Navigating the Wide, Weird World of Mobile Apps

app-store-640On Christmas Day, consumers downloaded more than 328 million mobile apps, according to industry experts.

Without a doubt, mobile devices — tablets and smartphones — were the hot holiday gift. After the wrapping paper was ripped away, people went into a downloading frenzy. In fact, 2012 was a monster year for Apple’s app store, with nearly 20 billion downloads, the tech giant said recently.

Exploring this wide world of mobile apps can be a strange experience. There are plenty of practical and popular apps (everyone needs a flashlight app, right?).

But do you really need iVoodoo? That app allows users to create a virtual voodoo doll of your ex-best friend, lover or boss.

And does your baby need an app? Or your cat? Mobile developers seem to think so.

As it turns out, some of these strange apps (available for Apple’s iOS and Android operating systems) have real-world benefits. Many even eliminate their analog counterparts.

Here are 10 odd apps — but unlike the virtual voodoo doll, they might actually come in handy.

  1. Potty TimeHow young is too young? This app is meant for toddlers, as potty training goes mobile. Its interactive features make an otherwise mundane task fun for everyone involved. To award a toddler for tinkling, parents can set their child up with a mock congratulatory phone call from Rachel of Nick Jr.’s “Signing Times.” The app also has videos, virtual stickers and other rewards.

    Cost: Free. (Available for iOS and Android)

    What it eliminates: Hopefully, potty accidents.

  2. Friskies JitterBugFirst they took over the Internet, now they want our mobile devices, too. This app gives cats plenty of games to keep busy (bugs crawl around the screen, and your kitty is supposed to tap on them with its paw). Other apps aimed at the feline demographic feature virtual lasers.

    Cost: Free. (iOS)

    What it eliminates: Scruffy cat toys lying around the living-room floor.

  3. Dog WhistlerTraining a dog is no easy task. A whistle or a clicker can come in handy so that Fluffy knows when she’s doing something right (or wrong). This app puts that whistle on your phone, allowing you to adjust the frequency and pattern.

    Cost: Free. (iOS/Android)

    What it eliminates: A whistle that is nowhere to be found when Fluffy is peeing on the carpet.

  4. Melon MeterWhen at the grocery store, place your phone against a melon, knock on the surface with consistent pressure and rhythm, and this app will tell you if it’s ripe. According to its creators, the app uses a special algorithm to analyze the sound the melon emits. Sounds sweet.

    Cost: $1.99. (iOS)

    What it eliminates: Bringing home a bad melon.

  5. Bowel MoverThis “healthy digestion” app asks you to evaluate everything from your stress level (not that gross) to the texture of your stool (bleh). The app helps you keep track of your fiber and water intake, which affects your daily bowel movements. You can even share your results via Twitter, but who really needs to share that?

    Cost: Free, $2.99 for the pro version, which eliminates ads. (iOS)

    What it eliminates: A gross-out, detailed notebook. Keep all this intimate info compact and hidden on your phone.

  6. AvocadoThis exclusive messaging service for couples will help you avoid sending embarrassing text messages to your mom instead of your significant other. Couples download the app and create a shared password. Once logged in, you can send private text and photo messages to each other, create lists and calendar events that both of you can view and edit.

    Cost: Free or $19.99 a year for unlimited photo and list sharing services, among other features. (iOS/Android)

    What it eliminates: Excuses for forgetting to bring bread home from the grocery store.

  7. Maybe BabyThis app helps track a woman’s menstrual cycle and when she is ovulating, so that, as the name implies, maybe she can have a baby. The app’s developers claim they can also tell if the baby will be a boy or girl based on the user’s ovulation cycle. There’s a 50-50 chance it’ll be either.

    Cost: $4.99. (iOS)

    What it eliminates: A disorganized pile of notebooks and calendars. Go digital.

  8. SnapguideSnapguide is the ideal app for those who consider themselves visual people. Instead of Grandma writing a step-by-step instruction on how to make her signature enchiladas, you can snap photos and assemble a recipe with words, photos and videos. You can then share the recipe with others on Snapguide and your other social networks.

    Cost: Free. (iOS)

    What it eliminates: Having to call Grandma 10 times while attempting to make dinner.

  9. Ban.joCritics have called this one the ultimate stalker app. uses location services on a smartphone and maps out the location of your friends based on their Twitter or Facebook posts. It also allows you to see strangers in your area who have posted public messages.

    Cost: Free. (iOS)

    What it eliminates: Private investigators and tracking devices.

  10. Gangnm DanceboothPsy’s “Gangnam Style” music video has more than 1.1 billion hits on YouTube, making it the most viewed clip of all time. There are also mounds of parody videos, but maybe you want to see what you look like dancing Gangnam Style. This app allows you to attach a head shot onto a dancing Psy and then records a video that you can share with your friends.

    Cost: Free. (iOS/Android)

    What it eliminates: Nothing, really. It’s just funny.

Star Tribune, Minneapolis

(c)2013 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)


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