The iPhone 5S effect: How developers could cash in on the Apple announcements

Don't even bother typing "iPhone 5S" into Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). The volume of search results will be overwhelming. Try a term like "iPhone 5S apps" instead, however, and you'll immediately notice a void.

No major discussions from leading publishers about what they hope to see Sept. 10. No dreaming of what would be better for users. Not even someone clever enough to post something on their developer blog promising that no matter what Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announces, their apps and games will make the most of the new features and capabilities.

This is where app marketing experts say developers need to starting thinking more strategically, and long before Apple's traditional late summer launch event.

"It's a good time to cash in," says Carson Barker, CEO of Appspire.me, an Austin, Texas-based firm that also works in mobile advertising and promises guaranteed rankings. "[Developers] are going to want to get into that buzz quickly and capitalize on all the interest."

It's also wise from a budgeting standpoint. According to a study last year from Fiksu, there was a surge in volume of organic searches for iPhone 5-compatible apps when the device was first announced almost exactly a year ago. That meant the cost of acquiring a loyal user based on various mobile advertising channels went down. Two months later, however, Fiksu's data showed the cost of acquiring iOS users jumped 30 percent. It's possible developers will see the same thing happen if Apple launches a new iPhone on Sept. 10.

On the other hand, new hardware from Apple typically means a greater interest from consumers near the holidays. Flurry data has shown hundreds of millions of apps are downloaded on Christmas day.

Red Hot Apps, a developer also based in Austin, will be among those watching and hoping for the "iPhone effect." Red Hot Apps recently released Now Alarm Clock, an new iOS utility app that displays the current date, time, calendar events, weather and stock ticker.

"Yes, I think device launches do generate more downloads for application developers, especially if Apple releases a cheaper version of the iPhone to attract current Android users," says Dawn Geerlings, principal of Red Hot Apps. "I think app sales could skyrocket!"

Don't expect to simply ride Apple's coattails automatically, however. Instead, consider these tactics as the world watches for the iPhone 5S:

Put yourself in the game: Even though the exact details of Apple's plans are unconfirmed, there are enough rumors about the future iPhone's displays and fingerprint readers that developers should be ready to comment on them. Be the first to put out a press release or blog post about the possibilities.

Dmitry Bondarenko

"Show them that you'll have a process in place to optimize your app to make use of the newest features," advises Dmitry Bondarenko, director of strategy consulting at Combo Apps in Chicago, which describes itself as an "app promotion agency" that specializes in iOS. "Give [consumers] a reason to get in front of you."

Invest your resources appropriately: Given the typical hysteria surrounding an Apple launch, Bondarenko suggests developers think twice before putting a lot into paid search campaigns. "The big publishers will be coming out in full force," he said. "You best money will probably be spent on social media."

Barker adds that developers need more than an "I'm here too!" approach to marketing and should think carefully about how they can make their app the first thing consumers will want to add to their iPhone 5S. "Have a creative story to tell," he says. "It's going to be hard to rise above the noise."

Brand your iOS expertise: Media outlets from TV to newspapers will be desperate to find fresh commentary about Apple's devices and what they will mean for consumers. Often they will turn to market research analysts or other journalists, but developers could easily reach out to help in exchange for some welcome (and free) publicity. "They're already perceived as experts, more than just someone in the media," argues Bondarenko. "It's like talking to a car mechanic. They may not know everything about the latest cars, but they know the essence of it, and can help you understand what those new models should be able to do."

Mark your calendar next time: Apple has become reasonably consistent, almost predictable, in launching major products and services around this time each year. As developers gain experience with marketing, they should schedule their own releases and updates to make the most of the Apple fanfare. Otherwise, according to Geerlings, it can be an uphill battle.

"From a marketing perspective it's tough. Unless you have some financial backing to do a real marketing push, a really unique product, or Apple features you, which is just the luck of the draw, it isn't easy," she says. "Most of us really have to rely on word of mouth, social media, friends and affordable media buys that don't eat up all your profits."

Barker says some indie devs are showing signs of increasing marketing savvy. "A lot of the calls we get now are at least six months out before the app will be ready," he says. "It used to be only once an app had come out, and they weren't getting any downloads."

Special Report: Apple iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C: Complete coverage

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