On Apps: Do We Really Care About Our Apps?

So pretty much anyone who knows me knows I’m an Apple enthusiast (OK, fanboi works fine too) and I’m pretty much my family and workplace’s resident Apple evangelist a la John Gruber from Daring Fireball and Guy Kawasaki.

Yet all that Apple love doesn’t necessarily translate to App love. This got me to thinking about what I really think about the dozens of apps I currently have on my 16 GB iPhone 5. So I decided to go page by page and investigate. I think this will also pull double duty as an early Spring App Cleaning exercise, so to keep in that spirit, I will write ‘Keep’ or “Delete’ for each app. So here goes (I will exclude Apple’s ‘undeletable’ apps).

In honor of my film-buffery of yesteryear, the ‘Divisions’ will be named after movies, both known and more obscure.

Page 1 (Untouchables Division)

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1. The Verge – There’s a reason it’s on first page. Easy KEEP.

2. Facebook – We all love to hate it. But let’s face it, we still KEEP.

3. Downcast – Apple’s built-in podcast solution sucks. This rocks. KEEP.

4. Audiogalaxy – My whole, ahem, legal music collection in one app. KEEP.

5. Air Video – My whole, ahem, legal video collection in one app. KEEP.

6. Bejeweled Blitz – 60 sec games. Leaderboards. Family infighting over scores. Definite KEEP.

Page 2 (Touch of Evil Division)

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7. Amazon Cloud Player – I buy songs on Amazon (yes, it happens), and voila! it appears here. KEEP.

8. Number Guru – Weird numbers calling you? This reverse-lookup app puts spammers on blast. KEEP.

9. WatchESPN – Live ESPN anywhere. On demand games. No brainer KEEP.

10. Viber – First casualty. only two friends on it and now I have unlimited texting again. DELETE.

11. Find My iPhone – Have all my iOS devices registered. Hope I never need to use it. KEEP.

12. Instagram – Barely use this. More of a gawker here. Borderline case. Barely KEEP.

13. Angry Birds Space – Fun app while it lasted. But others have supplanted it. DELETE.

14. Apple Store App (NOT App Store) – I’m broke right now so, um, DELETE.

15. Fandango – Lightweight. Useful. KEEP.

16. Camera+ – Lisa Bettany is brilliant. A genius. But DELETE anyway.

17. Photosync – Lets me upload all my media to a host of cloud services and my PC. KEEP.

18. NextDraft – 10 news stories a weekday presented in a snarky tone. What’s not to like. KEEP.

19. Skype – Not pretty but it works. KEEP.

20. Amazon Mobile – I use Safari mostly, but this lets you scan UPCs!! KEEP.

21. Pandora – See Untouchables Division. KEEP.

22. BatteryDoctor – Use this to full-cycle charge my iDevices. Haven’t a clue if it matters, but KEEP anyway.

23. Remote – Now that I have an Apple TV, it’s indispensable. KEEP.

24. AT&T – Yes they are the Death Star Evil Empire of Telcos. But hey who wants to dial 611? KEEP.

25, Cinemagram – My thoughts are well documented. GIFs rule! KEEP.

Page 3 (Casualties of War Division)

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26. Flow Free – You connect tubes without crossing them. Kinda hypnotizing. KEEP.

27. IMDB – Before my time as a hubby and daddy, movies were my life. This hearkens back. KEEP.

28. Google Drive – Oh here come the cloud services. Barely use but it’s Google. Everywhere. KEEP.

29. Google Earth – Neat parlor trick I barely use. Novelty worn off. Google can be DELETEd.

30. Walgreens – I got this ’cause my sister told me ’bout a free 8×10 offer. First ‘unwrapped’ app. DELETE.

31. Target – B&M still the better experience w/Target. DELETE.

32. CNN – When I itch for non-tech news, it gets the job done. KEEP.

33. Kindle – I really need to read more. KEEPing it will remind me to catch up on my backlog, even if futilely.

34. Sleep Cycle – Another ‘unwrapped’ app. Involves tucking my phone into my fitted sheet. Um, DELETE.

35. Amazon Local – Amazon’s answer to Groupon. I’m an Amazon fanboi, so KEEP.

36. Flickr – I heard it got a fresh new redesign. Still don’t care. DELETE.

37. Google Maps – Head and shoulders above Apple’s built-in maps solution. Can’t lie. A no doubt KEEP.

38. GoToMyPC – A total turd of an app. Not ready for touchscreen closeup. DELETE.

39. Amazon Instant Video – Free streaming with my (soon expiring) Prime account. Like I said, fanboi. KEEP.

40. Slickdeals – I spend an unhealthy amount of time on SD…on Safari. App is meh. DELETE.

41. Google – Kitchen sink included. No, really, there’s a kitchen sink mini app in there I think. If not there ought to be. KEEP.

42. AmazonMP3 – Not a real app, but more useful than most. Lets me buy Amazon MP3s within Safari. Reminds me to stay legal. KEEP.

43. Temple Run 2 – So much better than original. But I think I’m already done. DELETE.

44. iHeartRadio – Another unopened gem that just can’t crack my rotation. Priorities killed the radio app. DELETE.

Page 4 (There Will be Blood Division)

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45. Groupon – My sister has picked up some nice deals lately, but it’s not how I fish for deals. DELETE.

47. Khan Archiver – Listen, Sal Khan might be the educational trailblazer this country’s broken system needs:

That profound statement being said, this really works better on iPad’s official app. DELETE.

48. Pocket Climb – Fun while it lasted. Like with many iOS apps, flames burn out almost instantly. DELETE.

49. ESPN ScoreCenter – I refresh ESPN.com on Safari all the time when my teams play. DELETE.

50. SpellTower – Yet another trendy, slickly designed word game. Never got totally into it. Bye bye. DELETE.

51. TED – Another educational tool better served on a 9.7″ screen. DELETE.

52. Wikipanion – Don’t use it much, but I’ve always liked minimalist design. KEEP.

53. Engadget – Used to be a contender. Then The Verge happened. Game over. DELETE.

54. Shazam – When I need it, it never works. I’ve deleted you before. I’ll do it again. DELETE.

55. QRReader – Cool to have. Seldom use. Doesn’t offend. KEEP.

56. eBay – Going though a bit of a renaissance. Been a member since ’03. Loyalty matters. KEEP.

57. Letterpress – Another turn-based word game I loved and left. Let me finish that last game you see in the badge and DELETE.

58. iZip – I was hunting for a free app to unzip cloud files. Forgot how terrible it is to do real work on iDevices. DELETE.

59. LinkedIn – A pleasant surprise. Lightweight and easy to navigate. KEEPer.

60. Bad Piggies – Thinking man’s version of aviary-on-swine combat. My head hurts. DELETE.

61. YouTube Capture – Simple yet effective. Uploads right into YouTube account. Now supports 1080p. KEEP.

62. WordCollapse – My wife got me into this. This was her discovery. Again, loyalty counts. KEEP.

63. SoundCloud – Don’t use it much but my creative nephew produces original stuff on it, so there’s that loyalty thing. KEEP.

64. RunKeeper – Remember when I said I needed to catch up on reading? Need to do same for running. Yeah right. DELETE.

65. Scary Prank – Did I drunk-download this?? I have no recollection. Looks like a screen grab from the movie ‘Mama.’ DELETE.

Page 5 (Clueless Division)

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66. Lotto – I played lotto when it was $678 gazillion. Lazy to check website. Yeah, still poor. DELETE.

67. PayPal – Unwrapped ’cause I re-downloaded. Useful still — when I actually spend money. KEEP.

68. Pinterest – Um, how did this get here? I haven’t the faintest. Gotta lay off the sauce. DELETE.

69. Seuss ABC – My boy LOVES books. Book apps? Um, not so much. Will revisit when he’s properly iOS addicted. DELETE.

70. Angry Birds Star Wars – Has all the makings of greatness, but it’s tied to a tiring franchise. DELETE.

71. Call of Duty Elite – I can track all my head-shot stats in multiple games. Did I mention I love stats? KEEP.

72./73. – Jasmine & McTube – Two 3rd party YouTube solutions that I should but don’t use. DELETE.

74. Smart Office 2 – Did I not already mention it’s near impossible to get real work done on iDevices? DELETE.

75. Solitaire – My wife digs this. Me? Not since the old Pentium I days. Fulfilled my husbandly obligation with #62. DELETE.

76. NFL Kicker 13 – Full NFL license. Flick-kicking game. Fireworks. Coffin-corner punting. Zany dances. KEEP.

77. SkyDrive – Another cloud storage solution. You think Android is fragmented? Try untangling my cloud storage web. KEEP.

78. Spotify – I’d kept it just in case I qualify for another free premium trial. Like in a year. DELETE.

79. 24me – I’m so disorganized. So naturally I expect an app to save me from myself. Um, have you seen my iOS app shelf? DELETE.

80. Hundreds – The indie game darling of 2013. It’s deceptively simple. But oh does it ratchet up. Still digging this. KEEP.

81. Vine – 6-second micro films. Once the penises are removed, this thing will be golden. KEEP.

82. WordPress – Another stripped down version of the real thing. Needs more features. Barely KEEP.

Page 6 (The Half-Baked Division)

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(Author’s note: This is actually Page 2 on my app shelf, but my absent-minded self just skipped right past it. Too lazy to go back and re-number. Not happening.)

83. Google Chrome – Not as good on iOS as it is on Windows, but still high quality. Could do without excess swiping gestures. KEEP.

84. WhatsApp – Back in my pay-per-text days, it was essential. Now? Rotting on the shelf. DELETE.

85. MusicSparkle – Neat kids music with a bunch of instruments. Gotta have some kind of kid app representation. KEEP.

86. SmartGlass – Lets me control my Xbox. Great for Explorer on Xbox and checking Live account. KEEP.

87. Trailers – Apple app with nice HD trailers. KEEP.

88. Facebook Messenger – Solid standalone solution, though I hate the way you see who’s available. KEEP, though.

89. Google+ – Social network for hardcore tech geeks. Probably why I don’t use it much. Even I feel like a philistine in there. KEEP.

90. Puffin – Flash videos actually work decent here, especially full screen. Best solution for an old problem. KEEP.

91. HBO Go – The Wire, Seasons 1-4. Enough said. KEEP.

92. Speed Test – I like the work Ookla. Say it, Ookla! For Internet speed-a-holics like myself. KEEP.

93. YouTube – Dear Google, Why oh why does this app NOT support background audio?!?! Baffling. Yet still a KEEP.

94. LogMeIn – Remote access to your PC. Perfect for people like me who try to avoid their PCs at all costs. KEEP.

95. Flipboard – Neato app. Love the layout, especially on iPad. Use it much less on iPhone, but still a KEEPer.

96. Google Voice – Terrible SMS interface. No MMS. Laggy. But hey, cheap international calls! KEEP.

97. Dropbox – my go-to cloud storage solution. Love auto-uploading and new photo view. Must KEEP.

98. Angry Birds – Maybe just for nostalgia? nah, your day has passed. DELETE.

99. Walking Dead – Great adventure game. Tense. Emotional…on iPad of course. DELETE.

After combing through 99 101 apps, it’s just about a 60/40 split as far as keep/delete for me. Does this number reflect the average person’s keep/delete ratio? Not sure, but I suspect that the inherently low-risk-impulse-buy nature of free or $0.99 apps has a lot to do with it.

I think the bigger takeaway here is that most of my apps are not that sticky — they have short half-lives that are proportional to their throwaway pricing structure; within my 60%, there is a wide range of stickiness, from essential to on the fringes. It appears that, with few exceptions, apps are generally small, both in file size and in the imprint they leave on their users.

So while Google and Apple love to publish their new running total of apps available in their respective app stores, I think the truer measure is found in an app’s degrees of stickiness, in the way they become as important to a user as any premium-priced physical media.

Now that number would be meaningful number for a change.

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