The iPhone’s secret weapon: the App Store

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There's been a lot of hullabaloo about Apple's iPhone this year, on these pages and many others.The phone itself is pretty damn cool. However, several other brands have copied the design and touch screen, such as the Samsung Omnia, shown in the left of the picture. A pretty cheeky carbon copy.

So how to stay ahead?

Well, a big part of the answer is the App Store. This store inside iTunes has hundreds of different applications to donwload onto your iPhone. Everything from a mini version of eBay to currency covertors to flight schedules. Many are free; other cost from 49p to a few pounds. 

In the 6 months since opening the store people have downloaded 300 million applications. This is quite nice for business, with some estimates suggesting Apple will generate up to $1.2 billion a year in sales from the App Store, from the 30% cut they take of revenues.

Some learnings from the App store first, then I'll share my top 10 apps:

1. Make your product or service sticky: the clever thing about the App Store is the way it makes the iPhone more "sticky". The more apps you load onto your phone, the more you use it. It truly does become an integral part of how you manage your work and your life.

2.The power of simplicity: In typical Apple fashion, the apps are easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to
download. You browse the store, select the app, tap "buy" and hey
presto, the app icon appears on your phone's screen. No messy menus to
navigate. No manual to read. Just tap and buy.

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3. Turn partners into fans: The "Software Developer Kit" (SDK) that makes it easy for partner companies
to create applications for the App store. And boy do these companies
love the SDK. Check out what Walt Disney's head of mobile engineering
had to say: "After working with hundreds of other mobile devices,
developing for iPhone is a breath of fresh air. The software
development tools are intuitive and represent a level of polish rarely

And for those who are interested, here are my top apps:

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1. Shazam:
this thing is mind blowing. You know that song you hear on the radio that you like, but you don't know what its called? And the DJ never says. Stick your iPhone next to the radio, and Shazam tells you what the song is, and even has a link to iTunes so you can buy it.

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2. Evernote:
This allows you take and save web clippings, including all the links, and write notes. They are synched between your iPhone and PC. Yesterday I booked cinema tickets, and copy-pasted all the booking info into Evernote, instead of printing it out.

3. Air sharing:
lets you drag files, such as Powerpoint, PDFs and Word documents, into a folder on your PC. They are then copied to your phone.

4. My Tasks: a simple but effective To-Do list

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5. Movies by Flixster:
uses the GPS on the phone to automatically find the cinemas nearest to you. Then shows you the programme times, and details on the films. You can even watch trailers to see if you want to go.

6. SpeakEasy: a nifty recorder that allows you to record and store voice notes, that you can then sync with your PC. Used it to record my daughter's school concert songs, so I can send them to the grandparents.
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 7. TV Plus: left home and forgot to record Desperate Housewives, or that important football game? This app lets you, wait for it, set the Sky+ box to record a programme from your phone.

8. eBay: lets you track things you are buying or selling from your phone.

9. Converter: converts distances, weights and currencies, which are updated wirelessly so you have the latest exchange rates.

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10. Truphone
: last and definitely not least, this app allows you to make cheap calls abroad over the internet. 10-15p a minute, instead of the usual £1+. What is really cool is the way it integrates with the iPhone's contact list, so you don't have to re-enter numbers.

Warning: surfing the App Store is addictive!