Shopkick, an iPhone app for shopping that launched this week, could be especially popular with teens, who seem likely to want to collect points for real-money rewards like gift cards and Facebook credits. (Click here to see a step-by-step guide on how Shopkick works.)
There’s a problem, though: Shopkick cofounder and CEO Cyriac Roeding confirms that Shopkick doesn’t really work on the iPod touch, the Apple gadget that teens are as likely — if not more likely — to own than an iPhone. (Many teens historically only have iPod touches to run iOS apps because their parents don’t want to pay for costly monthly 3G data plans. AT&T recently introduced cheaper, entry-level data plans, which could boost sales for teens and kids.)
Why doesn’t the iPod touch work?
Shopkick relies on the iPhone’s microphone to listen for a sound signal — inaudible to humans — to verify that users are actually in the store, so they can earn rewards. Unlike the iPhone, the iPod touch doesn’t have a microphone. And it doesn’t have a camera, to take photos of barcodes to earn Shopkick points, or “Kickbucks.” Nor does the iPod touch have an always-on Internet connection the way a mobile phone does, unless the store or mall also has an open wi-fi hotspot.
So, how to deal with that?
It’s tricky, because the cheaper “dumb” phones teens are more likely to have — designed for texting but not web browsing — don’t run apps very well, and aren’t likely to have data plans. So “make an app for every phone that’s out there” isn’t the best answer.
Eventually, perhaps as soon as this year, the iPod touch will ship with a camera, and maybe even a built-in microphone, which would be great news for Shopkick. (The theory is that the new iPod touch will work with Apple’s “FaceTime” video chat system, so a mic and speaker would be helpful additions.)
But it’s less likely to include a 3G data signal any time soon — Apple and its phone partners still want you to have to buy an iPhone and sign a 2-year voice and data contract for that. If it really becomes a problem, perhaps the next version of Shopkick’s in-store gadget could include some sort of wi-fi network, so you could at least connect to the Shopkick service in the store.
Either way, Shopkick is already working on some ideas. “We’re working on other ways to collect Kickbucks, and then iPod touch will make a ton of sense,” Roeding tells us.
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