iPhone apps are the bleeding edge of marketing mistakes

app storeThe iPhone’s apps have been a marketing problem for Apple pretty much since they debuted. The problem is really that Apple wants to approve of all apps before they go on the store. This would be fine, if there was a consistent or even coherent policy guiding what goes in and what doesn’t.

This week’s examples:

Apple has removed an iPhone app from its online store created by Exodus International, an anti-gay religious organization that promotes the idea that homosexuality can be “cured.” … The app, launched in mid-February, initially received a 4+ approval rating from Apple, meaning it did not contain any “objectionable material.” … The app provided users with an event calendar, podcasts, video, “real answers,” “real stories” and links to Twitter and Facebook, and was designed to “be a useful resource for men, women, parents, students and ministry leaders.” … “We removed the Exodus International app from the app store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people,” Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr told FoxNews.com.

SOMEONE APPROVED THIS? Are they hiring from the Westboro Baptist Church? Possible explanation: There is either a very stupid algorithm or person responsible for vetting these apps. And Apple takes the hit for it because they make it clear they are control freaks who get final OK. Google, however, says we will take something down if we get told about it: “While Google does not intend, and does not undertake, to monitor the Products or their content, if Google is notified …” Because Apple’s guidelines for what is acceptable in an app are  basically, “It depends,” they are guaranteed to continue to run into this problem.

Which leads us to example #2:

Senators: DUI checkpoint apps are “harmful to public safety” … The apps in question range from those that try to put DUI checkpoints on a map in real time to those that help users alert one another about police on the prowl for drunk drivers. One app that we found in the iOS App Store called “Checkpointer” specifically advertises its $4.99 offering as being able to save you “thousands of dollars by helping you avoid an arrest for a DUI.” (The company that sells Checkpointer also offers bail bonds, so it’s clear which demographic this company is catering to.) Another app called “Buzzed” says it will alert you when a DUI checkpoint shows up or is planned for your area, though it also offers a “call a cab” service based on your GPS location.

SOMEONE APPROVED THIS?

Meanwhile, those two having already been approved, Steve Jobs himself killed an app for detecting radiation – created by cell phones: “Tawkon, makers of a mobile application that measures cellular radiation, have been blocked from releasing their app for iPhone. In response, the company on Wednesday released the tawkon app for iPhone via the Cydia jailbreak.” Is there an app that turns the iPhone into a general-use Geiger counter? If so I know at least one major market for it.

For those of   you not keeping score, a few of Apples other app mistakes:

 

Illegal immigration + video game = stupid

Smuggle truckYou’d think the formula would be self-evident but … noooo. Last year Spain’s Popular Party put up a game that let players bomb illegal immigrants. This year we have Smuggle Truck a game for iPod and iPad from Boston’s own Owlchemy Labs.The aim of the game is to keep immigrants in the bed of a truck as they speed through the border lands. Hit a bump or jump a canyon and men, women or kids fall off.

No sooner was the game announced then controversial hijinks ensued. No surprise that many immigrant rights groups found it offensive. Well, no surprise to you and me. Owlchemy said in a post on its website:

"Smuggle Truck was inspired by the frustration our friends have experienced in trying to immigrate to the United States. With such a troublesome issue being largely avoided in popular media, especially video games, we felt the best way to criticize it was with an interactive satire."

“Such a troublesome issue being largely avoided in popular media, especially video games”??? Ah yes, video games – always my first source for satirical commentary on the news.

From my diary: How I survived the iPad launch

Friday, April 2

6:30 AM Wake up and realize that in addition to not being one of the industry/media insiders who got an early iPad, now I am also not one of the great masses who have an iPad. Consider suicide. Opt for brushing teeth.

7:00 Think that if I had an iPad I would probably whack it against my head out of frustration over trying to wake 13-year-old son. Realize I have saved myself $499 + shipping.

7:09 Wonder if iPad can make coffee. Or toast. Or maybe walk the dog.

7:15 Looking at Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal old school! Spill bad coffee and wipe some of it up with Journal Op-Ed pages. Let’s see the iPad do that! (And pleased to find a new use for WSJ Op-Ed pages now that dog is house broken.)

7:30 – 9 AM Manage to shower and dress without use of iPad. Did miss some shaving cream behind ear. Blame lack of an iPad.

9:02 Check twitter. Friend (@JPMello) is posting regular updates of his iPad’s delivery via UPS tracking. Consider referring him to a therapist, again.

9:15 Driving down town & am shocked by the amount of traffic on the streets. Figured iPad Friday would be akin to Super Bowl Sunday. Am wrong. Realized that if I’d had an iPad I wouldn’t have made this mistake.

9:30 Get out of car only to realize not having an iPad makes me feel underdressed. Wait, I’m wrong. It’s my lack of pants. If I had an iPad maybe people would stare at that and not my Hello Kitty underwear. (They were a gift from my wife, I’ll have you know!)

9:32 Put on spare pair of pants kept in back seat of car. Experience is a cruel teacher.

9:35 AM – 11:30 PM Attend Anime Boston. It’s the largest collection of nerds in the Northeast this weekend and NONE OF THEM has an iPad. Not a single conversation all day refers to the iPad. And, in a crowd that features people dressed as robots, ninjas, obscure Japanese commercial logos, Flo from the Progressive ads and several very large men in Sailor Moon costumes (they really, really need to shave their legs) – NO ONE IS DRESSED AS AN iPAD! Thanks to this insight I call up my bookie and bet all my money that Steve Jobs will be out of a job by Monday. So to bed, secure in the knowledge that I am soon to be a millionaire.

 

Originally published at EmediaVitals

Weekly round-up of business and idiocy news

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Buzzword bingo face-off: iPad vs. Google Buzz

What’s the best jargon generator, Google Buzz or iPad?

Nobody actually knows what impact either of these technologies will have, but everybody still wants to say something about them. Here’s a totally unscientific sampling from a bunch of blogs highlighting the best jargon describing each of them.

The iPad is being called a game changer, a new platform, a multipurpose e-reader, and an enterprise opportunity especially now that it has greenlighted VOIP. (That last was actually in a headline.) It also has accessibility out-of-the-box.

Can we all agree on a single use for the box and what is outside it? Did accessibility out-of-the-box come from thinking outside of the box? Which box are we using here and what was in it to begin with? Do cereal or shoes have accessibility out-of-the-box?

The best iPad-related jargon sentence: “Apple may well have zeroed in on the inflection point for a new piece of consumer technology.”

Despite the iPad buzz, Google’s new Buzz wins the jargon prize based on a single blog post from Poynter’s Will Sullivan. This is one of the most astounding single-sentence paragraphs I have ever read:

Based on the YouTube video explanation, Buzz is kind of a Facebook-foursquare-Twitter-FriendFeed competitor, but could be much more than the sum of the Google products they’re integrating with it, including Google Profiles, Google Gmail (its Contact list gets integrated automatically), Google Picasa photos (it can also incorporate feeds from other multimedia tools such as Flickr and YouTube) …

Read the rest and increase my page view count by clicking here and going to my blog at EmediaVitals.

Report says Steve Jobs is behind rise in crime rate

igollumResearchers at The Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, say that iPods are the reason U.S. violent crime rose in 2005 and 2006.

A key point in the Urban Institute’s argument is that robberies _ the taking of something by force or the threat of it _ had seen dramatic reductions since the 1990s, but jumped in 2005 and 2006. FBI statistics show the robbery rate went from 137 per 100,000 people in 2004 to 141 per 100,000 in 2005 and 149 in 2006. That helped boost the overall rate of violent crime in those years, even as rape rates fell and aggravated assault was generally flat. During those years, iPods were going mainstream. In late 2004, Apple had sold about 5 million iPods. By the end of 2005 that had ballooned to 42 million, and in 2006 the number neared 90 million I’m so glad the reporter explained what a robbery is. I was starting to get confused.

The alleged ipso facto is that the iPod and other expensive electronic gewgaws are highly desired, easy to steal and easy to re-sell. The Institute — certainly not fishing for some free PR — has dubbed this phenomenon “The iCrime Wave.”

Thankfully the reporter pokes a few holes in this theory:

  1. While iPod thefts on subways and other crowded urban settings provide the best anecdotal evidence, the 2005-06 crime increases were highest in small and midsized cities _ places with less-dense pedestrian traffic, let alone teeming subways.
  2. Some stolen iPods might fall into the category of larceny _ a theft without force, such as when something is filched from a backpack _ and larcenies dropped in ’05 and ’06.

Marketing tip to the Urban Institute — naming anything the iSomething is beyond over.

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Apple marketing exec ramps up PR for book/blog on brilliance of Apple marketing just as Apple offers case study in how not to do marketing.

Just like comedy, the first rule of marketing is timing. I have no doubt that Steve Chazin and David Meerman Scott both know this. They are the authors of the book & blog MarketingApple (Mr. Chazin is a marketing exec there, so doubtless he knows whereof he speaks on the topic.)

Sadly it wasn’t until the week of what they call the iPology that they started posting regularly to the blog and the press and greater Blogistania tarted to take note. (Love the word iPology. Don’t know if they coined it but it was the first time I saw it.) What are you gonna do? The September 2001 issue cover story in the Atlantic was — if I recall correctly — “The High Cost Of Peace.” Ouch.

The iPhone kerfuffle will soon be forgotten and Apple and the blog will go on, but I’m sure they Chazin & Meerman were even more unhappy about last week’s events than many others at company HQ.

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Hurray for Steve Jobs!

It’s not just anybody who can take the most successful product release in years and figure out a way to turn it into a total PR disaster. Not for nothing is the man lauded as an innovator.

For reasons that no one quite understands, yesterday Apple cut the price of the Jesus Phone by $200. While Mr. Jobs’ explanation was that this was to increase sales during the holidays some found this about as believable as the latest rationale for start of the George W. Bush Desert Classic.

Some analysts weren’t as convinced of Apple’s stated reason for the price cut. “It’s an extreme move. It speaks to some desperation,” said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, a Wayland, Mass.-based technology research firm.

Yeah, I didn’t understand it either. If it’s selling well at $600 why cut the price? The other rational explanation besides desperation is Mr. J senses a downturn in the economy but if the economy hits the skids who really will be dropping four bills on a phone? (Note well: I WANT ONE! Two friends of mine have them and I am losing my mind with envy.)

But that little question of why the price drop has of course now been totally eclipsed by angry iPhone buyers who are asking why they had to pay the full fare on the darn thing.

Mr J. released a statement yesterday apologizing to them:

“(We) need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price,” he said. “Our early customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these.”

That would be more touching if Apple had ANY track record of actually engaging in customer service. My theory about Apple has always been that they make their products so user-friendly because they never want to deal with the customers again. (And I speak as a mostly content iPod owner.)

nokiaMy hat is off to the marketing department at Nokia for moving quickly and taking advantage of all the kerfuffle.

They’ve taken out ads on Google that suggest users check out Nokia’s new Mosh mobile social network. The ads, which appear for searches on “iphone price drop,” say “Sorry, Early Adopters” and suggests they salvage their iPhone experience by checking out Mosh.

BTW, check out Matt Dickman’s post about Nokia’s response at his excellent blog Techno//Marketer. Unlike mine, it is actually informative.

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