as the “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” that follow Thanksgiving, or the start of the annual Apple Developer Conference.

Find a Way to Measure Success

The trouble with using any kind of technology to reach customers is the same, old or new: measuring the results. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half,” said John Wanamaker, founder of the first department store in Philadelphia (one of the first department stores in the United States) in 1861.

One of the biggest problems facing the iPhone app marketer is that the App Store doesn’t tell you who your customers are. Sure, you know how many customers you have, and you also know from which countries, and how many of them have updated your app (if you provided an update). You even know how much they spent. What you don’t know, however, can hurt you. How can you possibly build relationships with customers you don’t know?

The vast majority of apps downloaded from the App Store are in use by less than five percent of users a month after downloading, according to Pinch Media. Just 20 percent of users return to run a free application one day after downloading. As time goes by, that decline continues, eventually settling below five percent after one month and nearing zero after three months. Category matters, too — games are used for longer periods than any other genre. Pinch Media found the long-term audience for the average app is just one percent of the total number of downloads.

So customer loyalty is hard to build — it is difficult to determine if a user’s positive experience with your app will translate into sales of your next app or your more expensive desktop app. There are no guarantees. You need to get as much data about your customers as you can find.

Apple releases daily sales reports in iTunes Connect, which you can view online or download, with the name of the app, how many were sold and in which country, and your profit. You can import these reports into any spreadsheet program, like Excel or iWorks Numbers. A number of desktop applications have appeared to download and graph this data for you. AppViz is a Mac application that can import the reports from the Web or from a downloaded file, and display charts of your daily, weekly, and monthly sales. AppFigures is a Web-based solution for tracking app sales that can download and graph your reports from iTunes Connect.

There are several analytics options for iPhone apps, if you are willing to compile the necessary code into your app. Pinch Analytics from Pinch Media is used in thousands of popular apps because it can track any action anywhere in your app. Armed with this information, you can fine-tune the user experience in your updates, and offer new features to try to catch usage drop-off as early as possible and retain more customers. You can also measure all types of revenue, from paid downloads and subscriptions to advertising and in-app purchases.

AdMob, recently acquired by Google, offers Analytics that works with your Web site to track customers that access pages on the site through your app. All you have to do is install a code snippet onto each page you want to analyze, and AdMob does the rest. When your app requests a page from your site, your server passes analytics-related data to AdMob, which processes your data and makes it available on analytics.admob.com. It can track the number of unique visitors and pages consumed on your site, and monitor user engagement metrics such as the length and depth of each visit.

Get Publicity

Take a tip from Apple itself: put on a show. Publicity offers the biggest payoff in the short term, and the best way to get it is to pay an excellent PR firm. Good publicity can create a spike in sales that could be misleading, but if you’ve implemented other marketing campaigns to take advantage of it, sales could level out at a much higher rate that before the publicity hit. The best of the PR firms can help you with your entire marketing strategy.

But if you can’t afford that… Publicity stunts work well if received well by the public. Some of world’s most beloved annual events began their existence as cheap publicity stunts. In 1903, publisher Henri Desgrange started a bicycle road race as a publicity stunt to promote his newspaper, never imagining that the Tour de France would be going strong more than 100 years later. The Rose Bowl grew out of an 1890 stunt designed to promote Pasadena, Calif., the Miss America pageant began in 1921 as a publicity stunt to lure tourists to Atlantic City after Labor Day, and the Academy Awards began in 1929 as a cheap publicity stunt for the movie industry. As Lenny Bruce put it, “Publicity is stronger than sanity: given the right PR, armpit hair on female singers could become a national fetish.” (It did, about 15 years later.)

If you can generate publicity, be sure to have a demo on hand — something to titillate the public whether they have their iPhones in hand or not. Create a video on YouTube and link it to your press release. Offer a free “lite” version of your app and time its release to occur at the start of the publicity campaign. Leave no stone unturned in looking for promotional opportunities as part of the campaign. And make sure your demo works — a sacrifice to the demo gods can’t hurt. Or just keep repeating the mantra from the patron prophet of demos, Demosthenes: “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.”

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A Season of iPhone Wonders

This autumn has seen a flurry of new iPhone and iPod touch apps and Apple-related news. Here’s a summary of my iPhone-related tweets, going backwards of course from most recent:

Dec. 2, 2009: Twitter: This is cool: use your iPhone to find your car with Park’n Find app, which marks your car accurately with GPS on a map and provides directions to find it.

Dec. 2, 2009: Twitter: RedEye for iPhone and iPod touch is a universal remote for home entertainment systems that turns Wi-Fi to RF.

Nov. 24, 2009: Twitter: Another serious worm that attacks jailbroken iPhones and iPod touches, this one stealing personal data — another reason not to jailbreak your iPhone.


Nov. 24, 2009: Twitter: The Andoid app experience is inconsistent compared to the iPhone app experience, and here’s why.

Nov. 21, 2009: Twitter: I’m attending SF MusicTech Summit on 12/7, to meet the best minds in music and come up new iPhone app ideas.

Nov. 19, 2009: Twitter: iPhone App Status Tracker — I’m quoted in this, about developer issues and customer trust.

Nov. 15, 2009: Twitter: Over 100 user stories of using the iPhone with T-Mobile and other tales of jailbreaking.

Nov. 13, 2009: Twitter: Jailbroken iPhones have been targeted by worms (which is another reason why not to jailbreak your iPhone). But worms can be stopped — see How to Secure Your Jailbroken iPhone.

Nov. 2, 2009: Twitter: Interesting comparison of DIY iPhone app developing services, which charge a monthly subscription fee or a percentage of your app’s sales.

Oct. 22, 2009: Twitter: There are, by my rough estimates, about nine iPhone apps born in the App Store every hour of every day.

Oct. 19, 2009: Twitter: Rock Band on iPhone. “It Won’t Be Long” for Beatles version? Don’t Let Me Down, Apple Records!

Oct. 19, 2009: Twitter: “My iPhone is an 8-Track Recorder” is an excellent review of several multitrack recording apps and add-ons to overcome the iPhone’s microphone recording limitations.

Oct. 13, 2009: Twitter: What’s Shakin’ iPhone percussion app very cool — it feels and sounds just like an acoustic instrument, varying playback based on orientation, direction, and magnitude of your motion.

Oct. 9, 2009: Twitter: A friend asked about using an external keyboard with the iPhone. Here is a hardware/software solution for infrared keyboards for typing on the iPhone, no jailbreaking required. And here’s video of an iPhone interacting with a wireless Apple keyboard via Bluetooth, using a jailbreak method.

Oct. 8, 2009: Twitter: AT&T needs to do fine tuning to its systems before offering iPhone tethering, and the wait is on…

Sep. 30, 2009: Twitter: Free Dropbox iPhone app works with free Mac version so that you can sync your files online and across Macs, and download/share using your iPhone.

Sep. 29, 2009: Twitter: With EyeTV on Mac and EyeTV app, watch live & recorded TV on your iPhone.

Sep. 16, 2009: Twitter: Love Guinness? Gonna love this iPhone app. Frothy? Brilliant!

Sep. 15, 2009: Twitter: Why so hard to find apps in App Store in certain categories with iTunes 9? Here’s one person’s method around this problem of finding useful but unknown apps within categories.


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iPhone Tip: The Trouble with Doubles (When Syncing Contacts)

Find this tip and many more in Tony’s Tips for iPhone User’s Manual, a $2.99 iPhone app by Tony Bove.

A lot of my friends have had troubles with doubles after jumping into iPhone 3.0 and syncing with Exchange or MobileMe. A typical scenario: you try to sync Contacts to not only synchronize with the Exchange Server at work, but also with your Contacts folder on your PC — which may be already synced to Exchange. This results in duplicates of every contact (with some in triplicate and quadruplicate, if that’s a word).


You can sync with both your “local” PC folder and Exchange — the two sets of contacts are separated into Groups on the iPhone. You can select only one of the two Groups, rather than All, when accessing contacts on your iPhone (the other Group would always be there, but with dupes of the first Group). But this can be inconvenient, and if you also sync your PC folder of Contacts with Exchange, you could end up with dupes in both Groups.

This scenario can also happen with MobileMe if you sync with MobileMe from your iPhone and also use iTunes to sync with your Address Book on your Mac, or Outlook on a PC — especially if you set up MobileMe first. If you use iTunes syncing first, then set up MobileMe syncing, you get the choice to merge your Contacts, and you shouldn’t have dupes.

But what if you already “got duped”?

You can turn off syncing your Contacts in iTunes (if you are still syncing them from iTunes). Next, turn off syncing of your MobileMe or Exchange Contacts (not Calendars, Bookmarks, or Mail, just Contacts) on your iPhone. When you do, you are given the choice to remove the existing data from your iPhone, which is a good thing and you should do it. You can then resync, starting fresh with the Contacts from the MobileMe or Exchange server.

For all this (and more details), see Resyncing iPhone Contacts to Fix Duplicates or Corrupt Entries in Tony’s Free Tips (adapted from my iPhone app, Tony’s Tips for iPhone Users Manual).

That should fix your trouble with doubles, even trouble with triples. Quadruples? You got problems.


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It’s Only Tunes and Videos (But I Like It)

Today’s “It’s Only Rock and Roll” press event held by Apple (best of the live coverage here) held no real surprises other than the triumphant return of Steve Jobs to the stage. Rumors and insider reports had already clued us into the album-package feature of the iTunes Store, better apps management in iTunes 9, and the video camera for the iPod nano. What’s missing are the video camera for the iPod touch, and Blu-Ray support for iTunes. And, of course, the Beatles.

The iTunes Store has been redesigned to be more airy, less cluttered, and more social. Arrows next to “buy” lets you automatically gift music or add to a wish list, and send directly to Facebook or Twitter. And with the iTunes LP package for albums, including videos, liner notes, credits, and other customized content that you used to get when you bought LPs in the past. This is great news for us baby boomers who still love classic rock; it may not be so impressive for the younger generations that are plugged into current bands and their Facebook/MySpace/Twitter streams. One wonders whether the established music industry is simply trying to find another way to revitalize itself, using once again classic rock. After the baby boomers stop buying the same music again, this strategy may turn out to be hopeless — for the record companies. But not for Apple, which reaps the short-term rewards of selling the music.

iTunes 9 includes some new music syncing features to make it easier to be picky about what you sync. And the long-awaited app browsing and syncing features are finally on board. You can use iTunes to arrange your iPhone or iPod touch Home screens and move apps around — on the left you can see all the apps in the library, and on the right, rearrange the Home screens. Apple also added the Genius feature to the iPod touch and iPhone (via iPhone OS 3.1 software, available free), and to iTunes, so that the store makes recommendations to you based on what you own. The new Home Sharing feature lets you copy songs, TV shows, movies, and so on, to up to five computers “in your house” (presumably, your local-area network). You cab see all the computers you can share with, and see the content, and also drag the content to copy it to your library. That’s better than streaming the content.

After a bit of promotion about how well the iPod is doing as a family of products (over 220 million sold, with a market share of 73.8 percent), we learned that more than 50 percent of buyers are new to the iPod. That’s great for writers of how-to books on the iPod (like me, with my iPod & iTunes For Dummies and iPod touch For Dummies).

The iPod touch is getting faster (with Open GL for graphics), there are 21,178 entertainment titles in the App Store, and Apple is lowering its price and boosting its memory — 8GB for $199, 32GB for $299, and 64GB for $399. But no camera yet. The iPod touch will most likely be updated or subsumed into a new tablet version when the latter is introduced.

The iPod nano, however, is ready for prime time, sporting a video camera on the back (available today, just ordered it online as I write this). The iPod nano comes in many colors, 8GB for $149, 16GB for $179. The camera captures H.264 VGA video, 640 by 480 pixels, up to 30 frames per second with AAC audio. You can watch the video on your iPod nano, sync the video to your computer, and with one click, send it to YouTube. The camera offers 15 real-time special effects such as Sepia, Black and White, X-Ray, Film Grain, and Twirl. The iPod nano also offers an FM tuner with two excellent features: iTunes Tagging and Live Pause.

So, all in all, it’s only tunes and videos this time, but I like it. Still, I miss the Beatles, and I hope the iTunes LP is put to good use on their albums.

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Apple and Beatles Come Together Over iTunes

In honor of the song “Revolution 9” (“Number nine, number nine….”), Sept. 9, 2009 (09/09/2009) will be both Beatles Day and iTunes/iPod Day as Apple rolls out new features for iPods (including cameras), a new version of iTunes (with support for Blu-ray DVDs), and, according to rumors, an album format for the iTunes Store that takes full advantage of the Beatles’ album graphics, lyrics, and liner notes. An iTunes/Beatles announcement is very likely, as well as an appearance by Steve Jobs, according to sources.

On the same day, Apple Corps (label for the Beatles) and Harmonix Music Systems (owned by MTV) will introduce The Beatles: Rock Band game for the XBox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii (see insider video interview). My guess is that the game will also appear on the iPod touch — since Apple (the consumer electronics company) wants to promote the games aspect of the iPod touch platform.

Why do I care so much about the Beatles appearing on iTunes, or their game on the iPod touch?

Back in Feb. 2007, I wrote (in Splendid Time is Guaranteed For All) that the Beatles catalog would soon be made available online by its owner, Apple Corps, for legal downloading from multiple online music services as well as iTunes. Beatles music was a turning point in the history of pop music, its CDs were a turning point in the history of CD sales, and its power, I thought, would once again prove to be a turning point in the history of online music. Besides, baby boomers would be excited, and that should stimulate downloads for record labels — baby boomers (those of us over 50) are the folks more likely to buy music for downloading, compared to the younger generations that are used to downloading free music.

Why it has taken so long is another story — getting all the rights lined up, getting all the new products ready (including The Beatles: Rock Band game and all 13 albums remastered), and getting the remaining Beatles approval. That it has taken so long means its impact is reduced from what it would have been in 2007. The Beatles may command the power to legitimize a medium — as it will with Rock Hero games, as more people over 30 buy them — but the iTunes Store is already thriving. Still, the Beatles remastered catalog has the power to forge a new format for historic albums on iTunes, and the game will certainly generate more sales of downloaded music and more interest in rock-hero games among the baby boomers, who haven’t yet turned on to them in large numbers.

I care most about the iTunes album goodies, which will indeed cause me to open my wallet for music I already own. I care about the remastered music, which will be available quickly for downloading. And I mostly care about the influence the Beatles may yet have on the next generation with these new products — including the message that the love you make must equal the love you take. May we all someday live in a Yellow Submarine.

P.S. Most of the song “Revolution 9” was recorded on May 30, 1968, during sessions for “Revolution” — Sept. 9, 1969 is not significant, though two days later John Lennon would add overdubs to one of my favorite unreleased songs, “What’s The New Mary Jane“, and the Fab Four worked on “Helter Skelter” on Sept. 9, 1968.

Here are versions of “I am the Walrus” by other bands:

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iPhone Tip: Find it and Wipe – But Can Find My iPhone be used Maliciously?

The Find My iPhone feature of MobileMe is cool, but how easy is it for someone to use it in a malicious way to remotely wipe your iPhone? As easy as getting your MobileMe password. An angry ex-spouse who knows your password could bomb your iPhone from anywhere. The folks at Palm might already be plotting ways to capture passwords for the accounts of Apple executives.

Fortunately if you are within reach of the computer you synced it with, you can restore your personal information and settings, as well as your content, by connecting the iPhone to your computer and restoring it from a previous backup using iTunes. Such an attack on your iPhone would therefore merely be a nuisance. But if you’re traveling without your computer, it could be a damn nuisance. You might want to disable the feature if you have enemies… but then, you won’t be able to find your iPhone if you lose it.

The Find My iPhone feature of MobileMe was well received at the Worldwide Apple Developer Conference, and already stories are surfacing about how useful it is and how folks have found their iPhones using it (such as the hilarious story of three Lego geeks in Chicago confronting a possible thief). If you have lost your iPhone or you think it may have been stolen, and you have already enabled the Find My iPhone feature, you can find its approximate location on me.com. You can also display a message and play a sound on your lost iPhone (a message such as “Please help me find my owner, call me at 415-xxx-xxxx!!”). And if you think the iPhone is stolen and you want to delete all personal information and media on it, you can remotely wipe it, restoring it to factory settings.

To learn more about now to use Find My iPhone, see “Find My iPhone with MobileMe” in Tony’s Free Tips (adapted from my iPhone app, Tony’s Tips for iPhone Users Manual).

The ability to remotely wipe all the data from your lost or stolen iPhone is an innovative way to protect information, and this capability plays well in the corporate world of trade secrets and high finance. As for the rest of us, are we entering a new weird phase of cyber devilry? The fact is, anyone with your MobileMe password can go find your iPhone and remotely wipe its contents.

A key weakness of the feature is that it can be easily disabled by removing the SIM card (if the iPhone thief is that clever). Also, if you contacted your service provider to report your iPhone lost or stolen before using the Find My iPhone feature, the SIM was most likely deactivated by the provider and you would no longer be able to locate, display a message on, or remotely wipe your iPhone. So use Find My iPhone first! For more details, read Apple’s KnowledgeBase article Troubleshooting Find My iPhone and Remote Wipe.

As a parent, I find Find My iPhone to be a remarkable way of keeping tabs on my sons’ locations and leaving them important notes. I can set up more than one iPhone and iPod touch under a MobileMe account, so I can track both my sons’ and my own at the same time. But these family arrangements can turn ugly if everyone in the family knows the password. Be careful out there!



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Expecting to Fly – iPhone before the Start of the Apple WWDC

Here it stands on the edge of a feather… expecting to fly. (Or perhaps you prefer the more obscure Buffalo Springfield tune, “In the Hour of Not Quite Rain”). The Apple iPhone stands alone in the lead behind a seething pack of ever-optimistic smartphone companies vying for an ever-widening share of an ever-growing market.

“Expecting to Fly” — Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield (Amazon) or Buffalo Springfield - Buffalo Springfield Again (Remastered) - Expecting to Fly

“In the Hour of Not Quite Rain” — Buffalo Springfield: Last Time Around (Amazon) or Buffalo Springfield - Last Time Around (Remastered) - The Hour of Not Quite Rain

What certainly will fly — off the shelves — will be a lower-priced iPhone, rumored to be announced next week. The rumor mill keeps on grinding out more new iPhone and iPod touch models with built-in video recording and videoconferencing, a better camera, and a compass for better directional information, as well as new iPod touch models. (Here’s an excellent pre-WWDC review of rumors, from Gizmodo.) What would truly stand the iPhone even more apart from the pack would be video recording and videoconferencing. iPhone 3.0 Software, to be released next week at the WWDC, offers a wide variety of new ways for developers to take advantage of all this technology, and it’s important to realize that Apple’s SDK is keeping pace with all these new features.

So the atmosphere is more carnival-like than ever, with reports of a
healthy-looking Steve Jobs walking about the Apple campus, and Palm
rolling out its Pre amidst a flurry of controversies ranging from its
ability to sync to iTunes to its possible infringements on Apple
patents. The pundits are fanning the flames of Palm vs. Apple as David vs. Goliath to boost traffic to their columns, giving mostly glowing but a few scathing reviews of the Palm Pre (of the glowing reviews, David Pogue’s is the most ebullient, but then he’s probably about to write another missing manual; for the “bad keyboard” review see the Boy Genius). However, as is always the case when there is no real substance to the challenge, no one gives Palm an unequivocal victory — not like they did for the iPhone at its debut. (Here’s Gizmodo’s matrix of Palm Pre reviews.)

As Microsoft grapples with search and Bing, the real battle over the platform that will capture the best developers have to give is between the Apple iPhone and Google Android. While RIM holds a higher share with its Blackberry models, the true momentum of innovation is occurring mostly on these two platforms. Palm has to spring up on its own, without the developer base it had a decade ago. Apple has all the momentum, most of the developers, and an extraordinary base of patented technology, while the rest of the industry is playing catch-up.

And Apple still has the coolness factor — evidenced by the recent New Yorker cover art created on an iPhone (see iPhone Scores Unusual Cover Credit in InternetNews). Authors are paying more attention to the iPhone as a medium for e-books. If Apple indeed as an iPhone/iPod touch tablet in the works, it would enable you to do page layout. The combination of using a camera and using painting apps would introduce a new art form. Once again the other companies will be scrambling to catch up.

Expecting to Post in Tony’s Tips from WWDC

I released my iPhone app, Tony’s Tips for iPhone Users Manual, a few months back, but only now have I been able to show off what I consider to be its most amazing feature: I can update the content without having to update the app. As soon as the iPhone 3.0 software is released at the WWDC, I can refresh the content to provide tips on using all of its new features.

As I quoted myself in my June 1 press release, “I consider this format to be faster than a printed book, more powerful than an e-book. Unlike a printed book or e-book that falls out of date, a reader buys Tony’s Tips once — and it lasts forever, continually refreshed with new content.”

So, as you update your iPhone or iPod touch to iPhone Software 3.0, check out Tony’s Tips to find new information on using copy/cut and paste, the new search feature, and everything else in version 3.0.



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In Search of the Lost Chord: The Musician’s iPhone and iPod touch

Apple’s App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch is vast and brimming with so many interesting apps that it’s hard to get a handle on it all. The price of most commercial apps is so low that the price difference doesn’t matter so much, especially when competing apps are the same or nearly the same price (between $2.99 and $4.99 for most apps; the most expensive in this list is $19.99). It turns out that the time you spend playing with the app is more valuable. You can’t try everything.

So how can you tell if an iPhone or iPod touch app is worth spending time with? Reading the reviews can help, but there is no substitute for hands-on use. Musicians are especially adept at getting their hands onto something and using it. One famous singer and songwriter, Gary Go, will forego musical instruments and perform his show using an iPhone at Wembley Stadium in support of Take That on July 1st, 4th, and 5th. It’s a gutsy move to show that the iPhone or iPod touch is a potent platform for producing music that is capable of entertaining a stadium full of fans.

Let’s start with the simplest tools any musician might need in search of the lost chord.

Cleartune (bitcount) bitcount


Cleartune by bitcount indicating the key (left) and playing a tone (right)

I sing and play harmonica, and never expected to find an app that would be useful for those purposes. But I’m an avid user of Cleartune (not free) — a chromatic instrument tuner and pitch pipe that uses the iPhone built-in mic (or an external mic for an iPod touch 2). I can quickly find the proper pitch for singing. On stage, I’ve used it to quickly show me the root key of a song so that I could grab the right harmonica (which are made in different keys). I also use it to show whether older harmonicas are out of tune and need to be cleaned or adjusted. Others use it to tune acoustic or electric guiltars, bass, bowed strings, woodwinds and brass of all sorts, and any other instrument that can sustain a tone.

Harmonica (Pocketglow/Benjamin McDowell) Harmonica


Harmonica by Pocketglow/Benjamin McDowell

Don’t laugh. I’ve actually used this harmless gimmick to teach the rudiments of playing harmonica. You can either touch the holes to play them, or use your mouth (actually your upper lip), but it’s still a touchy experience — you don’t have to blow or suck air.

Ocarina and Leaf Trombone (Smule) Smule

What can you say about an app that, within four days of its release, became the No. 1 best-selling app on the store? By far the most famous of strange new iPhone apps that defy characterization, Ocarina — the app that turns your iPhone into an ancient flute-like instrument and lets you share the music you make with others — now works with the iPod touch as well. Without any musical training you can touch the “holes” of the ocarina to make music, or blow into an external microphone. Ardent fans post sheet music showing how they play their songs.

Smule has recently released Leaf Trombone, which offers a similar experience with the sound of a trombone. Leaf Trombone takes it a step further with an American Idol-like competition — you can judge performances on the phone, or just watch others playing popular trombone songs. (Such as? You can start playing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” or dozens of other songs in its library.)

PocketGuitar (Shinya Kasatani) Shinya Kasatani

If you don’t like the music, go out and make some yourself. You can look for the chord the guitar player is playing in a song, and you can try to play it yourself with PocketGuitar, an app that turns your iPod touch into a virtual guitar. You can press and strum strings with your fingers on the iPod touch screen.

GuitarToolkit (Agile Partners) Agile Partners


GuitarToolkit by Agile Partners includes a chord chart

For anyone who plays guitar or wants to play one, you can’t beat the value of GuitarToolkit ($9.99 as of this writing), which provides a chromatic tuner, a chord finder, a metronome, and pitch reference tones. The chord finder lets you quickly cycle through chords and see the fingering for each chord. Slide your fingers across the screen to strum the chord. The scales feature offers a playable fretboard to hear what each note sounds like, and the metronome lets you dial in an exact count in beats per minute (BPM) or tap along to a song to get the tempo.

Chordmaster and Scale Wizard (D’Addario/Planet Waves) Planet Waves

D’Addario is the legendary string making family that began making instrument strings in Salle, Italy in 1680, and is now a large manufacturer that distributes to over 5,400 retail music stores worldwide. If anyone knows how to search for the lost chord… Chordmaster is a reference library of 7,800 guitar chords. You can hear the chords by strumming with your finger and see them on the fretboard. Scale Wizard, a companion app to Chordmaster, is a scale library that includes over 10,000 modes and arpeggios. You can hear the scales as well as change the playback speed for practicing.

iDrum (iZotope) iZotope, Inc.

iZotope built its reputation providing technology to top digital audio companies such as Digidesign, Sony, and Adobe. iDrum is a drum machine app that offers a ton of great beats and lets you edit and create your own. Versions of iDrum have been developed for rock, hip-hop, club music, and signature editions for bands such as Ministry of Sound and Depeche Mode (which features content from Sounds of the Universe).

MooCowMusic Band, Pianist, Guitarist, Drummer, Organist MooCowMusic




MooCowMusic Band (top), Organist (middle), and Drummer

Band is a collection of virtual instruments (drums, piano, bass guitar, blues guitar, and even crowd noise) that are good enough to produce music — for example, the iBand uses these tools in live and studio recording: Marina (on vocals, piano, and guitar) uses the MooCowMusic Pianist and Guitarist on an iPod touch, and Roger plays guitar, bass, and xylophone on MooCowMusic Drummer and Guitarist with custom interfaces and sounds on an iPhone. (Seb, on drums, plays on BeatMaker — see below.)

You can play complex chords in real time, not only hearing the sound but seeing a visual representation of the instrument (piano keys really depress and bass guitar strings really strum). All instruments can be recorded, overdubbed, and mixed together into a song, which can be stored for later playback. Instruments have individual volume and pan settings, and can be muted or soloed during playback. There’s a metronome for keeping time, and, if you make a mistake, you can erase the last few notes, overdub, or instrument, from the mix and record it again.

BeatMaker (Intua) Intua

Inspired by hardware beatboxes, loop samplers and software sequencers, BeatMaker offers 16 multi-touch pads that let you load, slice, tune, and trigger sounds from an extensive sample library. You can arrange song snippets to your liking, loop and improvise in real time with live pattern recording and fingertip sound control — record new sounds wherever you are, and use them instantly in your compositions. The step sequencer makes music composing easy while
keeping precise synchronization, and you can load and save your sound kits and projects. Seb, the drummer in the iBand, uses BeatMaker with a custom soundset on an iPhone.

FourTrack (Sonoma Wire Works) Sonoma Wire Works

Musicians often have songwriting ideas at times and places where they can’t write them down. Although it will never replace your main recording setup, FourTrack mixes and plays up to four tracks like a pocket-sized version of Pro Tools. Recording in true 16-bit, 44.1 kHz quality, FourTrack works with the iPhone headset mic, or an iPod touch with an external mic. You can record up to the capacity of your iPhone or iPod touch, and then use Wi-Fi Sync to transfer your recordings to nearly any desktop computer, where tracks can then be imported into whatever recording software you use.

FiRe (Audiofile Engineering) Audiofile Engineering

Audiofile Engineering has a good reputation built with AE make Wave Editor, which has rapidly become popular for Mac audio producers and sound designers. This app is a high-quality recorder likely to be useful for recording song ideas, rehearsals, and even concerts — you can use Blue Mikey, Alesis ProTrack or even the internal mic. It offers waveform display, overdub mode for sketching out song ideas, markers with location data, great VU meters for input and output, and support for uploading audio to the Internet using SoundCloud.

Professional musicians are getting in the act of discovering there’s an app for that. By the time you read this, there will be hundreds more.



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App Stores on the New Frontier

By now you probably have read about the issues with the Google Android-based mobile device platform (see “Android exploit so dangerous, users warned to avoid phone’s web browser” by Andrew Nusca at ZDnet).

You may have also read a whle back about Apple’s response to the U.S. Copyright Office that unauthorized alterations of the iPhone and iPod touch are violations (see “Apple: iPhone jailbreaking violates our copyright” by Tom Krazit at Cnet).

What’s missing is the link between these stories. On the one hand (Google Android), applications can appear on the platform overnight without any rigorous oversight, and some could introduce vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

On the other hand (Apple iPhone and iPod touch), the practice of rigorous oversight is exactly what Apple is trying to defend. Jailbreaking opens the Apple platform potentially to all kinds of lawless activity, and Apple doesn’t want that.

Who does?

Apple has been criticized for kicking apps out of the App Store, and then (tentatively) bringing some of them back in when it looked like they wouldn’t be dangerous. I think it’s a wise policy. Apple also has a business to run, and a partner (AT&T) to work with. And guess what? So do other companies. Critics had pointed to Android as a free system, something that Apple should embrace, but just recently, Google also kicked apps out of its store — see Android tethering apps pulled from Market (Android Community). Google cited their distribution agreements with carriers as the prompt for removal.

It’s the same problem. Expect the new Blackberry App World to be similarly policed. The price of “freedom” (in this case, the ability to download very low cost apps to your phone, and the ability for developers to create them quickly and inexpensively) is constant vigilance.

This week’s interesting blips include:

Pirates Board Apple’s iPhone App Store (Gadget Lab from Wired.com). I’m angered by this, even though highly profitable developers dismiss it as a minor nuisance. Why target under-$5 apps? Do they have no ethics? They are not hurting Apple, only small developers. Shareware used to require a $5 or more donation.

RIM’s BlackBerry App Store Opens for Business
(InternetNews.com). You use PayPal to make purchases. We’re going to
see a lot more of these online app stores for different platforms.

Skype for iPhone: It’s official (CTIA show — CNET Reviews). I’m not really a user because I don’t invest much time changing my phone calling habits (I make calls rarely, mostly receive them and send email back). Also, Skype’s iPhone limits irk some consumer advocates (USATODAY.com)
What did these people expect? As AT&T pointed out, Skype “has no obligation to market AT&T services. Why should the reverse be true?” Well, AT&T, good luck holding back the hordes.



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iPhone Tip: Re-sync with MobileMe

Find this tip and many more in Tony’s Tips for iPhone User’s Manual, a $2.99 application for your iPhone by Tony Bove.

One frequent problem I have is that the Calendars on my iPhone lag behind my computer’s calendars — sometimes seriously enough that I don’t have the appointment’s information in my iPhone as I dash off to the appointment.

Life passes swiftly by, and we must keep up. I sync regularly to the MobileMe “cloud” from my computer, and I generally use my computer to enter or change calendar entries. If something happens to corrupt my MobileMe cloud data, the odd occasions I entered through my iPhone are not worth troubling over. Better to simply overwrite the MobileMe data from my computer: replace the entire cloud with an accurate version of the cloud.

You know how to do that: open MobileMe (in System Preferences on a Mac, or Control Panel in Windows) and click the Sync tab, and then click the Advanced button. Select the computer you are syncing from in the list at the top, and click Reset Sync Data.

In the dialog that appears, choose an option from the Replace pop-up menu:

  • On a Mac your choices are All Sync Info; or Bookmarks; Calendars; Contacts; Key Chains; Mail Accounts; or Mail Rules, Signatures, and Smart Mailboxes.
  • In Windows, your choices are All Sync Info, or Bookmarks, Calendars, or Contacts.

Then click the arrow underneath the cloud icon to change the animation so that the data arrow points from the computer to the cloud. Finally, click Replace.

This replaces the data in the MobileMe cloud with the data on your computer. You can also use these steps to go in reverse — replace the data on your computer with the data in MobileMe. To do this, click the arrow so that the animation points the arrow from the cloud to the computer.

The next step is to re-sync your iPhone to the new MobileMe data. Choose Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars from the iPhone Home screen, and then touch the email account associated with MobileMe — the one that also has Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Bookmarks in the subtitle.

The MobileMe account is the one with Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Bookmarks in the subtitle.

In the settings screen that appears for your MobileMe mail account, touch On for any item (such as Calendars) to turn syncing Off:

The MobileMe account settings screen.

A warning appears telling you that the synced information will be removed from your iPhone, and you can touch the Stop Syncing or Cancel buttons:

Turn off sync, or touch Cancel.

Touch Stop Syncing to turn off synchronization. At this point, the items you chose (Mail, Contacts, Calendars, or Bookmarks) are deleted from your iPhone.

After returning to the settings screen for the MobileMe mail account, touch Off for the item (Mail, Contacts, Calendars, or Bookmarks) to turn it back On. The items you turn On will re-synchronize with data from the MobileMe cloud.

If you prefer, leave any item’s setting Off and re-sync that item using iTunes. For example, if you leave Calendars set to Off, you can then sync your calendars to your iPhone using iTunes — skipping MobileMe in the process. The choice is yours.



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