Thursday, June 12, 2008

3G IPhone: Place-based advertising, whrrling through New Orleans and Atlanta

My daughters and I are just back from a trip that involved a lovely five and a half hour layover in the Atlanta airport. We had a lot of great things to eat that we’d bought in New Orleans, so the only food review I have is from the C Concourse is of the Ben and Jerry’s stand (milkshakes: B+ for thickness, A- for taste).

Swallowing my annoyance at having to pay for internet access in an airport (bad form and lousy public relations for arguably the busiest airport in the world), my daughters and I sat and watched streaming videos on my laptop until we were unceremoniously booted off for “excessive traffic.” As I told the tech support person on the phone, isn’t excess traffic what everyone wants from the internet? After a few irate phone calls and some more muffuletta, I calmed down and walked around the concourse. My mood improved considerably when my daughter found a kiosk where we could rent a dvd and return it by mail the next day. While we were hanging around, she kept pointing out all the folks around us with iPhones. I grimaced jealously and went back to “Be Kind, ReWind,” a celebration of older techniques and technologies in its own modern package.

Judging from this week's highly anticipatedWorldwide Developers Conference, our envy is only about to go up. The 3G iPhone is cheaper than the original version, but in opening the door to more carriers, service costs will likely be higher. With increased speed of data transmission and the launch of the App Store pending, many companies are busy developing downloadable applications for the iPhone. It’s a win-win situation because Apple plans on taking a smaller cut of the profits than other cell phone companies. Here's another interesting tidbit:

Goldman Sachs analyst David Bailey expects iPhone and iPod users to download 20 million applications from the App Store by the end of this year, about 110 million more in 2009, and 210 million in 2010. Broken down, that means the average iPhone user will download five applications in 2009.
The store itself has another neat feature: many of the applications available will be free, since it’s a source of great advertising. And for the pay-for-use applications, it’s the easiest form of selling in the world: credit card information is already stored on most people’s iTunes accounts, so iPhone users can shop quickly. With free stuff and easy access, I'm sure it wouldn't take me very long to hit my five-a-year average. That all depends on the applications, which, even at this early point, pique my interest. For example, according to Business Week,
One free, ad-supported application for Tribune that's expected to be available when the App Store launches keeps track of an iPhone owner's commute, estimates the travel time, and suggests alternative routes.
Other applications include: video games with motion-sensing technology, interactive study guides for medical students, and, of course, many GPS-based programs. Apple also announced "MobileMe," which creates a link between the iPhones and your computers, allowing you to standardize calendars and receive updates on both devices.

Pelago’s iPhone-only application, named Whrrl, has a GPS-like capacity to help you find bookstores and restaurants, but with a twist: the recommendations are based on what the people in your social media networks used and liked. Granted, the public availability of this information will generate some of the same consumer backlash being waged against other applications that gather roaming data on people’s habits. It’d behoove Apple and its partners to develop privacy-protection practices before we find out the drawbacks of treating the phone like an elk migration tracking device.

Even so, I hope the next time I’m stuck in the airport, I can avoid the pay-as-you-play, not-so-customer-friendly wireless network and do everything we need to keep entertained through my brand new iPhone. By then, you can give me a Whrrl and check out my favorite New Orleans restaurants. In the meantime, I think I'll keep them secret.

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