Mobile App Ideas

Chapter 6

Nitro-Scrambled Egg-and-Bacon Ice Cream

(Coming Up With Winning Ideas for Apps)

“Just as our eyes need light in order to see, our minds need ideas in order to conceive.”

– Napoleon Hill

Do you have trouble coming up with an idea for an app?

Does it seem like all the good ideas have been taken?

Well, truly new and innovative ideas are rare. Most “new” ideas are just old ideas applied in a new way or in a new market …or just helping consumers see an old idea in a new light.

Your goal is to find a connection where there wasn’t one before … and the old becomes new again.

Just look at the world of fusion cuisine. Making a new connection can be as simple as combining food from one culture with one from another like the Korean taco (Korean barbeque + Mexican soft taco), or it can be as complicated as the molecular gastronomy-inspired dish …

… the nitro-scrambled egg-and-bacon ice cream.

It certainly gets you thinking about food in a whole new way, doesn’t it?

Sometimes coming up with an idea for an app can be as simple as asking: What do you wish you could do on your smartphone?

Ask around. Friends, family or co-workers can be an invaluable source of inspiration for app ideas. Ask them what problems they have with their smartphone. If you can find a common problem that hasn’t been addressed by an existing app, you’re definitely on the right track.

Other times, you need a more systematic approach. And that’s what this chapter is all about. Helping you generate ideas for an app by looking at real-life examples.

These examples should inspire you to come up with new connections … which in turn can become your new app.

So, go through the list below and jot down ideas as they pop into your head. Do not censor or analyze any ideas at this point. Don’t worry about whether it’s a good idea or not … not yet. You can flesh it all out later.

The first step is just brainstorming, letting the examples spark ideas in your head. If you get critical too early in the process, you prevent “crazy” ideas from developing into the next BIG idea. In short, don’t dismiss an idea too quickly.

The BIG Ideas List*

(*Inspired by the Business “WoWing” Form from the book: Cracking the Millionaire Code)

1. Infinity it – How can you residualize the app?

The key benefit of developing an app that monetizes through monthly subscriptions is obvious: recurring income without much additional effort.

Example: Schlock Mercenary is a subscription-based reader app where users pay a monthly fee to gain advance access to new comic strips.

Try coming up with an app idea that will generate recurring revenues for you. This allows you to build brand loyalty with subscribers and have a continuing source of income without developing more apps.

2. Multiple stream it –How can you create additional streams of income from your app?

Example: Angry Birds is so popular that spin-offs are created: Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons. Capitalizing on its brand, the app publisher also sells Angry Birds merchandise such as toys, T-shirts, books, and board game. It’s even got its very own retail store!

Revenue is not limited to the sale of the app itself. Think of the app as a brand. What other “branded” products can you sell, riding on the coattail of a successful app?

3. Combine it –How can you combine an app with something else?

Example: Hanging With Friends is a combination of Zynga’s popular Words With Friends app with twist on the classic Hangman game.

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Browse the app stores and see what unique combinations you can come up with for a new app.

4. Plus it –What can you add to an existing app?

Here, you are looking to see if a competitor’s app is under-serving the users. If so, what additional features can you add that users want and are willing to pay for?

Example: Note Everything takes a simple notepad app to the next level by adding voice and paint notes, plus other features.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across a user review where someone would say: “this app would be perfect if you’d only add XYZ feature”.

The takeaway? Read the user reviews and give them what they want!

5. Subtract it – What can you subtract from an existing app?

Is a rival app over-serving the users? Making the app too complicated, stuffing it with features that users don’t need? If so, what features can you eliminate to make your app much simpler and user-friendly?

Example: A common complaint among users of Catch (which has since shut down) is that the developers made the app increasingly more complicated. Users made comments like: “I liked it because it was simple and it’s not simple anymore,” and “new update very bloated and has lost simplicity”.

The lesson? Focus on what customers want and eliminate unnecessary features. Why waste time and money building features users don’t want or need? More does not mean better. What you want is “just right” or “just enough”.

If you’re new to the market and saw these negative comments for Catch, you think you can exploit their mistake by developing something their users are telling you they want but aren’t getting?

6. Multiply it – How can you multiply your app?

When you’ve got something that works, milk it for all it’s worth. Try to find other ways to repurpose your app.

Example: When Talking Gremlin took off, its developers created other apps based on the same framework. They came out with apps like Talking Gremlin: Christmas Special, Talking Zombie, Talking Snowball, Talking Baby Monkey, and Talking Dragon. In fact, Talking Gremlin Christmas Special generated about $40,000 with only $500 in additional investment!

Building multiple related apps with a similar framework helped cut down the development costs dramatically.

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. When you’ve got something that’s capable of being repurposed, remember the 3 R’s: Repurpose, Rinse, and Repeat.

7. Divide it – How can you divide up your app?

Instead of packing a ton of features into a single app, consider developing a main app and give users the option to pay for extra add-on features.

Example: The Locale app uses location-based artificial intelligence to manage smartphone settings automatically. Its developer also created various “plug-in” apps that users can purchase as add-on’s to the original app such as: the Locale Headphones Plug-in, the Locale Locale SMS Plug-in, and the Locale Dock Plug-in, etc.

Because this cafeteria-style strategy puts the users in full control of the exact features they want included in their app, they are willing to pay a premium for it (by purchasing additional plug-in’s).

Think about how you can develop a stand-alone app that you can also create additional plug-in’s for.

8. Intersect it – How can you make an app work in different niche markets?

Example: Mavro Inc. develops language apps for different niche markets such as Medical Spanish, Police Spanish Guide, and Dental Spanish Guide.

Find the intersection between one market and another, or an app that intersects all industries.

9. Minimize it – How can you make an app smaller?

Example: Unlike most unit converter apps that can perform hundreds of different unit conversions, the Inches and Feet Calculator app takes the minimalist approach and only calculates inches and feet.

Is there an app that you can strip down to its bare minimum and have it still be useful enough for a large group of users (as the Inches and Feet Calculator does for users in the construction industry)?

10. Maximize it – How can you make an app larger?

Example: On the other end of the spectrum, you have ConvertPad taking the kitchen-sink approach. This app includes a fully-featured universal unit converter, currency converter, and a calculator. It can perform practically any unit conversion you come across.

Apply this idea to a bare-bones app to appeal to the buffet crowd. These are the users who want a comprehensive app even though they will never use most of its functions.

11. Enhance it – How can you increase a smartphone’s functionality?

Example: Instagram can transform pictures taken by the phone’s built-in camera.

Think about all the functions the smartphone can perform. How can you enhance it to create a unique experience for the user?

12. Transform it – How can you turn a smartphone into a different device?

Examples: Tuner – gStrings turns your smartphone into a chromatic tuner, the Metronome Widget turns it into a metronome, and using the smartphone’s built-in camera, the CamScanner app turns your smartphone into a document scanner.

So what device can you turn the smartphone into?

13. Optimize it – How can you improve the performance of the smartphone?

Examples: The Easy Battery Saver extends a phone’s battery life. The Memory Booster – RAM Optimizer speeds up your Android phone.

Smartphone users are always looking for ways to optimize their phones for better performance. Find a way to fill this need.

14. Locate it – How can you use exploit the smartphone’s GPS feature?

The global positioning system (GPS) on a smartphone is one of the most versatile features you can build an app around.

Examples: MyCar Locator, GasBuddy, and Wheres My Droid.

Help users find whatever it is they’re looking for with the GPS and you’ve got an app.

15. Time it – How can you build an app around an event?

Time-sensitive and seasonal apps can be risky, but if you’re able to build a basic framework that can easily be translated into other similar apps, then it’s something worth exploring.

Example: London Olympics 2012-Ultimate is an interactive app that provides everything you need to know about the 2012 Olympics such as event schedules, news, medal counts, etc.

Instead of creating a one-off app that dies when the event is over, you would build an app with the intention of using the same framework for other events.

16. Beautify it – How can you redesign an app to make it more appealing?

Example: Neon Clock Widget is just a simple clock that glows. It wasn’t trying to be a better clock, just a better-looking clock.

Look around the app store and you’ll see many “ugly” apps. These apps are ripe for a competitor to come in and take over with a more elegantly designed version.

17. Cool it – How can you make an app more “cool”?

Sometimes all you need is the “cool factor” to make an app successful.

Example: The Cartoon Camera app allows users to create cartoon and sketch-like photography with their smartphone camera.

What can your app do to make people say “OMG, that’s sooo cool!”?

18. “Youngify” it – How can you modify an app for a younger audience?

Example: Kids Doodle is the kid’s version of Paint Joy.

Take a successful app and develop it for a younger audience.

19. Mature it – How can you modify an app for an older audience?

I’m sorry to say that I could not find a decent example of this. (Right now, you should be saying to yourself: “OMG, this is an under-served market that has not been saturated!”)

Check this out: It is projected that by the year 2030, 1/5 of the U.S. population (about 72 million people) will be over 65 years old. The first of the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964) started turning 65 in 2011.

This is a huge and largely untapped market that’s just waiting for app developers to stake their claim.

Think technology is only for the younger folks? Think again!

My 90-year-old father spends hours on his computer. And you know what he told me? He said that messing around with a computer is the best thing for someone his age. Learning to use the computer challenges him, keeps his mind working and prevents him from getting bored. And check out this viral video of an older couple trying to figure out their webcam.

In short, you’d be crazy not to see the amazing possibilities presented by this market.

Time to Start Cooking

I hope that going through this entire list sparked a lot of app ideas for you. With lots of “ingredients” at your disposal, it’s time to get cookin’!

Remember, the approaches on this list are not mutually exclusive. Like a chef, you can mix and match the ingredients to create your own unique culinary creation.

Model after a successful app, but put your own unique spin on it.

Want to Stand Out? Put Some I.C.E. on It

You don’t get to be a top-selling or the most-downloaded app by doing what everyone else is doing.

To get there, you need to: Innovate, Create, and Eliminate.

So how do you figure out what features you should include in your app? That’s easy. With any idea you come up with, analyze each of the following elements: problem, solution, benefit, and feature …

… then put some I.C.E. on it.

Innovate – Is your idea innovative? If not, how can you make it more innovative?

Create – Are you creating or copying? There are many imitation apps out there, but you’ll never be the talk of the town unless you’re actually creating a standout app with new functionalities.

Eliminate – Remember that you are developing for a mobile device. Don’t build an over-complicated app when the device is not designed to handle complicated tasks. Keep it simple by eliminating unnecessary features. Simple … not simplistic.

Now there will be some trade-offs. That’s just the reality. But know that the trade-offs you make are what separate you from the competition. The decisions you make and the trade-offs you accept are uniquely yours. It’s not something that a competitor can just copy. It is the trade-offs that will give you a sustainable advantage over your rivals.

← Go to Chapter 5: Wax On, Wax Off (Know the “Why”)

→ Go to Chapter 7: Getting the Michelin Stars (Strategies for Rising to the Top)

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