Posted in: apple, iphone, social networking, web20

Making the iPhone More Social and Viral – We Need a Social Graph

I’ve been playing with a lot of really interesting iPhone apps lately (mostly games) and one thing I’m finally beginning to see is a more concerted effort by iPhone application developers to start to think about viral distribution. As far as I can tell, the best two ways to get distribution for your app are to a) get some really good editorial coverage from a top iPhone app review site or b) get featured in the iPhone store. That makes sense given where the market is today.

Photo Phone Book – It’s caller ID + photos for your iPhone. It integrates with your Facebook friends and other photos you have on your phone. They have a clever part of the app that allows / suggests that you ask your friends to provide updated photos of themselves.

Loopt – The latest version of Loopt encourages you to check out other people you might know who are already on Loopt. I’m not entirely sure how they generate the list of people, but they were able to serve up about 30-40 people with whom I might want to connect.

I’m really curious to see how virality plays out on the iPhone. Looking back at many of the platforms that have launched in the last few years (Facebook, MySpace, etc), there is usually some first-mover advantage to taking advantage of new viral distribution channels before they get saturated. I’m interested in seeing how well iPhone app developers implement virality and whether it ends up working.

The other missing piece in this puzzle is some kind of newsfeed. I’m perplexed by the fact that there isn’t a simple way (that I know of, at least) to see what applications my friends have installed. With 15,000+ applications available in the App Store, there’s no way I’m going to filter through them all to find a few gems. But I would check out apps that my friends install.

Without a common social graph for iPhone users (Facebook Connect, anyone), I’m not sure how this could be done quickly and easily. But I do think it’s worth doing and I believe someone will do it sooner rather than later.