Analyst Report: Will Killer Apps Affect Which Handsets Consumers Buy?


The recent update of Facebook’s iPhone application offers a first insight to a potential new trend. With one major revision of the software from v2.5 to v3.0, the iPhone version of Facebook has become the de-facto standard Facebook client to use while mobile. Aside from my own use, I’ve read various reviews of the new client, and Dave Winer sums it up succinctly and accurately: “I wish the desktop version of Facebook was this simple, fast and elegant.” The software is so well designed and useful that Facebook addicts who don’t have an iPhone will want one. Wait a second — did I just unofficially deem Apple’s handset “the Facebook phone?” And if so, how does that reflect the effect the growing mobile app space has on the handsets consumer choose to buy?

With the rise of mobile application stores of late, it’s no surprise that people are buying more software for their phones. But the fact that the Facebook experience is superb on the Apple iPhone — and only the iPhone — makes me wonder if there’s something underneath the larger mobile application trends. Yes, people are spending more on mobile software as a whole, but what apps are they buying? More importantly, are there popular or more useful apps only available on certain handsets? Or if a hot software title is available on multiple handset platforms, does it offer a measurably better experience on one handset over the others? In effect — are we witnessing an emerging trend where “killer apps” will start to affect mobile handset choices?

Now, there’s no empirical analysis that tells me such a thing. We’re not yet at the point where we can track purchase decisions of the aggregate consumer at this low level of detail. So I did my own little research project by talking to a small sampling of friends and peers — both in the online world and in my own neighborhood. Every single person I reached out to that uses Facebook on a regular basis now has an affinity for an iPhone, simply because of the Facebook client. Some of them already have iPhones, but those that don’t are now interested in Apple’s handset more than ever because of one single application. Would those who use something other than an iPhone be willing to switch carriers or end their current phone contract early? Nobody was apt to do that for a single piece of software, but if there were two or three more “killer apps” they might.

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