47 Most Fascinating Apps

Sunday, October 24, 2010

About a year ago I passed one of my favorite haunts in the middle of the night & a homeless guy was standing under neon lights begging for spare change.  He had his hand out for alms but at the same time he was talking on a cell phone.  What's wrong with this picture?  It is a crazy world we live in.  A schizophrenic one.  People starving & our biggest concern is what "app" to add to our "smartphone".  (I think app stands for application or apparition or appropriate or something like that.)

$.99.  Two bucks.  Three dollars.  FREE.  There are millions to be made buying/selling additional purposes for a telephone.  They are practically traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  Apps are what makes iPHONEs, DROIDs, BLACKBERRYs, PALMs brilliant.  CAVEAT EMPTOR.  There are lots of gimmicks.

Before there were apps, "fanatics" could track the latest sports scores & team updates.  Husbands & boyfriends could follow their favorite teams surreptitiously under the dinner table or in the shadows at the ballet.  Almost from the beginning it was possible to phone in for play-by-play.  Today every bit of insider information is available & you can participate in recruiting, trades, betting, MADDEN NFL & fantasy football.  They practically make you a member of the franchise.

If your time is valuable, Type A personalities can buy clothes, shoes, groceries, cars & repairs with the flick of a dedicated button on an LCD.  People who embrace the technology but are not comfortable with old school methods can 1) find restaurants in a new city 2) tell friends where you are having dinner 3) invite them to join you 4) critique the meal, service & price without putting your phone down.  Type B's can use similar services to relax at a secluded corner cafe or neighborhood bar.

I never leave home on assignment without my GPS anymore.  I used to rent one at every new location but after buying my own I even downloaded another continent so I could drive around a foreign country.  Talking from the middle of my windshield, this cousin of HAL once demanded I take a right in the middle of a bridge.  Now there are apps that tell you where you are, where you are going, where you have been & imaginary places.  I have a friend who created an app to guide urban sightseeing tours.  It features audio histories & photographs & advertisements.  The GPS adds virtual maps & GOOGLE EARTH lets you see the license plate on the car parked in front of your house.  Apparently one paranoid guy sued for invasion of privacy.

There are travel services to help plan a trip, make plane reservations, update arrival/departure status, book hotels & attach additional perks.   The travel magazines are crammed with new trip planners in every issue.  EXPEDIA, ORBITZ & many others have flooded the market to make your vacation informed & effortless.  Phones are capable of taking the pictures, archiving the text, recording sound & doing the research.  You can study history, read travelogues, translate language & perfect pronunciation.  After you return--actually while you are still there--you can call upon an app to "scrapbook" your adventures & make your friends jealous.

Apps will seek out new recipes, do your taxes, convert your money, calculate the amount for tipping, rally your supposed FACEBOOK friends, find you a boyfriend/girlfriend, even boost your ego.  MATCH.com & eHARMONY should jump on this.

Teenage cell phone users are heavy television viewers, Internet browsers & video game players.  (Kids don't talk anymore, they text.) Gaming has long been a mainstay of new technology: computers & iPADs glow with colors, resonate with sound effects & spew hardware to enhance the experience.  Showcasing improved graphics, games have been made smaller for phones.  DOODLE JUMP & MYST have spawned many clones & imitators & have been surpassed by each new generation.  We have come a long way from PONG(click to play) & online solitaire.  What began as resistance against parental authority & reality, is now college course curriculum.

Apps teach you how to read, write better essays, improve your grades, take tests, get into Harvard & review for the bar exam.  You are holding your entire education in the palm of your hand.  Literally.  School may soon be an anachronism.  But what would be printed on your diploma.

Every cellphone is bundled with a camera now.  Take a picture of an object, download it to the appropriate source & like a bird dog, it will hunt down a retailer where you can buy it.  The picture resolution rivals DSLRs.  After you take a picture, you can apply postproduction apps that mask your artistic shortcomings.  Convert it to black/white, turn it into a vintage print, make it look like POLAROID &, God forbid, make it resemble a painting.

There are apps for Trekkies, trekkers, techies & truckers.  Others for geeks, goons & terrorists.  There are medical, health & nutrition apps.  You can lose weight, gain muscle, buy a cookbook & calculate caloric intake.  Be doctors, lawyers.  Can Indian chiefs be far behind?  Outsource & multitask.  "Resistance is futile."

Every major magazine has followed suit & publishes an app.  You can have your newspaper delivered to your house or, instead, peruse your laptop over morning coffee.  Some media feels compelled to give the information away for free but some others come only with subscription.   The WALL STREET JOURNAL comes to mind.

In any metropolitan area you can search for  a movie & buy tickets with FANDANGO & any number of other apps or download them to a KINDLE & watch films in an even "darker" room.  Get the schedule of your favorite television shows & watch an entire season on the smallest "fourth screen".

Who was your birth mother?  Want to find out if you were really adopted?  Advertisements for ANCESTRY.com are everywhere.  It browses census records for family trees.  Other formats reunite you to your classmates & friends through social security numbers, jail records & virtual private investigators.

Apps will play music, compose music, identify music.  Ring, chime & PING.  PANDORA can edit a playlist from your preferences, SLACKER too.  Oldies, Jazz, metal, folk, saxophone, clavier, contrapuntal, semidemiquaver & mix to taste.

Filling a need, someone has written software to put babies to sleep & to wake adults up in the morning.  Scientists have performed studies to determine when during REM sleep it is optimum to be awakened--the exact time you will be freshest & alert.  There is an app for that.

Rumor has it there is one that allows you to register & run a political campaign but I still have to verify that.  However it is a fact that your phone can tell you which way the "wind is blowing" or where the sun will shine & at the very least, which direction the compass is pointing.

And do not forget sex.  APPLE claims not to have pornography available.  But that does not stop enterprising entrepeneurs.  You can jiggle boobs & butts on your phone, utilize the highspeed vibration setting or accurately evaluate your sexual prowess by measuring the amount of activity & noise by laying your handheld on the pillow next to you in bed.  Sexting has given another meaning to social networking. With such capabilities why do we ever leave home?

Last week I bought an app that even allowed me to make phone calls.  Cost me a fortune.


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blog (blŏg, bläg) n. 1. short for Weblog 2. online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer 3. diary that is posted on the Internet 4. an experiment to verbalize my observations about the status of photography. It will be eclectic & deal with philosophy & practice of this universal art form. It will strive for periodic commentary about issues many photographers face, like ownership and the economy. It will also talk about pictures and what makes good ones and how to get them. No hardware. No software. No recycled clichés. No whining.