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Obama releases iPhone recruiting, campaign tool

Democratic presidential candidate's application lets iPhone users recruit people on their contacts list, sorted by the political importance of the states where they live.


Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign launched an iPhone application on Thursday that turns the vaunted device into a political recruiting tool.

The most notable feature "organizes and prioritizes your contacts by key battleground states, making it easy to reach out and make an impact quickly," according to the software.

On my phone, the application ranked contacts in Colorado, Michigan, and New Mexico at the top; at the bottom was a friend whose cell phone has a Texas number, though she actually lives in California.

The application anonymously reports back the number of calls made this way: "Your privacy is important: no personal data or contacts will be uploaded or stored. Only the total number of calls you make is uploaded anonymously."

The software is the latest effort by politicians to capitalize on technology, joining other examples such as ads distributed through YouTube, Web-based fund-raising, Facebook pages and fan groups, and e-mail recruitment drives.

The Obama for America iPhone application is available for download through Apple's iTunes store, said Raven Zachary, an iPhone consultant who's directing the launch effort.

A "get involved" feature uses the phone's GPS-based location sensing to find the nearest Obama campaign headquarters, and "local events" likewise pulls up a list of activities sorted by proximity.

A "media" section provides links to video and photos, but beware: YouTube showed errors following some of the links. Perhaps the newer videos hadn't been prepared for iPhone display yet.

The application also shows Obama statements to the news media and a guide to Obama's positions on various issues.

Update 8:50 a.m. PDT: The application shows how many calls have been made nationwide and how many you made. Those statistics are the kind that can motivate people--they can feel like they're part of something bigger. That may sound a bit silly as a motivational tool, but consider that Smule's Sonic Lighter application for the iPhone is popular, despite the fact that it costs 99 cents more than its free competition, likely because people can see where else on the globe people are using it and because the longer you run the application, the bigger your own spot on the map becomes. It's a kind of competition.

Update 9:28 a.m. PDT: The campaign added an Obama iPhone app Web site, too.