App Store, T-Mobile Cameo: Wireless Worst of the Year

Are you rich? Do you want to be really obnoxious about it?

At least eight people said not only yes, but hell yes over the summer by purchasing a $999 (that’s not a typo) iPhone application that allows them to put an icon on the device stating, you guessed it: “I am rich.”

This tops Ovum Ltd.’s list of the top wireless turkeys of 2008, which details the less successful wireless innovations of the year, including the Apple App Store and a range of devices. “The wireless industry is now a sprawling ecosystem of operators, vendors and developers all vying to profit from a rapidly changing market,” said the firm in a brief. “There isn’t room for everyone, and innovation for innovation’s sake will fail. However, as we enter uncertain times it is clear that innovation will be critical to success, even if the odd turkey does slip through!”

Here are some of the other, er, “winners:”

Applications: “I’m Rich” is joined by Sat Nag, an in-car driving instruction parody (let’s face it, those GPS robotic voices can be nagging, all right), and an application measuring cold and flu risk (for your favorite hypochondriac).

Devices: Winners include the Chumby all-in-one multimedia gadget, and Teledildonics. Ovum’s comments on this latter class of adult devices: “Without wishing to go into too much detail, our panel was less than comfortable trying to understand either how the SOM from Japan worked or who would pay for it. As with all these things, there is no doubt a market for this type of device and it is probably a lucrative sideline, but it’s hard to see mobile operators seizing the opportunity, and certainly not without harming their brands.”

Business Model: T-Mobile USA’s Cameo device. Ovum’s issue is not with the device itself, but rather with the value proposition: “Charging users $10 a month for wireless connectivity for a static device is over-optimistic at best. This is particularly true when Wi-Fi-enabled frames already exist. The best business model for connected devices is to bundle access in with the cost of the device, as is the case with Amazon’s Kindle e-book.”

Phenomenon: The Apple App Store. Ovum has a problem with the opaque and developer-annoying process for submitting and sifting applications: “Furthermore, in speaking to developers for our forthcoming research on mobile application stores, it is clear that Apple’s opaque approval process for applications to appear on its App Store is deterring developers from creating applications for the platform. Some developers are reluctant to invest to their full potential if the fruit of their labors could be stopped without explanation. Conversely, if applications such as ‘I Am Rich’ slip through the net, users are left having to wade through a sea of mediocrity to find truly useful applications.”

Despite misguides and missteps, Ovum is nonetheless hopeful on the wireless sector heading into 2009. “What the range of nominations told us was that, despite worries for 2009, the mobile sector’s growth remains attractive to entrepreneurs,” the firm noted. “The ideas might not always be the best or most well executed, but at least the mobile sector continues to be seen as an attractive revenue generator to those at its periphery.”

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