Variety

It's app all the way

Updated on: Apr 26, 2012
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The world has gone apps-crazy. And developers want the tiny gadget to do every job on earth - whether needed or not.

Think: how many of the applications on your mobile phone do you use? Four? Eight? Twenty four? Not more than that surely?

Then why do we have so many million mobile applications thrown our way every other day. And most of them free, too.

I can understand the mobile doubling as one's bank account, as a property hunter, as a cab finder, even as a pizza locator. A friend told me the other day about the cheap thrills his son got with an app that told him where the pizza he was waiting for was at the moment.

But why in the world would you want an app that calculates the horsepower of your car? Or one that tells you what your face would look like if you got plastic surgery done?

Every other day a press release lands in our office about one new app or the other. Last week, travel company Make My Trip unleashed an app where you could find out which among your friends was travelling at the same time, same zone. Talk of taking the fun out of unexpected run-ins.

Not to be outdone, Dutch airline KLM, which has already grabbed global headlines with its Meet and Seat App that tries to find ideal seat partners for passengers, has now gone and launched KLM Predictions.

This app predicts which place you are likely to travel to next. And how do they know, pray? It seems the thing milks your social media profile, gauges your interests from the digital footprint you leave behind on the Internet, and comes up with a likely location.

But all these apps look rather sane when you consider the pregnancy evolution one. At the press of a button you can share the “joy of your baby's development” with your loved ones. Apparently the app will pass on info that the baby in the womb is progressing from the size of a seed to the size of an orange and then a melon. How wacky is that?

The apps bug has bitten all sorts of people. Practically every other person I meet nowadays seems to be developing a mobile application. At AdTech, the forum for digital marketers, it was understandable meeting mobile apps developers by the dozens — peddling one zany idea after another which they believed was the next big killer app.

But imagine meeting a fellow journo at the Jaipur Litt fest, and hearing him talk about the new app he was making for Facebook. Social media, I discover, is a big culprit — everybody wants to make an app that Facebook would love to buy, and make their million that way. Even artists are bitten by the bug — the contemporary art duo of Sumir Tagra and Jiten Thukral are busy doing an art project that uses mobile apps.

During a conversation on the sidelines of AdTech, Ogilvy Japan president Kent Wertime likened the mobile apps development movement to the dotcom explosion of the 1990s. He should know - he's been getting a ringside view of it in Japan, Korea and China - the countries where the craze and momentum are at their peak.

When usability researcher Jan Chipchase of Frog Design was in town, I asked him about the “usability” of all these apps - why are thousands of mobile apps developers spending their time and money on this work? His counter: “Why not?” Unless you design and develop apps, how do you know which are the apps you want and you don't, he asks. Oh, well, guess we are in for app happy times for a long time.

Published on May 16, 2012

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