Where the White Labels Are: The Imaginary Beast of iPhone Carrier Value-Add


In the recent past, I’ve covered a couple of the different white-label solutions from third-party developers for carriers that offer the iPhone. These offerings are generally meant to correct some oversight on Apple’s (s aapl) part, or answer a perceived desire for some feature on the part of iPhone owners that Apple seems unwilling to offer itself.

For example, there was Mobispine’s MMS workaround, and more recently, JAJAH, which wanted to turn your iPod touch into an iPhone. In both cases, the companies involved weren’t selling individual apps, but rather the chance for interested corporate clients to license their solution, rebrand it, and offer it for sale to individual customers via the App Store.

So far, their hasn’t exactly been a rush of interest from their target market, which is exclusive carriers who offer the iPhone for Mobispine, and primarily that same or similar service providers for JAJAH. So what gives? People seem to want this, judging by the response to Mobispine’s blog post alone, and the frequency with which less complete and effective third-party MMS solutions pop up in the App Store. And if I could use my iPod touch as a WiFi-connected home phone inexpensively, I’d gladly replace my landline. But these companies aren’t selling to consumers. They’re selling to carriers, and therein lies the problem.

What benefit, from an iPhone carrier’s point of view, does offering any of these white-label services bring with it? Even going beyond the examples mentioned above, imagine if there was a white-label, background push notification service available to carriers. It’s something every iPhone user would love to have, but for a cellular company, it represents an unnecessary, low-return risk at best. It all goes back to the old maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” iPhone sales are strong, so why would a carrier incur extra cost or the risk of having the app rejected to (possibly) boost sales that need no boosting?

Sadly, Mobispine and others are barking up the wrong tree when they try to sell their services to people who can make money with or without them. There is money to be made with white-label and turn-key solutions for the iPhone and iPod touch, but you have to go after those who don’t yet have access to the money that’s swirling around in that new ecosystem, and badly want in. The music, TV, and movie industries, for instance, have shown themselves quite eager to grab a piece of the iPie.

As for us, we’d better stop holding our breath for our carriers to come in and save us from cruel, withholding Apple. And why would they, when we’ll buy the phone regardless? Sure, we grumble a bit as well, but plugging your ears against grumbling is a lot cheaper than doing something to silence it altogether.