Like Facebook, the iPhone is just a toy.

Or at least it would seem that way. A new study from Pinch Media says that only 1% of users who download software from Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes App Store become long-term users, Computerworld reports. Only 20% use new iPhone software the day after downloading it.

Other findings from the study:

  • Top100-ranked applications attract 2.3 times more new daily users.
  • Users run free applications 6.6 times more often than paid programs.

Anyone else troubled by this? Impressive numbers touted by Apple -- 15,000 App Store applications, 500 million downloads -- suggested that the iPhone was a serious platform for mobile business. Legions of the on-the-go workers would be accessing Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and (NYSE:CRM) from anywhere.

Pinch's report tells an entirely different story. In this tale, the iPhone is like, well, every other phone.

That may not be a fair characterization. I have an iPhone and, like most users, I have both free and paid applications loaded on it. I use the free stuff a lot more but, mostly, I use Apple's pre-loaded software -- Mail and Safari, primarily.

For me, they are business essentials. Mail has helped me to meet deadlines from the road. Safari is my anywhere, anytime research tool. I really don't need anything else from the App Store.

As a user, I appreciate that. As an investor? Not so much. The App Store was to be a blunt instrument in the iPhone's fight for market share against Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry line, Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) N-series, and Palm's (NASDAQ:PALM) promising Pre. So far, it's winning without the help. I'm happy to see the gains, but you'll pardon me if I'm nervous about the streak continuing.

A platform isn't really a platform till users take full advantage of it. If Pinch's research is to be believed, the iPhone isn't one. Not yet, anyway.

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