A few of the millions of apps available. (Source)

A few of the millions of apps available. (Source)

Apps for smartphones have a long way to go, despite all the amazing claims made about them. Science and technology in general, while often miraculous and dazzling, such things as Hubble’s deep space photographs or 3-D printing, lag far behind human needs. While apps have helped people think smartphones are smart, apps are in a relatively primitive state of development compared to the needs of smartphone users.

Let me explain.

I have had what is generally considered a very smart phone for over four years now. Even as I often complain about its shortcomings, I realize my phone is smarter than I am. But it disappoints me more often than I disappoint myself, probably because I like to blame my smartphone and its apps for not doing what I don’t want to do myself.

Shock is what I felt just a minute ago when I counted up a total of eighty-one apps on my smartphone. The last I knew, sometime in the first year of owning my smartphone, I had about thirty apps. Going from thirty to eighty-one has not measurably improved my life, the best I can tell. In fact, when I looked at my apps more carefully, I forgot what many of them are supposed to do, or why what they do is all that important to me in the first place.

At least five apps for recording miscellaneous notes have accrued on my smartphone, each with a system purporting to be superior to the other note-taking apps, but I rarely use any of them. Somehow when I enter a note of something I want to remember on my smartphone, I promptly forget what it was and never think to go back to my notes to see what it was. My old method of writing things I want to remember on sticky notes and keeping them in my field of vision on my desk is superior to trigger my memory.

I have another app for measuring the distance across a room or from one point in a room to a wall, using a laser beam, but the numbers produced on the app are not as precise as using my standard old 50-ft. tape measure. It’s trustworthy, the app isn’t.

Usually it seems I want to use apps when I am away from the house waiting for someone else to do something, like in the waiting room of a doctor’s office or in an oil change facility when I’m trapped with nothing to do but wait. Invariably, the apps I want to use require a wireless connection when none is available.  Then when I get home I have too many things to do to sit down with an app and type in tiny letters with my big, clumsy thumbs.

I need a whole new class of apps to help me, and I suspect these or similar examples would help millions of smartphone users worldwide. Here are my examples:

  1. Carwash App – I like to keep a clean car but don’t like going to a car wash. Neither do I like washing my car myself. I always miss a spot, or streak up my windows. An app that I could rely on to wash my car, right in front of our house, is an app that I’d be willing to pay good money for.
  2. Food App – Some of my Facebook friends have a nasty habit of posting photos of favorite desserts, knowing full well that those of us who see those photos will have an uncomfortable craving. I never want the recipe for these things; I just want a serving of that gorgeous cake or cobbler. Sometimes I post a question that asks, “Is there an app I can use to download a piece of that cake onto a small plate in our kitchen?” So far the answer is no, but such an app is sorely needed for people to get food through cyberspace almost instantly.
  3.  Shoeshine App – I know I need this app when I examine the shoes in my closet to see which ones are less scraped up than others. Choosing the pair that looks best at the time then determines what I choose to wear with those shoes. This seems backwards, all because I don’t like polishing my shoes. So I and probably millions of others would love to have a smartphone app that shines our shoes.

 So I’m hoping that those smart people who develop apps for Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other companies that need apps to increase sales of their wares will make some smarter apps than we have now. It’s easy to imagine thousands of practical problems people face every day that more sophisticated apps could take over, relieving humans of tedium and saving time. We could lead happier lives and have more time to think about how to solve the pressing problems of the world, such as poverty, war, and oceans gradually swallowing up countries, in part or in whole.

      The apps I have called for would require defying a few laws of physics. But I think really smart people will figure out simple things like this. 

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