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Target Focusing In on iPhone

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Facebook apps are so yesterday. Target is pushing into new frontiers as one of the first brands to build an application for the iPhone.

The Target Gift Globe mimics the holiday tradition of the snow globe. After downloading it, users shake their iPhone, producing an on-screen snowfall that clears to reveal a gift idea from the retailer. Users can tap through to visit Target's site and buy the item or find a store nearby.

San Francisco shop AKQA created the application for Target after the retailer discovered the majority of  traffic from its mobile site, launched this spring, came from iPhones. (Target's globe isn't the first app AKQA has built for the iPhone. Earlier, the agency fashioned Gap Merry Mix, an application that lets users mix and match clothing. That program uses the iPhone's location technology to find a Gap store nearby.)

"It's just the first step for brands to see how people react in general," said Tina Unterlaender, management supervisor at AKQA's mobile division. "It's about getting our feet wet and finding what's possible."

AKQA aimed for "utilitainment," she said, by making the Target application useful but also fun. Other popular iPhone applications take similar approaches. Urbanspoon, for example, allows users to shake their phones like Magic Eight Balls and find nearby restaurant recommendations.

Since its launch in July, Apple's application platform has attracted over 10,000 applications for use with the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The Target effort got an added boost by Apple's decision to feature it this week on the front page of the App Store.

Unterlaender said that while the iPhone offers an ideal platform for creating robust mobile tools, it is far from the main focus for most clients. That's because it still represents just a fraction of the cell phone market. Instead, many clients are better served by focusing on less sexy initiatives like texting campaigns and run-of-the-mill mobile sites.

"I don't think every brand should have an iPhone app," she said. "It should only be made if it fits your goal. For some brands it doesn't make sense."