Kara Swisher

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Apple iPhone Apps: Fast-Growing but Not Quite Fast Enough for the ADD Set

Someone get a dose of Ritalin stat to the noisy but deeply misguided critics who took news of the huge number of downloads of apps for the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and immediately concluded it was just not good enough.

Thus, as reported today in The Wall Street Journal, 60 million downloads in 30 days–mostly for free apps, but with about $30 million in revenue, and a runway of three million more new iPhones out there too–is a chance to talk about how it all is just so unexciting and how the apps market is officially saturated?

Am I missing something here? One would assume that were these pundits pioneers, they would get to Ohio and declare that the going farther west held very little promise, thank you very much!

Wrote TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld:

The question is how many apps can one person really manage before becoming overwhelmed. While the initial impulse is to download as many apps as possible to try them out, there is a limit to how many apps you can juggle on your iPhone. It is not much different than a PC. You have tons of apps, but how many do you actually use on a regular basis? For most people, that number is probably no more than ten apps, and on a daily basis, maybe three or four, tops.”

Yes, that personal computer thing has been such a disappointment for us all and a real failure in spurring the creation of a plethora of multi-billion-dollar software makers, hasn’t it?

In actuality, while there is obviously going to be an initial period of frantic trying-out of apps and a fall-off of regular usage, the entire point is that a useful and important platform is being developed here.

Stlll, GigaOm’s Om Malik talked to new iPhone analytics company Pinch Media and managed to find lemons in the lemonade:

Using the caveat that only a few app makers were using the Pinch Analytics library, [Pinch’s Founder Greg Yardley] pointed out that as per their data, the ratio of free downloads to paid downloads is at least 10 to 1. He also said that the pace of downloads is slowing, which is expected because the early rush is behind us. According to data collected by Pinch Media, on average, less than 20 percent of an application’s overall unique users return to an application each day. Yardley also pointed out that people are using the apps for just under five minutes at a time, on average. The majority only use the applications once per day; the average number of uses per day is around 1.2.

Looks like I am not the only one who is getting bored with some of the more blah apps. Phew!”

Of course, Malik and others will not like each and every app, but that is not exactly a surprise; nor should it be the focus.

As Apple CEO Steve Jobs correctly noted to The Journal:

“Phone differentiation used to be about radios and antennas and things like that. We think, going forward, the phone of the future will be differentiated by software.”

Exactly. This is less about the iPhone, than it is about all mobile phones, going forward.

But, because of the iPhone’s trailblazing, they will be easier to use, because of apps and multi-touch and a much richer multimedia experience.

That market will thus require a lot of apps, some of which will work and some of which will flop.

As I wrote about the popularity of the third-party apps and Apple’s iTunes App Store:

That’s because Apple has built a platform for adults.

Like many, I have downloaded dozens of iPhone third-party apps over the last several days.

And, unlike what one can discover on the other hot apps platform–namely Facebook–they are uniformly superb, lovely, useful and fun in a really nonjuvenile way. …

I think you would not say so after looking over a lot of what is available at the App Store on iTunes.

Lots and lots of the apps there are games, of course, which are the most popular.

But what amazingly clever games, like MotionX Poker with the delightful rolling dice, or the humming swish of PhoneSaber (totally silly, but in a profound manner that Vampire-biting on Facebook will never achieve).

And the list of useful stuff–Pandora Radio, Starmap, WeatherBug, Evernote and WHERE–is long and growing longer, and these seem to enjoy as much prominence and popularity as the sillier stuff.

In addition, the ability to truly use other Web services in a mobile setting–from Photobucket to Yelp to AIM to the New York Times–makes the iPhone an even more useful device to me.

And for each of the apps I can also imagine various monetization schemes that now make a lot more sense since the iPhone platform enhances them with mobility and simplicity.”

Or, as the cliché goes: “The Plains are covered with the bodies of pioneers.”

But some of them, of course, made it to California.

The rest, as they also say, is history.

Speaking of which, here is a video of AllThingsD.com‘s Co-Executive Editor Walt Mossberg discussing the iPhone’s significance at the Aspen Ideas Festival in July, in a short snippet from his talk there:

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo