NY Times Takes a Long Look at iPhone, App Store

This past weekend, the New York Times ran a lengthy article looking at the success of the iPhone and the monolithic presence of the App Store in the mobile market. “The iPhone will be remembered as the first true handheld computer,” analyst Craig Moffett said, calling the device’s 2007 introduction “a turning point in the industry.”

Katy Huberty, a fellow analyst, concurred: “Apple changed the view of what you can do with that small phone in your back pocket. Applications make the smartphone trend a revolutionary trend — one we haven’t seen in consumer technology for many years.”

She added: “The game that Apple is playing is to become the Microsoft of the smartphone market.”

With great power comes great responsibility, and reporter Jenna Wortham spends time talking to developers and Apple executives Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue. One example of the former is Freeverse, a long-time Mac and PC games developer which has found much success on the App Store with such titles as Moto Chaser, Flick Fishing, and Skee-ball.

“For our size and seriousness, we are still treated like a college freshman who is doing this as a side project,” Freeverse founder Ian Lynch Smith said. “The trade-off being that there is a much lower barrier to entry for developers. Anyone can have a shot.”

Ms. Wortham also touches on the struggles some developers have faced negotiating the review process, noting that one, FreedomVoice Systems, has had its mobile telephone app in approval limbo for more than a year, while another, Cerulean Studios, waited for three months but finally received a phone call from an Apple employee saying their app would go live that day.

Mr. Schiller said of the app approval process: “We care deeply about the feedback, both good and bad. While there are some complaints, they are just a small fraction of what happens in the process.” He added that Apple has added reviewers to the App Store and has tried to figure out other ways to streamline the approval process.

And while the App Store has revolutionized the way mobile apps are delivered, which used to involve dealing with the cellular network carrier, the frustration with Apple’s control over the entire process has led to some success in the jailbroken devices arena. Mario Ciabarra, who carries apps for jailbroken iPhones and iPod touches on his Rock Your Phone storefront, says he has seen visits from about 1.5 million of Apple’s handhelds. Apple has sold somewhere around 50 million iPhones and iPod touches.

The article also spends some time talking about the App Store competitors launched by Microsoft, Research in Motion, Palm, and Google. None of them offer anywhere near the number of apps available at the App Store, prompting a discussion of quality versus quantity by most of the representatives interviewed.

And while the App Store’s competition may have many more devices to target, just like Microsoft Windows runs on a much wider variety of computers than Mac OS X, Bump Technologies co-founder Dave Lieb pointed out: “When we create an application for the iPhone, you know it’s going to run exactly as you tested it on every single model. The same isn’t true for the rest of the smartphones, which have varying screen sizes, processor speeds and form factors.”