Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The iPhone's Killer App -- Social Networking

After standing in line for more than 8 hours over the course of  two days I finally was able to get my hands on an iPhone last Saturday. Even though I saw an extensive presentation at WWDC I must say that as a replacement owner I'm extremely underwhelmed from a hardware perspective.

Sure the new iPhone has 3G speed and a GPS chip, but surfing iPhone optimized sites over the EDGE network wasn't too painful. It's fun the first couple of times to find your exact location using GPS, but for most people getting general proximity using cell towers or WiFi triangulation is good enough. 

Instead of the hardware I think the real big news about the iPhone is the new Apps Store and the ability of 3rd party developers to provide free and paid applications for the device. Given that I have kids I was suckered into buying Monkey Ball for $10 (OK $9.99), but the really cool apps, the ones that have real potential are the social networking ones. 

Can't remember who it was, but one of the Internet's deep thinkers realized that the e-mails people send essentially mirror their social network. For the purposes of a phone its the people you call. So how awesome would it be to know the status and location of your friends without calling them and sharing things like pictures and thoughts while on-the-go? I think it would be pretty fun and useful. 

A number of the social networking players have made a first stab at this by creating native iPhone apps. From the AppsStore you can download apps for Facebook, MySpace, Loopt, Whirrl, and Twitteriffic. I've tried several of these and although several show promise no one's hit the ball out of the park with a complete set of features. 

I like Loopt's ability to geo-tag your status update. add a picture and then map the event. You can also see the location of your friends and what they're up to. Pretty awesome if you have friends nearby. Your screen could fill up with their updates if you are in the same neighborhood. But if you're friendless on Loopt like me, it can be pretty lonely. This is why I think why Jennifer Leggio of ZDnet has it right when she says that the established web players like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are well positioned to dominate the mobile space as well. With these networks I don't have to convince my friends to join yet another site -- they're already involved and can interact with me whether they are on an iPhone or not. 

Still, sites like Facebook can learn from the implementations of start-ups like Loopt. Facebook for example doesn't include location with their status updates. The Facebook app includes connectivity to the iPhone's camera but strangely they don't allow users to caption the pictures that are uploaded or geotag them. 

One interesting difference I did find between Loopt and Whirrl is that the former lets you invite friends based on their phone number. Whirrl on the other hand requires you to issue an invite based on your friend's e-mail. It seems to me that since users are on a phone, Loopt's implementation is more intuitive and native to the device. 

I'm hoping that one of the product teams will poach the best-of features from each product and make one really killer app. 

1 comment:

investmentplayground said...

So is joining Twitter without having an iPhone enough - or should we stick to Loopt?