I admit I’m a bit of an app magpie. I must have hundreds loaded in iTunes—though, by no means, are they all installed on my iPhone or iPads. Many are free and have hardly been used—lots of games fall into this category. They’re free, what the hell? Usually, they engage my interest only fleetingly, if at all. But I can’t bring myself to delete any apps because… you never know…
Another bunch of apps, I acquired in the early days of the iPad because they were “like… wow”! I used to buy them—including musical instrument apps despite the fact that I can’t play any instrument (at least, not tunefully)—to show off the iPad to the unconverted. That’s hardly necessary any more.
Then there’s the “educational” apps that one buys on the premise that they might improve one. Hah!
“Reference” is another substantial category, but with greater utility. By their very nature, reference books are only used occasionally, but it’s nice to have them handy. I have no doubt that, had I been able to afford one when much younger, I would have owned a set of the Encyclopædia Britannica. I do own a copy of the 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary: the special miniature edition where pages have been reduced, so everything fits into two (large) books. It came with a magnifying glass, which I didn’t need when I bought the dictionary; but certainly would now, if there was any need to actually look definitions up in a book—there’s an app for that.
Of course, there’s the “looking for the perfect app for whatever” group. The app you’re using doesn’t quite do it for you; so you buy a different one, then another one, then… I’ve worked my way through a bunch of text editors, and mind mapping apps. Actually, I don’t really mind this. Most apps cost less than a pint, or, in my case, a large gin and tonic, which means it’s perfectly possible to try things out to see what fits. Still, how many frickin’ Twitter clients does the world need?
Sometimes I’ll buy an app because I think it’s looks a good idea. I view my purchase as a vote of support or donation to the developer—the app may or may not be something that I subsequently use regularly. A subset in this category—currently a small sub-group—is apps where my motivation is largely or entirely charitable. The story behind Tree For Cars is that Leo Grand was living homeless in NY (could be a movie title there) and was offered a 100 bucks or coding lessons. Leo chose the lessons and created an app for carpooling in NY. The chance that I will ever use this app in anger is so small as to be indistinguishable from zero. It’s clear from the app reviews that plenty of people were, like me, moved to buy the app by reading about Leo’s story. I hope people will continue to do so.
The last app that I’m going to mention is DashPlus. This ticks several boxes for me. First, it’s based on a really clever idea, which I’d never come across until I stumbled on this app: the Dash/Plus System devised by Patrick Rhone for managing todo lists. Patrick’s system is low tech: paper and whatever writing implement is your personal preference.
David Mendels has done a very nice job of migrating the Dash/Plus system to iOS. Whether it will become a spanner in my app toolbox, supplanting or enhancing something already there, remains to be seen. If it doesn’t, that’s no big deal because the proceeds from app sales will be put towards the School-In-A-Box project. This aims to bring iPads to kids in remote parts of Indonesia, which sounds almost impossible, but they are clearly having an impact. Follow the link for much more detail. First, go buy the app.