Playing dominoes outdoors, Carlos Blandon used to stick out when sporting long sleeved shirts and pants. In Miami’s year round summer heat this get-up is less than appropriate, unless you are allergic to mosquitoes. Thankfully, there’s an app for that.
“It actually works,” Blandon said of the Bug Spray application on his iPhone. “I can be out in comfortable clothes without being bitten.”
The Bug Spray application emits a high-pitched sound that is supposed to repel biting insects like mosquitoes. This application is one of over 85,000 now available for the Apple iPhone; a number which continues to grow.
App downloads passed the 2 billion mark this September. They range from practical, to sheer novelty. Novelty apps like the “iFart”, which breaks various kinds of wind on command, have gained national attention appearing on television shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Today Show.
The app business was expanded in Jan. 2008 to outside developers. Corey Cheng, the associate professor and program director of Music Engineering Technology at the UM Frost School of Music, headed a class in the spring in which every student created an iPhone app.
“There is a process to app development,” Cheng said. “Like in any other kind of programming, but the difference with Apple is that they charge to make you an official app developer.”
Apple has a special page for app creation. They walk you through it, step-by-step, some steps involving a $99 fee to begin the process, and the use of a costly mobile platform, an iPhone-like device that allows you to do the programming.
“They get their cut whether your app is a success or not,” Cheng said. “But if it is a success the possibilities are infinite; at least they were.”
Take Pat O’Keefe, who participated in the class and has made considerable profits from iPhone apps. He sees the iPhone as a thing of the past.
“Technology is just racing along and the iPhone has pretty much reached its peak,” O’Keefe said. “I expect the same thing to happen with the new competition, programmers get rich quick and then the market gets saturated.”
The iPhone’s fiercest competition thus far is the Palm Pre, which has similar features, but hasn’t seen similar sales.
“People just aren’t drinking the Palm Pre Kool-Aid,” said Eric Humphrey, another one of Cheng’s students that went into the then-lucrative iPhone business with O’Keefe.
The iPhone’s biggest rival is already on the market, and is expected to release new models by the end of the year. The Android phones, developed by Google, have similar features, but have one key advantage over the iPhone.
“Androids aren’t locked into the Sprint network,” O’Keefe said. “That’s one important thing that they’ve got going for them. They work with Motorola, Verizon and T-Mobile, so they’ve got a lot more room to grow.”