Scitech | Should there really be an app for that?

A look at the absurd, the offensive, and the potentially amusing in mobile technology

Regardless of Apple’s seemingly overwhelming popularity with younger generations, the iPhone is far from being a ubiquitous purchase. While some will find it necessary to own each of Steve Jobs’s new products, many of this phone’s features, including the Wi-Fi network, email software, and batteries, have been criticized. This, along with the heavy price tag, may not make the iPhone a must-have purchase for everyone.

Those who own one, however, will likely attest to the applications’ integral role in making the iPhone an attractive option, and perhaps some of these claims are warranted – access to dictionaries, maps, a GPS system, and games are undoubtedly useful. But like any widely used platform, the apps available quickly descend into the absurd and the just plain useless.

Langu
There is no shortage of parents who will go to any lengths to give their kids a head start in the academic world. So it makes sense that there be iPhone apps designed and marketed as learning tools. Developed by Wired.com’s Geekdad to help kids learn both English and Mandarin, Langu is a prime example. But let’s think for a second: no matter how concerned you are with your child’s intellectual development, would you really let them use your iPhone? Probably not. Would you buy them their own? Again, it’s pretty unlikely. So for crying out loud, do everyone a favour, and go buy a pack of alphabet flashcards.

Cry Translator
Continuing on with more inept parenting techniques, here’s an app that claims it can translate your baby’s every sound. Most of you will think that this is impossible, and I would agree with you. But the creators clearly don’t think so, since they’re charging $30 for it. Even though it does feature tips for calming your child, as well as an easy-to-access emergency number directory, it seems like the main purpose of this app is to reassure overly-anxious parents. You want my advice? Feed the kid, keep it clean, be attentive, and you’re good to go.

iGirl
I get it, there are some really lonely people out there – people whom I want to hug. And then there are the people who bought this app. Those people I just want to smack. iGirl is a virtual girlfriend who, according to her creators, you can have for “less than the price of a coffee or beer.” She talks! She dances! She “obeys!” You design her and you can control her. You can even “blow her, shake her, touch her and more!” I don’t know how exactly, since there is apparently no nudity, but she’s just that accommodating. Oh, and the best part? She’s multilingual. And we all know that that’s the most important thing in a virtual girlfriend.

Lightsaber Unleashed
I’ll admit, I kind of like this one. For all the geeks who used to play make-believe Star Wars – admit it, you’re one of us – who wouldn’t want to wave their iPhone around making lightsaber sounds? It tracks the movement of the phone, and makes the corresponding sounds featured in the movies. And as an added bonus, it’s free. I call being Yoda.

Puff!
There are some pervy people in the world. And some of them own iPhones. Enter “Puff!” – an app that offers access to a wide variety of interactive photographs of Asian girls, for only 99 cents. But if the target audience of this app is racial fetish aficionados, the creators fall dreadfully short of the mark. The pictures are of fully-clothed, wholesome-looking girls, and even though blowing into your phone’s microphone or rapidly scrolling your finger up and down can create a “breeze” that will lift up the girl’s skirt, all you’ll get is a little squeal and a glimpse of appropriately-sized underwear. The harder you blow, the higher the skirt goes and the louder she squeaks, but by treading the line between offensive and straight-up vulgar, this app is just plain confusing. Either way, I’m pretty sure that even if your ideal fantasy is grafting an Asian fetish onto a classic Marilyn Monroe moment, you’ll look like a fool blowing into your phone, and eventually, you’ll get bored.

No one will deny that the iPhone plays an intrinsic role in the evolution of mobile technology, but the whole concept behind the applications has become so unwieldy. There are hundreds of thousands of applications, and millions of reviews. There are even apps that help you find your ideal apps. In a situation where so many developers are vying to outdo each other, novelty becomes the best weapon, and this seems to lead to applications becoming worthless. The greatest challenge facing iPhone users today might very well be keeping their phones free of clutter.


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