25 March 2010

Appy Now?

One of the delights of being a new iPhone user is entry to the candy store that is the App Store (short for applications, nothing to do with the Apple name). Once you've downloaded the obligatory dull-but-usefuls (Facebook, LinkedIn), you can start to explore the crazier end of the spectrum, and wonder at the quirky pockets of humanity who create some of these things. Yesterday I came across an app to show you the meanings of all UK roadsigns, and I wondered how many drivers were on our roads who didn't know what the signs meant, driving one handed with iPhone in the other.

Almost picking at random, from the current Top 10 list, is an app called 'More Toast!' For a mere 59p, this app lets you make "virtual toast" and "swap recipes" (no, really). It comes in the "lifestyle" category, which makes me wonder about the lives of those who feel the need to look at pixelated bread products and enjoy the sound of a toaster popping when they're away from home. Once upon a time, computer simulations used to transport us to fantasy worlds, interstellar wars and middle earth troll villages. Now they are used to recreate the mundane so we can share it with each other as testament to our common humanity, along with our bowel movements and LOLs via Twitter, MySpace and all the other social media channels.

Fisher-Price recently raised some eyebrows when it made some iPhone apps for 2-year-olds (story here), at last debunking the myth that mobile phones are serious business tools, and not something to mess around on while waiting for the bus. And with iPhone apps set to outsell CDs within two years, it makes sense to start early with the next generation of consumers. But what sort of a generation are we creating?

Back in the last century when I was learning about marketing, the concept of a "felt need" - a problem you didn't realise you had until someone showed you a solution - was usually illustrated by the example of an electric toothbrush. Now I expect marketing course teachers simply point to any one of 1,000 iPhone apps, from The Perfect Egg Timer to Fart Machine Extreme. With apps being created to cater not just for the merest whim, but the most unlikely set of circumstances, will our children no longer learn to tie their laces upon our instruction, but download the relevant app? Well, they would if their shoes had laces in them anymore.

No comments: