You may have been one of those commercial real estate practitioners confident in your BlackBerry until 2007, when Apple introduced its first iPhone. Then two years later, Google’s new Android crossed swords with Apple. A year later, the iPad struck. Now, with 300,000-plus apps at the iTunes store, the Android surging and Verizon selling the iPhone as well as the iPad, Android and BlackBerry, it’s understandable if you are confused about your next smartphone upgrade.
Development recently surveyed IT professionals at real estate firms, developers, brokers and real estate database producers to find out what they recommend. The conclusion…it depends on your needs.
What Comes First, the Phone or the Carrier?
According to Rick Peltz, senior vice president and chief information officer of Marcus & Millichap, Encino, Calif., it is all about the carrier. He explained: “Every time I visit one of our offices, the same question comes up--what smartphone do I recommend. I tell our people the carrier that they select is most important, not the particular smartphone. In this business, you cannot have dropped calls.” He likes T-Mobile or Sprint in the Midwest. Nationwide, Verizon is the strongest.
Peltz attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last January looking for new technology for commercial real estate. “The Android is surging right now,” he said. “When I looked at the actual devices that companies at the CES were offering or about to offer in the market, they were all using the Android operating system.”
The Alter Group’s Tom Silva, senior vice president of marketing and strategy, Skokie, Illinois, said that the company has more than 75 BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad and Android users. “We do our best to accommodate any device that has Active Sync (this includes iPads, Androids).” There aren’t any apps that the firm has developed internally or recommends at present, although its IT department will assist in the configuration of a Citrix app for the iPad, which allows users to run Windows programs from their desktop computer on a smartphone.
CB Richard Ellis’ Ron Houghtaling, director of brand management, New York, said that many of its customers and brokers are using the iPhone, but many others continue to use the BlackBerry, which still has a huge base of users. Even though the iPhone and Android are growing in popularity, Houghtaling noted: “You cannot count the BlackBerry out because it is working on amazing things right now.”
At San Francisco-based LoopNet, Inc., Mike Manning, vice president of marketing, suggested that there are more apps available right now for the iPhone user, but with the Android having more market share, the apps gap should close in the next few months to a year.
The iPad Connection
The iPad, although not a smartphone, is having a tremendous impact on the market. With the introduction of the iPad 2, production cannot keep up with demand. Manning said that the iPad can be used in commercial real estate in far different ways than a smartphone. The iPad can become your pitch book. If the iPad can be synced with an Apple TV at a client location, it can make a dramatic presentation on a 52-inch screen.
The Apps Are Coming!
The real estate apps currently available on your iPhone or Android are as different and creative as the companies making them. Obviously, smartphone apps come in varying degrees of complexity, depending on what the creator needs it to do. For instance, one real estate firm created an app for the iPhone that cost the company $15,000 and took 90 days to create. The firm spent an additional $5,000 to rework the code for the Android. The iPhone, Android and BlackBerry all run on different platforms.
Here are the apps that some key companies are offering:
News, research, company information, blogs, videos and more can be found on Jones Lang LaSalle’s application.
LoopNet’s Manning said that his firm launched the first commercial real estate search app in 2010 for the iPhone. Manning claims that this free app allows the user to search over 10 million properties on the market or off. An Android app will be available in the future. LoopNet’s app has enjoyed great popularity at the iTunes store since its introduction. “Even without doing celebrity gossip on our app, we have enjoyed great traction,” said Manning.
Gregory Adams, managing director global information technology for Jones Lang LaSalle, Chicago, said that everyone is looking at mobile and testing out new concepts. “I do not know of anyone who is not looking to develop mobile apps,” he asserted.
The firm launched its first app in April 2011. “This app is intended to get a foothold into the mobile space,” said Adams, “and it is meant to be a companion right now to our global Web site. It was launched in more than 40 countries to demonstrate our global research and capabilities.”
CBRE’s Ron Houghtaling said that his firm’s first app, one for the iPhone, offers users the ability to search CBRE global office locations; search contact information for CBRE personnel globally; and access CBRE’s massive Global Office Occupiers Guide.
The CBRE iPhone app offers users the ability to search office locations, personnel and presentations.
Marcus & Millichap’s Rick Peltz noted that its first app allows the client to find company agents by name or product type, locate an office, send an SMS text message and access an agent’s profile page. “Available through iTunes and the Android store, 100 people a week are adding this app to their smartphones,” said Peltz.
Real estate developers are interested in creating apps that are e-brochures for their projects. One of the first to do this is Hines Interests in Houston, Texas. It has created its first e-brochure for the iPad for a project in Washington, D.C., called CityCenter DC, according to George C. Lancaster, senior vice president of corporate communications. When visiting CityCenter on the Hines Web site, one can see the project as well as a short movie. When you download the e-brochure to your iPad, you get a virtual tour of the project including a close look at floor plans, renderings and so much more.
Apps Beyond Commercial Real Estate
Cassidy Turley’s mobile app allows information downloads on its properties using QR codes on the company’s property signage.
With 300,000 apps and growing at the iTunes store alone and the Android quickly closing in, there are many applications, not specifically created for the commercial real estate industry that can be profitably used in the business. One creative idea comes from Indianapolis, Indiana-based Cassidy Turley. It is using a pre-existing app that allows interested parties to download information on its properties by smartphone by using QR (Quick Response) codes on the company’s real estate/property signage. QR codes are two-dimensional codes that look like puzzles (see First Look article in the Spring 2011 issue). The codes download information instantly to a smartphone as long as the user has a QR code reader. A company called Optiscan offers a QR reader for $1.99. There are others that are free, such as NeoReader.
For More Information
CB Richard Ellis
Jones Lang LaSalle
Marcus & Millichap
Optiscan’s QR reader
The Alter Group