In the lobby of my hotel yesterday afternoon, I engaged in some small talk with a guy who was wearing a CTIA badge as we waited for the elevator. As we talked about the show and what we had thought of the first day, he said what I had been thinking all day. The crowd felt kind of light and, it seemed, that many of the exhibitors were just talking about their iPhone Apps.
For the most part, the biggest news out of the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference came from the big players earlier in the week - AT&T announced that it would open its networks to VoIP services for the iPhone, Verizon announced a deal with Google to offer Android phones and Sprint announced a second Android phone - called the Samsung Moment.
As for the smaller players, there just didn't seem to be anything that jumped out. At an evening event called Mobile Focus yesterday, there were plenty of phones on-hand (yawn!) and plenty more apps for the iPhone.
Case in point: both Mapquest, the online mapping company, and TomTom, best known for in-car GPS devices, were showcasing in-car iPhone apps for their services. The offerings are night and day. Mapquest is selling a 99 cent iPhone app and then charging as much as $4 per month, or discounted to $30 per year, for Mapquest GPS services via the app. TomTom, on the other hand, is charging $100 for its app but isn't charging a monthly fee.
OK, but I get something extra cool with the apps, right? After all, $100 is a lot to drop for a mobile app and if anyone expects me to pay for something on a monthly basis, it had better come with something extra. Actually, they were pretty basic features. The Tom Tom app offered pretty much everything that a Tom Tom device woud get you (though considerably less expensive). But the Mapquest app only had updated roads, business listings and so on to justify the monthly fee.
This was just one example. Everywhere you turned at CTIA this year, someone seemed to be talking about an Android strategy or the iPhone app in the works. Given the economy and what's happened to other industries, I guess I should be happy that the mobile industry at least has those two things to get excited about.
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