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facebookiphoneOne of the biggest problems for iPhone apps is finding users — the main way growth happens now is, paradoxically, by climbing the charts of the iTunes app store rankings. The more popular you get, the higher you get in the rankings, and the more people see you as a result. But Facebook is working on a new version of its popular iPhone app, and it could provide a new way for any iPhone app using Facebook Connect to get more Facebook users on the iPhone.

The new version of Facebook’s iPhone application is slated to launch “very soon,” and as you can see from the screenshot, it includes an iPhone-like menu of Facebook’s own applications. It includes Events, Photos, Chat, and other apps that Facebook created — apps that Facebook already places together with third-party applications on its web site interface.

So, today on a mobile panel I moderated at our MobileBeat 2009 conference, panelist and Facebook mobile head Henri Moissinac was asked by fellow panelists — and iPhone game developers — if Facebook had any plans to promote third party applications. Shervin Pishevar, chief executive of top iPhone game developer SGN, suggested having an apps tab within the Facebook iPhone app. This way, when you log in to Facebook or its iPhone app, you could potentially bookmark and save your favorite iPhone apps. You could even get alerts and invites from games or other apps that your friends are playing on the iPhone, like how apps already work on Facebook’s web site. Moissinac hedged, saying that Facebook was looking at how to do it. But he pointed out that Facebook is working with more than 150 carriers in 50 countries, trying to customize its service to make it easier for anyone to access. The inference was that iPhone features might be too narrow of a focus for the company to develop for at this point.

picture-7But, if you take a look at Facebook’s planned version of the iPhone app, you can see how apps could fit in nicely. For starters, Facebook has been busy blending its own apps in with third-party applications within its web site interface. The lower left-hand toolbar menu lets you select a few apps to show on the toolbar; the default includes Events, Photos, and other Facebook-created apps, but you can add your own third-party apps to the menu. So, when you think about Facebook’s approach that way, it would make sense for Facebook to take the same approach to letting you add apps to its iPhone app. Indeed, the early screenshots of the Facebook iPhone app already show a second page that you can scroll to within the interface. That second page would be a logical place for third-party apps to have a home. Facebook already says you’ll be able to customize the new iPhone. You’ll be able to “add your favorite profiles and pages to the home screen.” It seems logical that you’d be able to do this with third-party apps.

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