iPhone apps such as Tweetie may or may not make their creators rich. It's safe to say most iPhone app sellers won't be able to quit their day jobs. But that hasn't stopped both geeks and non-geeks alike from pouring their enthusiasm into thinking up, designing, and building iPhone applications that they sell or give away in Apple's App Store.
"Coding newcomers are a minority and face a steep challenge in the iPhone's crowded marketplace," writes San Francisco Chronicle reporter Ryan Kim. But he notes that the challenge hasn't stopped newbies like 25-year-old Nordstrom jewelry manager Lauren Bensen from learning enough code skills to create their own applications.
Kim found one out-of-work sysadmin who claims to have replaced his lost income through app sales. I'm wary of repeating that tale, because it reminds me of the get-rich-quick claims for blogging, podcasting, home videos, and now Twitter. "Get 16,000 followers in 90 days and Make Money," one automated Twitter response promised me. Apple doesn't promise you can Make Money Fast with your app, but other developers do.
Beyond the money, there's something else. The iPhone is a singular device. It's not just the latest hot mobile phone, it's a gadget in a category of its own. For a lot of people whose daily work goes largely unnoticed by the public, there's something appealing about having an entry in the App Store with a cute little round-edged fake-3D icon, phone-screen-sized screenshots, and a bit of text touting the application's usefulness (oh, and don't forget the legal disclaimers.)
Kim's article is a good roundup of the different types of people drawn to make apps: The creative type, the idea guy, the programmer who builds for idea guys. But the article stops short of the obvious takeaway: You probably won't be able to quit your job because of your iPhone app. If what you want is attention and adoption, the most likely way to have a hit app is to give it away.
Note: This blog first appeared on our sister site The Industry Standard.