Software developers cash in on iPhone boom

Software developers making applications for Apple’s iPhone are thriving, with several Australian developers joining the rush to cash in on the device’s soaring popularity.

Software developers making applications for Apple’s iPhone are thriving, with several Australian developers joining the rush to cash in on the device’s soaring popularity.

Apple’s iPhone App Store allows users to choose, pay for and download applications in a variety of entertainment, work and novelty-based programs for their phone.

In the first month of the App Store’s existence, Apple made over $US30 million in sales from applications.

Apple takes 30% of the fee for each application; the rest goes back to the developer. There are already 3000 applications in the online store, but as more programmers tap into the store’s market, that number of apps on offer is sure to grow.

Even Australians are getting in on the action. Mick Johnson moved from Sydney to California to work as a marketing manager for an internet company, but develops applications by night.

Johnson tells The Age: “I don’t sleep much. Sleep is for the weak.”

Partnered with two other developers back home, they work on an application that pinpoints an iPhone user’s location on a map using GPS, and then shows the location of nearby petrol stations and fuel prices.

The application, titled GasBag, relies on a community of users to update the information. But its popularity has soared, with over 100,000 users signing up to the US version in just under six weeks. Johnson says the money-making potential is huge.

“We reckon we can monetise this to the tune of between $1 to $5 per user per year,” Johnson says. “We grow at 2000 to 2500 users a day, and that’s just for the US.”

An American developer, Steve Demeter, designed the iPhone game Trism, which sells for just $5. The game has proven so popular, Demeter announced he made $250,000 profit in just two months, with only himself and a contracted designer on payroll.

He quit his job, hired designers and started a firm developing software exclusively for Apple’s iPhone.

Another Aussie in Silicon Valley, Andrew Lacy, is the chief operating officer of game software developer Tapulous. The company has produced the application Tap Tap Revenge, a game similar to Guitar Hero, and currently counts more than two million users.

Lacy says the game is totally free and relies on advertising. But the game reached a huge one million downloads in two weeks after launch. Tapulous CEO Bart Decrem says any top iPhone application available is making its respective company up to $10,000 a day.

“I think it’s a very interesting space, and it’s very reminiscent of the early days of the web in terms of the amount of green fields and opportunity,” Decrem tells Wired.com. “You really don’t need a huge amount of capital. You need attention to detail and product, and that’s going to keep increasing.”

But Australian developer Dean Robinson from the University of Newcastle says it’s not all about the money, claiming he stepped into the market as a way of “getting my name out”.

Robinson developed Hahlo, a messaging tool that contains no advertising, is completely free, and now counts over 150,000 users.

“One of the main reasons [for not placing advertising] was the limited screen space; I didn’t want to fill it up with ads and push people away,” he says.

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