Does the New iPhone Hold More Promise for Marketers?

The latest iteration of Apple’s iPhone promises to be cheaper and faster than its predecessor, and opens the doors to mobile blogging, gaming, e-commerce and other third-party applications.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs disclosed the features in the new iPhone, to be released July 11, at the Worldwide Developers Conference 2008 yesterday. The handset will run on a 3G network, replacing the slower Edge network, and the phone will sell at a much lower price point, $199 to $299 depending on the model.

Using the iPhone software development kit, released in March, Apple’s partners are creating applications that build off of the iPhone’s easy-to-use interface, GPS technology, and other features. A few of those were on display yesterday, including apps from Loopt, eBay, Sega and MLB.com.

Marketers are sizing up the opportunities to use the iPhone for marketing and advertising.

“What’s going to start evolving is applications for more of a content device, rather than more of a communication device. It opens up applications for advertisers,” said Maria Mandel, senior partner and executive director of Digital Innovation at Ogilvy Interactive.

In partnership with Apple, Loopt will offer a software app to help users locate and make plans with friends using the iPhone’s GPS locator functionality. There are opportunities for local businesses to advertise, or sponsor sessions. TypePad will have a blogging application, and eBay is building an app for users to bid and manage auctions on the go. Other developers building for the device include Sega, the Associated Press, Pangea Software, MLB.com, and Digital Legends Entertainment.

Jobs said over a quarter of a million people downloaded the iPhone software development kit during the first 95 days of the kit’s availability.

Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, said third-party applications could be supported with advertising, though he suspects that’s not likely to happen on a grand scale.

“The main reason it won’t be used that much [by advertisers] is that these apps are real pieces of software — not just Flash,” he said.

iPhone users show signs of being more voracious in their consumption of mobile data services. According to M:Metrics data released in March, 84.8 percent of iPhone users accessed news Web sites or information through a browser, compared to 58.2 percent of smartphone users. In the same time, 58.5 percent of iPhone users accessed Web search, compared to 37 percent of smartphone users.

“If an additional influx of iPhones hit the market come July, there will be a lot more browsing of sites via the devices. It will do marketers good to ask specifically for advertising those specifically-formatted pages if they want to reach that audience,” said Schafer.

The iPhone’s move to a 3G wireless network will also drive data use. “3G is huge, this is Apple’s big competitive weakness, if you look at any new handset… everybody’s coming out with 3G, faster Web surfing, more content, more content, and more reliable service for calls,” said Susan Cashen, VP of marketing at MyWaves.

Consumers may be able to find more content on the iPhone and other mobile devices, but advertisers need to be aware of the effect constant messaging will have on consumers, warns Augustine Fou, SVP of digital strategy at MRM Worldwide and a professor at New York University. Fou predicted non-traditional formats for mobile ads will become available, for instance video reviews, how-to videos, and other service-oriented content. “In that case the advertisers are not pushing ads at people but providing them with valuable content,” he said.

“Cell phones are personal devices and of all media, it is most ‘vehemently’ a pull channel, where users pull info they want and react violently to info they don’t want,” Fou said.

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