Friday, April 6, 2012

There's an App for That

“What’s great about the iPhone is that if you want to check snow conditions on the mountain… THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT.  If you want to check how many calories are in your lunch, THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT.  If you want to check exactly where you parked the car, yup, THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT.  There’s an app for just about anything on the iPhone”
 Remember that 2009 commercial for the original AppleTM  iPhone?  The apps (or applications) were what separated the iPhone men from the BlackberryTM boys.  These two fruit-named phones entered into the mother-of-all food fights to conquer our hearts, minds, and wallet share.  I’m pretty sure AppleTM  scored a TKO in the first round because – all together now - they had an app for that. 

Ever the late technology adopter, I didn’t upgrade to an iPhone until a year ago.  I was happy with my Blackberry; I wasn’t a huge user of it and grudgingly paid the very large cellular bill not so I could ensure my place in the land of the gainfully employed, but so I could enhance communication with my children.  Which is one of several patently deluded ideas to which I subscribe.  I never thought I’d use apps, they seemed more like silly little diversions than anything that would be of practical value.  I’ve been suspicious of mobile technology from the start.  There was a commercial by a bank ten years back touting the convenience of banking from your computer.  It showed a guy hiking up the side of a mountain and once at the apex, he whipped out a laptop from his backpack and started balancing his checkbook.  I know:  ludicrous, like anyone would do that.  While we all crave to complete menial administrative tasks in the splendor and glory of nature there is NO WAY you’re not going to convince me this guy got decent wireless service on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro:  I’m just not that gullible.

Once my device was fired up, veteran iPhoned friends provided me plenty of advice on ‘must-have’ apps:  The aptly named Around Me lets me know – shockingly – what is around me in the form of stores, restaurants, pharmacies, or my nearest Apple store.  And I use it: at a late-finishing lacrosse game in the middle of Bumwinkle, Virginia and need to find the nearest sub shop to feed the famished player?  I can find it.   Apple product on the fritz and need to belly up to the nearest ‘genius bar’?   I can find that too.  My friend Gill – who I’m fairly certain owns a substantial interest in StarbucksTM  - made her recommendation so that I’d never find myself in dire need of a Venti skinny vanilla latte and be left to shrivel into a caffeine-deprived heap.  I will admit it came in handy while at a Lacrosse tournament in November in Emmetsburg, Maryland.  With a break in the action, I was freezing cold and hankering for a decent triple half-caff mocha lattechino with a half twist, and - horrors! – the concessions stand didn’t have an espresso machine.  Barbarians.  My iPhone came to the rescue and let me know that the nearest StarbucksTM was exactly 16.9 miles away in Gettysburg, PA.   I was stunned to discover that apparently there is a corner of the Earth without a Starbucks, and this app had done double duty by providing me that nugget of information as well as a potential business opportunity.  Assuming, that is, that cows drink coffee.  Talk about convenience!  Let’s not forget Fat Face.  Why wouldn’t I pay good money for a program that could digitally enhance my photo to make me look 100 pounds heavier – it’s a dream app!

The number and variety of apps out there is staggering.  In the Medical category, one of the top selling apps is the Instant ECG by iAnesthesia.  No lie, you can’t make this stuff up.   In the Education category, a 5-star ‘absolute must buy!’ is TeachMe: Toddler.  For a scant $0.99 you get a platform which teaches your toddler these essential education subjects: letters, abc phonics, numbers, shapes, colors, and the art of cold fusion in the tubby.  Finally in Utilities, there is Sparrow.  The description reads “Sparrow is an iPhone mail client designed with love to provide you with an efficient and pleasant mailing experience.  With its pane navigation, its new threading system and many new features, you’ll never look back.”  I have absolutely no idea what any of that means.

What I can’t find are apps that would be of actual, meaningful value to my everyday life.  For example, there is an app for Past Life Regression Hypnosis.  Well into the app, the dulcet-toned narrator describes a scene where you are walking through a flower-filled forest to a small bridge attended to by a brown-robed hooded figure, who is apparently a gentle and kind being, but the only image I’m conjuring is the Grim Reaper, after which my imagined self runs screaming from the forest.    What I really need is an app that will help me cope in the here and now.  I type “Coping” in the App Store search bar and the top result is something called Loudbook.   I’d be happy to share with you what it does, but the description is in Russian.  I find something to assemble my life and the instructions are in some foreign language.  Typical. 

There are plenty of apps that will let me scour thousands of recipes for delicious, nutritious, and time-saving meals.  However, I’d find invaluable one that would take it to the next level by first scanning the inventory of my pantry and fridge, and then displaying the world of possibilities.  Currently I’ve got a half-consumed jar of capers, a cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt, a wilted head of celery, some gluten-free crackers, and a roll of paper towels: c’mon Mr. Silicon Valley Genius, show me your magic. 

Finally there is the app Dealing With Negative Emotions.  I don’t want to deal with them; I want to act on them.  Anonymously and without repercussion, of course.   What I’d really like is a Voodoo Doll app that lets me literally give a pain in the hindquarters to those who are a pain in mine.  All those who think the terms ‘children’s sports teams’ and ‘snack list’ belong in the same sentence?  You get a big pin, maybe two.  Parents who drive their teenagers to school and don’t require that the prince or princess exit the vehicle until they are EXACTLY IN FRONT OF THE DOOR, you get two big pins and an extra pin for each kid who thinks they’ll perish of exhaustion by walking 25 feet.   That girl on the wireless provider commercial who texts her friend across the table gets several pins through her cell phone thereby rendering it useless.  Telemarketing scammers from “Credit Card Services” will get box of pins as well as a complementary electric shock; think of it as a “gift with purchase”.   And incompetent slack-jawed navel-gazing administrators who overstep the limits of their mandate get an extra special pin, and a free iLobotomy from the Medical apps.  To app developers out there, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet.    When you make something really useful, give me a call.  Until then I’ll be playing Angry Birds.