Pending official approval (expected October 19) from Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, the Archstone iPhone app will hit the Apple App Store this week. The Englewood, Colo.-based Archstone gave Multifamily Executive an exclusive sneak peak into the iPhone technology prior to its public launch.
Combining account, service request, and contact functionality, the Archstone app steps away from apartment search capabilities in order to focus on what Archstone group vice president and head of marketing Donald Davidoff calls a “transactional” app model.
“It’s really pretty simple: We’ve decided to focus our mobile initiatives around transactions, really trying to get people the steak and not worry so much about the sizzle,” Davidoff says. “What this app primarily does is allow residents to pay online and view account balances and histories with the same pay online functionality that our resident portal offers. It also allows them to submit and track service requests and includes a direct e-mail contact function.”
Archstone developed the iPhone app using internal IT programmers in an effort to learn more about mobile programming, and the firm is looking at additional mobile initiatives as a follow-up to the iPhone app, including rolling out apps to the Droid and Blackberry mobile platforms. “Programming and development of the applications are not overly difficult,” Davidoff says. “The biggest challenge is being very careful in your design and paying attention to the screen size and stripping down your requirements to just the barebones.”
Indeed, Archstone’s iPhone app offers non-complicated touch screen functionality, with the three main app components (payments, services, contact) always available via push button in the app’s design architecture. Tables and graphs are displayed in a stripped down, easy-to-digest format. “There are plenty of iPhone apps out there, so there is already a standard look and feel to the size and shape of the buttons, what tables typically look like, and so on,” Davidoff explains. “The best advice, and certainly the advice we followed, is to make your app look as much like other apps in terms of navigation, look, and feel as possible. That’s what makes it drop-dead easy for users to use.”
Archstone is currently evaluating mobile apartment search functionality, but might surrender those services to other industry providers as it continues the roll-out of its mobile platform. “We are trying to be very purposeful in applying technology innovation to places that add value to residents and prospects,” Davidoff says. “I’m not going to tell you we’ll never have an apartment search app, but right now we see the value to the prospect in having an apartment search app from one of the ILSs where they are starting their search and there is tons of content.”
Regardless of specific functionality, Davidoff encourages his multifamily peers to begin looking seriously at mobile technologies. “I think the people who don’t dive into mobile pretty soon are going to regret it,” he says.