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8 reasons for building an iPhone Web application

By Michael K. Brown

These days, having an iPhone Web application or an optimized Web site is not just a nice to have for your business -- it's a must have. Why?

Because with the soaring popularity of the iPhone and the iPod touch, the mobile Web revolution has begun in earnest, and if you are not part of it, you risk losing your hard-earned customers to competitors who are.

Here are eight reasons why your business shouldn't wait another day to develop an iPhone Web application.

1. The iPhone is the top-selling mobile phone -- Consumers are flocking to the iPhone in droves. According to the NPD Group, the iPhone overtook the No. 1 spot for the first time in the third-quarter of last year, beating out the Motorola Razr V3.

2. More people browse the Web on the iPhone -- Within just six months of its U.S. launch, the iPhone became the most popular device for accessing news and information on the Web, according to M:Metrics, a mobile measurement firm. An estimated 85 percent of iPhone users browse the Web on their handset, the firm reported. The average for other phones? About 13 percent.

3. The iPhone is an increasingly viable ad sales platform -- IPhone users are exposed to mobile ads more than any other handset. In November 2008, the iPhone ranked as the No. 1 handset worldwide by count of ads requested.

Furthermore, brands looking to include banner ads in their iPhone sites can, in most cases, continue to use the same ad serving system that they use on your standard Web site or take advantage of one of the many mobile ad networks that offer iPhone-specific programs.

4. Competition in the space is limited -- for now -- Despite the overwhelming popularity of the iPhone, most brands do not have an iPhone-friendly version of their Web site yet. If you compete in a crowded vertical, this means you can really differentiate yourself and gain new customers by developing one.

5. Capitalize on the iPhone's favorable brand image -- Consumers are fanatical about their iPhones. They love downloading cool applications, and they love visiting iPhone-friendly web sites and are quick to tell their friends about it. If your company is wise enough to engage this key demographic on their favorite handset, then they will likely think favorably of you as well.

6. An iPhone Web site also works on an iPod touch -- This is an important consideration, considering the iPod touch is also mushrooming in popularity.

According to AdMob, the number of requests to their network from the iPod Touch was up 300 percent between November and December of last year. The iPhone and the iPod touch now account for 15.5 percent of requests to AdMob's network. So, in addition to reaching all those iPhone users, you are also able to reach iPod users as well.

7. Building an iPhone-enabled Web site is easier than you think -- Remember, an iPhone Web application, as Apple calls it, is not a piece of software, but an actual Web site that is made to "fit" the iPhone viewing experience.

For example, when you view a regular Web site on an iPhone, you are forced to zoom in on the site to actually read and interact with it.

With an optimized site, everything appears full size on your iPhone screen. Here's a good example of what an iPhone site looks like on your desktop browser:

Although easier than software, building a good iPhone site still takes expertise to ensure a rich, interactive user experience that is consistent with a client's overall branding. It also needs to match the experience that iPhone users have come to expect from best-in-class iPhone sites.

8. The mobile Web revolution has begun -- time to jump in -- According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the mobile phone will become the primary means of accessing the Internet worldwide by the year 2020.

One of the main reasons is that researchers expect future mobile phones to have nearly all of the functionality that personal computers have. How can they assume this? Because the iPhone is nearly already there.

With its easy Wi-Fi connectivity, a browser that renders Web sites as you would see them on the desktop browser and the ability to download and run an increasingly broad spectrum of fun and useful applications, the iPhone is proving to be much more like a handheld computer than a phone.

Forward-thinking companies, who get their feet wet with iPhone-optimized Web sites, will be well poised for what the mobile future holds.

Michael K. Brown is director of mobile and entertainment at Digitaria, an interactive marketing and technology service provider in San Diego. Reach him at .