At Macworld, Next Wave of iPhone Apps Emerges

The forthcoming wave of iPhone apps leaves bodily noises behind. At Macworld, the focus was on social networking apps and businesses using iPhone apps to better serve their customers.

Super-smart iPhone apps will replace silly iFart-like apps in the second wave of iPhone app development, said iPhone app developers at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco last week.

"If you want your app to kick ass today, it must be more sophisticated," says Mike Goos, director of product management at Frog Design, a 40-year-old design firm that launched a division for mobile app development last year.

Throngs of iPhone owners bumped shoulders and jockeyed for space in the hottest area of the Macworld Expo show room floor: the Mobile Applications Showcase. Dozens of kiosks showed off sophisticated iPhone apps like V1 Golf, which lets you capture video of your golf swing and then analyze it with software tools and compare your swing with pros.

Mobile app developers stormed the App Store in its early days, creating apps for almost everything imaginable from simple games to apps that make fart sounds. The number of apps quickly grew to more than 130,000.

Today, though, app developers bear witness to a new kind of gold rush. "At first, the App Store had everyone and every idea," says Chris Young, CEO of Momentum Mobile, a mobile app developer employing a dozen app developers, "but the volume of apps has weeded out" the weaker ones.

iPhone Apps That Connect With Customers

And it's a different kind of gold rush this time around, Young says. Mobile apps, he says, are more business-focused. Companies want to develop mobile apps for internal use or to promote their brands or to better serve customers, not simply to make money from the apps themselves.

For instance, some restaurants envision the iPad replacing traditional paper menus—and they're looking for smart mobile app developers to deliver it, according to some Macworld attendees.

There's no question next-generation iPhone apps are also closing the gap between the latest desktop trends and the smartphone.

Last year, some of the most popular new apps were social networking ones like Facebook and Twitter clients. "This year, the largest trend will be social networks around [mobile] applications," Krishna Subramanian, founder of Mobclix, an operator of a mobile ad exchange marketplace, told CIO.com.

Frog Design's most recent app, Temptd, taps into this latest Internet craze. Temptd, still in beta, has a server component that allows users to become part of a social network that helps them overcome addictions like bad eating habits, nicotine cravings, excessive shopping, out-of-control gambling and even cheating on significant others. "It's a form of peer pressure," Goos says.

Next-generation apps also better marry the iPhone's cool capabilities like GPS and the camera, say developers. Case in point: mobile app Wikitude, which allows a user to open up the iPhone's camera and scan her surroundings. Whenever the camera sees a landmark or point of interest, Wikitude overlays information about it on the screen in real-time.

Wikitude, developed by Mobilizy, pioneers a new breed of iPhone apps called augmented reality, whereby an app gives you real time information about your surroundings that changes your perception of it,Young says. "Augmented reality is going to be big this year," he says.

Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for CIO.com in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at tkaneshige@cio.com. Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.

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