Is there anything the iPhone can’t do?
Shazam figures out what song you’re listening to. A pocket flashlight (not to mention a light saber) is only two taps away. And Yelp can get the phone number, directions and even a review of the place you’re trying to find and meet your friends at in a quarter of the time directory assistance, Safari, Google or any mapping software can do it.
So, why wouldn’t our love affair with the iPhone help us make the world a better place? Why wouldn’t our obsessive usage create perfect opportunities for capturing micro-donation portals to make contributions to the micro-finance or giving sites of Kiva or Global Giving? What about a carbon calculator that lets you immediately link to an offset purchase equivalent to the inquiry? It would seem that millions of tiny donations could add up to lots of impact. It seems possible, and even more so fun. But does it really add up to a smart fundraising play?
Part of what makes the iPhone so magnetic (and what Apple is famous for) is the sheer simplicity, intuitiveness and delight you experience when you begin interfacing with each of the singular functions that each application features. Mostly they are personal devices for entertainment or utility. They draw you to your phone because you either need the info or you need a time killer. The apps are sexy brilliant in their use of the technology and the format. Every time we download a new app, we are sucked in, at least for a short time period.
The challenge for social ventures to monetize applications will be to determine if there is a big enough audience at the intersection of 1) organization loyalists and 2) iPhone enthusiasts. This will require some thoughtful creativity and long-term dedication on behalf of the organization. Which is to say that creating an iPhone app alone is only one piece of the equation – how each app gets marketed and updated will be critical to its effectiveness.