Does the iPhone Need Help?

It’s not Burning Tires 3D, Crazy Tanks or any of the other silliness that makes the iPhone fun to use. Its may not even have the immediate practicality of say, Soonr, which automatically backs up your Mac or PC files to the cloud for easy access from your iPhone.

But somewhere, someday, Tony Bove thinks plenty of iPhone users will find his $2.99 program indispensable.

Released for the App Store earlier this month, Tony’s Tips for iPhone Users is an online help system of thousands of iPhone tips. From how to synchronize an external account with your iPhone to travel tips to saving battery life (e.g., check your email less frequently), Tony’s Tips is designed to provide help for beginning to more advanced iPhone users.

“There’s a general class of iPhone features everyone knows how to use, and beyond those, you can fall into the weeds trying to find what you want,” Bove told “Maybe you give up, or look for an iPhone book, or the Internet or ask friends. What I’m trying to do is provide the help iPhone users need, in a standardized way right where they want it, in the device itself.”

Bove also argues that looking online, even using a search engine from within the iPhone, takes longer. For example, start typing “S Y N C” in Tony’s Tips and a list of how to synchronize the iPhone with calendars, contact lists and more pops up.

“If you use Google, you have to be more specific, starting with a search for ‘iPhone Sync’ and going from there,” he said.

While Tony’s Tips is an online resource, sections can be downloaded for offline viewing as well.

The release of Tony’s Tips comes at a time of booming iPhone sales and an unprecedented number of downloads at the App Store. Earlier this month, Apple reported there have been over 500 million downloads at the App Store which now holds over 15,000 applications. In 2008 Apple said it sold 13.7 million iPhones and as that user base continues to broaden from the tech savvy early adopters, the need for help may well broaden with it.

“I like to explore and I’m pretty good at figuring things out,” iPhone user Nick Sako told “But I know a lot of people who get stuck on certain things with the iPhone. A tips program would be very helpful, especially at that price.”

Next page: More and less than Dummies

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More and less than Dummies

Bove is no stranger to helping computer users. He’s written numerous articles and help titles including some of the popular “… for Dummies” books, the most recent being iPod & iTunes for Dummies with co-author Cheryl Rhodes.

He says the Dummies books can be a good basic reference, but may be best used to get an overview of a broad topic like digital photography.

“I’m on a mission to improve the way tips, techniques, and how-to information are distributed by authors to readers for the benefit of both,” said Bove.

He describes Tony’s Tips as a first step in his effort to establish a different way of distributing information on handheld devices. “Authors can create these products themselves; sell them directly to people and establish direct feedback loops with their readers, and also continually update easily so the content is never out of date.”

He also argues authors can charge less (like the $2.99 for his program) than a book would cost and still make a decent profit. “Authors and publishers can invest in marketing and promotion rather than spending on paper publishing, distribution and having to re-spend every time the book need to be updated,” he said.

A match with Wikipanion

If Tony’s Tips represents a new kind of handheld publishing, the story of how it came to market is also less than conventional. Bove said he had the idea for a help product for the iPhone when it came out in 2007, but his plans went into high gear when he came across Wikipanion which gives iPhone users a direct connection to formatted content from Wikipedia.

He contacted Wikipanion’s creator, Robert Chin, and the two collaborated on Tony’s Tips. Using a similar engine to Wikipanion, Chin designed an online repository for all of Bove’s tips that can be readily updated for iPhone users. “It’s like a one-way wiki that we can update any time there’s new information on the iPhone,” said Bove.

Even though the two live in San Francisco, Bove said he contacted Chin by email and that’s how they conducted all their work and exchange of ideas.

“We didn’t even use the phone, I didn’t meet Robert till we had dinner when the beta of Tony’s Tips was ready,” Bove recalled. “It’s funny, we hadn’t committed to anything, not on paper, not even on a napkin. It’s the most virtual I’ve every worked with anyone, but that’s the age we live in.”

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