AppShopper, a Web site which tracks iPhone and iPod Touch applications, has noted that Apple's App Store has surpassed 100,000 approved apps, although just over 93,000 are available. This revelation and the raging debate over the iPhone's usefulness as a business device, got me thinking about just how many "business" apps were available in the App store.
After a little browsing and some quick math, it seems that as of this writing there are just over 2100 apps categorized as "Business" in the App Store. I arrived at this number by selecting the Business category from iTunes' App Store drop-down menu, counting the number of apps displayed on the page (20), and multiplying that by the number of pages withing the Business category (109). 20 * 109 = 2180. If we take our total of 2180 and divide it by 100,000, we get 2.18 percent.
Now, I know this number is a very, very rough estimate. It's likely that the last page of the Business category actually has fewer than 20 apps listed on it. It's also much more likely that not all apps used for business are categorized under Business in the App Store. For example, the Facebook app is listed under the App Store's Social Networking category, but I would argue that a great many people actually use Facebook for business. The same can be said for a great many other apps, such as the navigation utilities, time management apps, email tools, and more
But even if my 2 percent count is off by even two, three, or even four times, the App Store's relatively anemic business offering only strengthens the argument of those IT pros who decry the iPhone as a glorified MP3 player and not a true enterprise mobile device.
"It's a toy, you either don't really conduct [business] or you are [fooling yourself], and perhaps your boss into thinking it's a business device for adults." wrote Oz_Media in a recent discussion thread on the iPhone being used as a business device.
In response to Oz_Media and other TechRepublic members' calls for examples of iPhone business apps, Eric Confer put together the following list:
SAFARI - There is no comparison of the mobile web browsing tool (Safari) to any other handheld, if you need to do research on the fly, and we all do it, this is by far the best available.
MAPS - I travel, and having a detailed map that also uses pictures of your destination in your pocket helps a lot.
MAIL - Sync to any email server besides dedicated servers (ie. Blackberry server, way to pigeon hold yourself for years anyway, that's thinking).
9-TOOLBOX - Free and really useful. Helps to calculate currency, dates, days until, amortization as well, and even holiday dates each year, then it can convert from metrics to imperial ot the reverse - awfully useful in the field.
DICTIONARY.COM app - try not to sound stupid if possible.
LANGUAGE LEARNING APPS - AccelaStudy or 24/7 Tutor are great tutors of over 20 languages, and the CoDesign Translator app is helpful as well (I deal with International Sales as well).
CISCO WEB EX - Participate in a meeting on the fly.
GRAPHING CALCULATOR - For the serious math-ers.
BLOOMBERG - There is no better financial application except maybe E-Trade Mobile Pro (which I also use but you need an investment account to fully realize the power).
THE WEATHER CHANNEL - The iPhone app is superior to any other handhelds ability for this application.
USA TODAY - we all know what this is, if you travel at all this keeps you in touch.
myWIRELESS - Billing on your phone, with detailed PDFs and all.
AUDIOBOOKS - for free, build some knowledge or relax.
HOWCAST - learn how to do just about anything, on the fly. Get an understanding for how things work.
BUMP - Exchange and archive contact information in seconds without manually typing a thing.
WEB MD - Excellent way to diagnose issues or resolve them in case of an emergency.
AROUNDME - a quick guide to everything around you (walking distance or short car ride) from food, shopping, taxis, movies, hotels, banks/atms, hospitals, pharmacies parking, and the grocery store.
JOBS - Find a new job, you may need it if you really think your BlackBerry is better at any of this stuff. Includes the Ladders service for $100k+ jobs, search locally or nationally, haven't tried internationally yet.
SOCIAL NETWORKING - Sure you don't need an application for this, but here you are reading this reply thread like you DON'T socially network...hmmm...Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter - leave the MySpace for the kids.
TRAPSTER - Mobile Speed Trap detector, user based, excellent for traveling by car to visit a customer or if you have a rental in a city you're not familiar with.
PIC2SHOP - Take a photo of a barcode and get pricing from other business' near you in seconds, if you're in small purchasing this is very useful.
REPAIR PAL - if you're broken down, fix it yourself or find local average rates and a repair center near you - sure, it doesn't seem useful until you really need it.
TN5250 - If you run the JD Edwards data management system (which is horrible but widely used) this app connects you to it anywhere. Need to look into a previous/current order? Check inventory on the fly? Cost analysis? How about a customers shipping or remit-to address? It's all in your pocket.
Mobile Office - Word, Excel, PPT, etc., excellent for presenting material or modifying it when you forgot the "official" copy.
ENTERTAINMENT - I travel quite a bit so this comes in handy more often than most people besides your kids.
iPod Mode - Movies, videos, music, and podcasts; great ways to kill time on a flight to China or waiting in the Madrid airport.
TV.COM - CBS App, shows, movies, Tech news too!
Zynga - Online poker
TuneWiki - 5,000 free radio stations
BabelGum - Video Entertainment"
What do you think of Eric's list? What do you think of the business apps available in the App Store? Is the iPhone just a toy, masquerading as an enterprise mobile device? Or, is it a legitimate business tool?
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.