by Tom Kaneshige

iPhone Owners Open Up Their Wallets

Dec 02, 2009
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Would you pay $3 for GQ magazine's December issue on the iPhone?

Last month I spent $3 for an iPhone app, which isn’t unusual since I probably buy an average $15 worth of apps, movie rentals and songs every month. Except this time the app was the December issue of GQ magazine—and I don’t normally read GQ.

But publisher Conde Nast was debuting the magazine for the iPhone via an app. I wanted to see what a glossy, consumer magazine would look like on the iPhone. Three dollars didn’t seem like a lot to pay, considering the magazine on the rack goes for a little more than that.

I thought the digital magazine was really well done (more on that later), but the real point of all this is my willingness to pay for content or any app that has a finite experience on the iPhone. I’ve paid for Kindle books, movie rentals, comic books, adventure games, and now a one-off magazine. Not every quality iPhone app has to offer a repeatable function that’s used regularly for the lifetime of the iPhone.

Apparently, I’m not alone. A new survey by Olswang shows that iPhone owners are more than willing to open up their wallets for digital content. The survey polled 1,013 UK adults and 536 young adults (ages 13-17) and found that 58 percent would pay to access a newly released film online, and 40 percent would buy access for a digital copy of a film already on DVD. But the percentages jump for iPhone owners, 73 percent and 54 percent respectively.

More relevant to folks like Conde Nast, 30 percent of respondents would pay for a digital book and 29 percent would pay for a digital magazine. Among iPhone owners, those numbers jump to 42 percent and 38 percent.

Let’s face it, buying anything on the App Store is so darn easy. Most of the stuff is dirt cheap, too. While I wrote about how the iPhone will nickel and dime us to death, $15 a month isn’t going to kill me. Nevertheless, the iPhone is fast becoming the vehicle that drives paid content.

Another reason for its success: For the most part, content is rendered beautifully on the iPhone. Consider the GQ magazine: In horizontal view, I can flip through the entire magazine complete with multiple cover shots, great photographs and, yes, interesting ads. Or I can jump to certain pages via a slider. I can also access the table of contents at any time by turning the iPhone vertically.

For feature stories, I simply double tap on the text to zoom in and read the story in horizontal view. Or I can rotate the iPhone to vertical view and read the text that way. In vertical view, I can more easily scroll through the entire story, change the size of the type, and look at a story’s accompanying pictures.

More than just text and pictures, some stories offer extended pictorials and even cool videos.

Flipping back and forth between the visual magazine and readable text is a little complicated at first (and, yes, even frustrating), but the interface will become more familiar to users over time. All in all, though, it was worth the $3—and that’s the point anyway.

Got a different take? Send me an email at Or follow me on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline.