There's NOT An App For That!

By | Tuesday, July 16, 2013 1 comment
My old cell phone died recently, and I had to finally upgrade to a smart phone. My old one was a feature phone that came out right on the heels of the iPhone, when companies started adding what they could to their existing phones while they played catch-up on the notable technologies Apple popularized. So I was able to get a few apps and use it to check email and Twitter, and use it as an MP3 player. I did some rudimentary blogging from it a couple times. But it was comparitively limited in what it could do.

My new phone isn't the latest whiz-bang hot seller, but it's a pretty good leap from what I had. One of the benefits I have now is a decent app selection. Before I had dozens, maybe 100, apps to choose from, now I'm on the Android platform with however many are available there. One I looked up recently is the official Comic-Con app.

It was launched last year shortly before Comic-Con 2012, and hasn't been touched since. It's gotten 80 reviews online, over half of which gave it the lowest rating available. This review seems to pinpoint many of the issues people had:
I gave it 2 starts for trying, but this has been such an utter disappointment. It is slow, and you basically have to re-open it all the time, it is not as informative as it should be and the design and layout just make me cringe.
Not to mention, as I suggested, downloading it now presents year-old information. With the convention starting this week, it seems pretty unlikely we'll see an update in time for the show.

I suspect that they found it wasn't widely used and cost too much for them to build and maintain. It's still under 10,000 downloads and, for a convention that draws 130,000 every year, that seems pretty meager to me. Fair enough; they're not exactly in the app-development business, right? And it's not critical for con-goers in the same way their website is.

But here's my question: does a good convention app make sense?

Well, I'm sure it does to people who USE apps but, financially, does it make sense for a convention owner to shell out enough money for a dedicated app about their con?

I don't know how much money Comic-Con draws in, or what developer costs might be, but I think there must be a way to make that work. What if, for example, you had an app that listed out all the events with descriptions and you could just check off which ones you wanted to attend? And then maybe get an alert 15 minutes before each one started? And used your phone's GPS to tell you where you were standing at the moment and how to get to the particular room/area where that event was being held? What if you could check off the guests and exhibits you wanted to make sure to hit? And again tie it to your GPS so you could get directions to wherever their booth might be. I'm pretty sure people would use something like that. What about tapping into your Instagram account and including a "I went to Comic-Con" logo or something on the pictures that are uploaded through the app? And then throw in some easy stuff like a countdown timer, and a list of things to pack, and that kind of thing.

Ah, but you wouldn't really be able to SELL it, would you? Probably not for enough to make back your money on it, certainly. But what if you turned around and sold a bit of advertising on it to some of the big players? Movie studios are already paying major bucks to have their bags given away, why wouldn't they pay a bit more to be part of the start-up screen on the app?

I'm not an app developer myself, but we're at a point now where smart phones are not at all uncommon. And, as a convention organizer, you want to make sure that people have a good, enjoyable con so they either come back year over year and/or tell their friends so they can come back year after year. I think a good app would help in that regard; maybe it wouldn't pay for itself in an immediately obvious ROI calculation, but it seems to me a good long-term investment.
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C2E2 (and probably other cons run by that company) has an app that does pretty much everything you describe. So you would think SDCC would try to keep up...