Top 10 Stupid iPhone Tricks
The iTunes app store has hundreds of great programs that serve genuinely useful purposes, whether for work or for play. It also has its fair share of junk -- dumb, gimmicky applications that have no real reason for being, even if some of them are free, writes Chris Maxcer. Here are 10 apps -- or types of apps -- that do little else than take up space in the store and make it harder to find the good stuff.
08/21/08 4:00 AM PT
By just about any measure, the Apple iPhone App Store has been an astounding success. It reportedly did US$30 million in business in its first 30 days, during which time users downloaded 60 million applications. For a store that didn't exist before the launch of the 3G iPhone in July, that's pretty damn impressive.
Still, by lighting up the world with so many cool third-party iPhone applications, Apple has also opened the door to deeper, dumber issues -- like the $999 "I Am Rich" application that eight people managed to buy before Apple had the sense to yank it from the store altogether. There's a walkthrough online, but basically it just offers the "rich" (or formerly rich) owner a glowing graphic of a ruby and a super-stupid "I deserv it (sic)" mantra.
While the "I Am Rich" app is clearly quite useless, how might other apps make the grade? The criteria are totally subjective, of course, but basically it comes down to this: If the apps don't fulfill a real need, if their implementation is pathetic, or if they are just plain dumb and stupid, they make the list. The app is just taking up space and wasting our collective lives as we try to dig through the crap to find the true gems in the App Store.
A few people, of course, may find some of these apps indispensable, in which case Apple should create a new category or at least filter them for the rest of us. Either way, in the spirit of painfully dumb iPhone apps, here are the 10 stupidest iPhone tricks currently available in the iTunes App Store.
The Beauty of Inanimate Objects
10. Tip Calculators: There are over a dozen applications, most selling for $0.99, that help you calculate the amount you should tip for a meal or drinks, and they all make me embarrassed to own an iPhone. In fact, maybe this is why AT&T was able to slap an extra $10 per month on the service plan for the iPhone 3G ... no one could figure out that meant an extra $120 a year out of their bank accounts. Seriously, there are iPhone owners who not only need help with the math -- 15 or 20 percent of a total -- they need help calculating what they should tip if the service is just mediocre.
If I had a buddy who pulled out a tip calculator, I'd slap him on the spot. And then I'd ask, "Quick, what's 20 percent of $10?" If he couldn't answer "$2" within a few seconds, I'd give him the answer and slap him again. Eventually, he'd figure out that a 20 percent tip for a $30 check is $6. And for the record, I sincerely believe this sort of app must make Apple CEO Steve Jobs very, very sad.
9. SimStapler: This free application features the image of an old-school Mac OS 9 desktop with a stapler in a window on the desktop and a human finger that pushes the stapler down when you tap the stapler. And it makes a stapler noise. That's it. There's no prank associated with the app like in the TV show "The Office" where Jim puts Dwight's stapler in Jell-O. But it's a free app, right? Sorry. No excuse. People have finite lives, and this app is wasting those lives.
8. iBeer: OK, this $2.99 app has some serious fanboys -- teenagers, I'm guessing. Certainly not real beer drinkers. Basically, it uses the iPhone's accelerometer to simulate a glass of beer on the iPhone's screen. Tip it up to drink it and the beer will "drain" out of the iPhone. I don't know about you, but if I pulled this out in front of my beer drinking buddies, I'm pretty sure they would lock me in a closet and make me "drink" alone until the battery went dark. The seller also makes iMilk, which goes for a similar sight gag. Is this the best iPhone owners can do to get a little attention?
The Tough Task of Random Number Selection
7. Crazy Fire Apps: There's a handful of $0.99 (or free) apps that simulate the real flame of a cigarette lighter. Some of them even respond to motion. It's a sight gag, sure, but also there's the idea that you could whip this out at the next rock concert you're at and wave it in the air. You would be so cool.
6. Mating Call: There are two "Mating Call" apps selling for $0.99: one for males and one for females. And no, they don't generate a series of appreciative grunts and whistles when a receptive person ambles into the vicinity. All they do is provide a quick-dial app for calling your significant other. It gives you fast one-tap dialing, which isn't a terrible idea, but slap it in a pink or blue wrapper, and it's just gaudy. There's also the Girlfriend Caller, which does the same thing but also tracks how many times you call her. Note to iPhone-loving geeks with girlfriends: Look, she should call you. The only reason to call her more than twice a week is to come unlock the closet door because your beer-drinking buddies saw you pull the iBeer gag. (And if you try to install "his and hers" apps on your iPhones, your relationship will last another three days, tops.)
5. Roulette Helper: This $0.99 app supposedly might help you make decisions while playing roulette, but it doesn't improve your odds, just your ability to possibly make a quicker decision to bet. Las Vegas casinos, however, won't be concerned that you're going to take the house and walk away a winner -- but they'll still kick you out for bringing down the respectability of game.
4. Lucky Lotto: This $0.99 helps you randomly pick lottery numbers. You'd think whoever buys this might realize their buck could be better spent elsewhere -- even on another lottery ticket.
Better Not Bring This Rubber Duck Into the Bath Tub
3. Crazy Disco: This $0.99 just rocketed to the No. 1 spot in Apple's Top Paid Apps list, thereby again cluttering up the otherwise awesome App Store. Like so many apps of dubious distinction, this one features a graphic that you can manipulate -- a disco ball. The seller says, "Cement your place as 'Mr. Cool' when you enter the room groovin' to the beat." Good point here: If there's one thing that's going to make everyone know who's cool, it's a dude dancing around and flashing an iPhone.
2. Rubber Duck: This $0.99 app is a graphic of a rubber duck. You push the image on your screen and it squeaks. Take that Microsoft Windows Mobile phones! How do you like them apples, Mr. BlackBerry? And Android ... you don't even have a device yet, much less a rubber duck! I'm pretty sure that when Steve Jobs held the big press conference earlier this year with his private equity investor buddies from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, they were thinking they'd find a lot of great squeaky toys to invest in.
1. iDemocrat and iRepublican: These two free apps show graphics of a red, white and blue donkey or elephant along with the proclamation "Proud to be Democrat" or "Proud to be Republican." The seller noted on the app description: "When I did this, I wanted it to be something you download, install and bring to all your election rallies and hold it out like [a] torch." Seriously. Because that's what we want to see on TV ... the next leader of the free world looking out over a sea of people holding up their iPhones with glorious red, white, and blue donkeys and elephants.
So yeah, some of these Apps not only get in my way as I try to find useful applications, they offend the sense of progress that comes with innovative devices like the iPhone. Maybe Jobs is anticipating the moment when he'll be able to look out over the audience at the next Macworld conference in January and see a bunch of virtual lighters swaying in tune with his next-big-thing announcement.
But I think not.