Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Survey Says: The iPhone Still Dominant Platform for Mobile Social Apps

Social juggernaut Facebook has shifted its mobile development to HTML5 from apps so that it can have maximum impact across fragmented mobile platforms for itself and for developers who build on the Facebook platform. (Facebook CTO Bret Taylor announced the strategy in January.)

But upstart apps don’t seem to be following Facebook’s lead. For the moment, developers prefer native apps with their homepage shortcuts and notifications over the futuristic HTML5. Many of the new mobile social apps I’ve seen launch on iPhone alone. Some, especially those who want deeper integration with a phone’s mobile operating system, go to Android. And as they get further along, support for multiple mobile platforms and tablet devices is a natural step.

I rounded up the mobile social apps that pitched me on their launches at SXSW this year. This isn’t narrowed down to those debuting for the first time ever, but as best I could, I culled it down to those with significant new functionality for the show.

Of my sample of 24 mobile social apps, 10 were iPhone-only. These 10 tend to be the newest of the bunch–like Ditto, Yobongo and Foodstream–who have dedicated their small teams’ development resources to getting it right on a single platform.

One of them, Instagram, comes from a small company that had made its first trial app, Burbn, in HTML5, but then shifted development entirely over to the iPhone, where it has had much more success with distribution.

Another six have presences on both iPhone and Android, including SCVNGR’s new LevelUp deals program, Fast Society and Tonchidot Domo. And six support BlackBerry.

But there was only one mobile Web app and one Facebook app. And there was only one company, the mobile sync provider Rseven, that launched apps on multiple mobile platforms and excluded iOS. Rseven has explained that this is because the iPhone doesn’t have an API for call history and messages, which are essential elements of its “life-caching” tool.

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik