Mobile apps

Posted On: October 18, 2023

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The good, the bad and the useless

There is a popular saying that “there is an app for everything”.

This may be true to a certain extent, but there are many apps out there that are absolutely useless. In this article we will look at the history and current spectrum of apps. I will also quickly review a few of my “must-have” apps – and invite you to do the same!

A short history of apps

The introduction of smartphones in the mid-2000s, particularly with the launch of the iPhone in 2007, revolutionized the concept of applications. The App Store, launched by Apple in 2008, provided a centralized platform for users to discover and download apps. Android followed suit with the Android Market (later rebranded as Google Play).

With the rapid growth of mobile apps, came the creation of app ecosystems for various platforms. Developers started creating a wide range of apps for different purposes, from social networking and communication to productivity and entertainment.

Advancements in technology, such as improved hardware capabilities, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI), influenced the development of more sophisticated and feature-rich apps.

The concept of apps then expanded beyond smartphones to include other devices, such as tablets, smartwatches, smart TVs, and smart home devices. Each of these platforms developed its own app ecosystem.

Today, there are 8.93 million smartphone apps worldwide, with 3.553 million apps in the Google Play Store and 1.642 million in the Apple App Store. It is estimated that smartphone users have an average of 40 apps installed on their mobile devices.

Apps for everything

This is a brief look at the spectrum of apps available:

Productivity and Organization Apps: Apps like calendars, to-do lists, note-taking apps, and project management tools help users stay organized and manage their time efficiently.

Communication Apps: Messaging apps, video conferencing apps, and social media platforms facilitate communication and connection with others.

Health and Fitness Apps: From fitness tracking and workout apps to meditation and mental health apps, there’s a wide range of applications designed to promote physical and mental well-being. (see our blog from last week).

Finance Apps: Banking apps, budgeting apps, investment platforms, and mobile payment apps offer users convenient ways to manage their finances.

Entertainment Apps: Streaming services, gaming apps, and digital content platforms provide endless entertainment options.

Travel and Navigation Apps: GPS navigation apps, travel planning apps, and language translation apps make travel more accessible and enjoyable.

Food and Cooking Apps: Recipe apps, food delivery apps, and restaurant review platforms cater to food enthusiasts and those looking for convenient dining options.

Education Apps: Learning platforms, language learning apps, and educational games offer a variety of resources for both formal and informal learning.

Shopping Apps: E-commerce apps, price comparison apps, and coupon apps make shopping more convenient and cost-effective.

News and Information Apps: News aggregators, weather apps, and information-sharing platforms keep users informed about current events and topics of interest.

Photography and Creativity Apps: Photo editing apps, graphic design tools, and creative platforms allow users to express themselves through visual content.

Smart Home Apps: Apps that control smart home devices, thermostats, security systems, and other IoT (Internet of Things) devices contribute to home automation.

Work and Business Apps: Business productivity tools, project management apps, and collaboration platforms support professional tasks and workflows.

Utilities: Miscellaneous apps such as flashlight apps, unit converters, and QR code scanners provide utility in various situations.

The app ecosystem is dynamic and continuously evolving, with developers constantly innovating to address new needs and opportunities. The diversity of apps enhances the functionality and versatility of mobile devices, making them powerful tools for both personal and professional use.

Most popular apps

According to Business of Apps, the top 5 apps of 2022 globally were:

  1. TikTok: 672 million downloads
  2. Instagram: 548 million downloads
  3. Facebook: 449 million downloads
  4. WhatsApp: 424 million downloads
  5. CapCut (TikTok editor): 357 million downloads

A few good apps… and more!

Here are just a few of my favourite “must have” apps…

NRL

In Papua New Guinea we love NRL. The official app has all the news, videos, draws, ladders, results, team lists, stats and match summaries of various competitions. It’s an essential knowledge base for Rugby League.

Most other major sport organisations have apps. I also have Cricket Australia Live – not just for Australian Cricket but world-wide matches and results. The news and information in these apps by far exceed anything you will find in the sports sections of newspapers.

Canon Camera Connect, Nikon SnapBridge, GoPro Quik, etc

These are good examples of an interface between product and smartphone, allowing you to take your photography to the next level. Control your camera via your phone, send high-quality photos from your camera to phone for editing and sharing. These apps also keep your camera and lenses working perfectly with latest firmware releases that often unlock new features.

TikTok

For me, TikTok is a source of raw, breaking news, and some amazing short, creative video clips.

Check out highlights of the Rugby World Cup… with close-up, slo-mo and mood-enhancing music.

For some rare video on Papua New Guinea visit the Happy Gardening page.

TikTok is all about enhanced video but it’s also a haven for fake news, conspiracy theories and propaganda. That’s what also makes it interesting. Make sure to validate anything you “learn” on TikTok by using Google to check background, facts and authenticity.

Unfortunately, there is also a lot of rubbish and lame content on TikTok. Trashy content is hard to weed out and will also chew up your data.

The upshot is that TikTok is far more entertaining than TV and it’s highly addictive! (not sure if that’s a good or bad thing… LOL).

Oh, and a final word of advice. As with all social and communications media (Facebook, WhatsApp, blogs etc) it’s probably best to remain a passive observer unless you know how to communicate effectively.

Don’t embarrass yourself!

Photo Translator

A handy app if you are in a foreign country trying to decipher the local language.

The app is also useful in Papua New Guinea as so many products are imported and there doesn’t seem to be any enforcement given the fact that English is legally the language of choice (the Constitution is written in English, the legal system uses English, expatriate workers are supposed to be proficient in English… LOL).

So, when you get home and find out that the instructions for the electronic appliance you just bought are written in what appears to be chicken-scratch, fear not! Snap a photo with your smartphone, run it through the photo-translator app, it will recognise the foreign language and the words will miraculously appear in English.

There are also many language translation apps available. My preference is Google Translate which not only translates written language, but also has a voice translator, converting spoken language into your preferred language. There are 133 languages available on Google Translate, although not all support voice input, or text-to-speech. Tok Pisin is not yet available, but it is in development.


Do you have a favorite (or most useless) app?

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