Colorado-based startup Occipital hit quite the milestone this week: their iPhone app RedLaser topped $1 million in revenue. Co-founder Jeff Powers told TechCrunch yesterday that RedLaser got immensely popular (it has been in the App Store’s top 5 paid apps for the past 3 months) without any heavyweight PR/marketing campaign, but rather through pure word-of-mouth.
I will pause here to let you wipe the drool off your chin…
So what exactly is RedLaser? It’s a barcode-scanning app that uses the video camera function of the iPhone 3GS (get with the times, 3G users!) to read product barcodes. The app can then provide you with a litany of related information like prices at other stores, product reviews, etc. Here’s a quick video of Occipital’s million dollar baby in action:
So, how can us mere mortals make an app as popular (and, ideally, as profitable) as RedLaser? Well, this year’s list of the top-rated iPhone apps seems to be split between two types: novelty apps and useful apps. RedLaser falls within the latter category while, say, I Am T-Pain more so is just for fun. Since the Wall Street Journal said last week that one of the best ways to build an app is to “make it truly useful, not just a novelty item,” it’s safe to assume that usefulness is a better bet to give your app the longevity needed to make an impression with audiences and, subsequently, your pocketbook. Heck, just look how instrumental RedLaser has become for iPhone users during the Holiday season — you can’t quite say the same about Auto-Tune!
The best way to conceive a useful app seems to be the same, old-fashioned way that inventors go about with thinking up new inventions: think of something that needs to be done or needs to be done better (in our case, with an iPhone). Then, start coding. Monetizing can be done in several ways afterward, but ultimately will rely on whether people consistently download and use your app.
Simple enough, right?