Techies talk about the apps game

Apps are the name of the game in this age of smart phones. From applications for dog whistles, weather forecasts, metal detecting and heart rate monitoring to even those designed to make the most inappropriate sounds, there seems to be an app for just about everything to do with new-age lifestyles, and then some. Google’s app store apparently has over 6, 75,000 apps and Apple’s store has 7, 00,000 apps, available as free or paid or both. And techies being, well, tech-savvy, are often keen observers of what’s happening in the app world – some of them are even active in the race to stay ahead of the game by developing apps themselves and/or for their companies.

Says Suneeth Sreekumar, an applications developer at Toonz Animations’ Research and Development wing: “There are so many apps available nowadays that the biggest challenge is not developing the app per se but getting it noticed. There are two (broad) criteria for apps: quality and user-friendliness.” Jerry Phillip, who works for a multi-national company, and a self-proclaimed “apps’ junkie” agrees and adds: “Apps have matured really quickly over the last five years and those which haven’t kept up lose the race in staying relevant. As a consumer, the choice is simply wonderful. Competition is pretty stiff on the popular app stores.” Apart from WhatsApp (instant messaging), Instagram (photography) and the Facebook app, which seem to be at the top on everyone’s lists, Jerry says his latest fixation is the music app Songza, which has curated playlists. “It’s ‘music concierge’ option, is great especially when I don’t have the time or inclination to sit and pick through songs. Another really useful one is Google Maps. Even if I know the way, I try to verify if there is a better route from point A to point B. And most recently, it was a boon while I was in Delhi where I could locate myself on the map and get around even without cellular coverage,” adds Jerry.

While Suneeth finds the app Indian Rail Info, developed by one Rahul Choudhary, “particularly useful and good,” Ananth Rajagopal, who also works at Toonz, often consults another railways app, Railtime. “I’ve also got most of the newspapers and stock market updates on my phone. Actually, my young daughter, Anagha, uses apps more than I do! She is particularly fond of the Handpaint app and Tabla (a finger percussion app) and the game Bows and Arrows,” adds Ananth. Arun Sasi, who works at IBS says: “These days the app that I use the most is Torchlight. I use it everyday during the power cut. It’s a very powerful light but it drains the battery on my phone. I’m also quite into the File Manager app.”

Most of the techies seem to prefer paid apps to free apps. “The paid apps usually come with advanced features, which are reasonably priced – less than Rs. 200, in most instances. It’s only games apps that are more expensive. Free apps sometimes have unwarranted ads popping up, which I find to be a bit of a nuisance,” says Arun. The techies say that it is imperative to check user reviews before actually downloading an app, especially if it’s free. “Reviews are typically the first thing you go for, especially when the app doesn’t come from an established software house and when they aren’t free. Ninety percent of the time the reviews are helpful,” says Suneeth. Jerry agrees and says: “I am paranoid about security, and refrain from putting too much financial information on an app or the phone itself. I am also sceptical about apps that require Facebook integration even if they say they won’t share any information. I also stay away from apps with coding that drains your battery in a few hours. Reviews come in handy in all these instances.” Arun too agrees but cautions: “You have to be careful to read at least 15 to 20 reviews before you actually download an app – just so that you to get the full picture. There are actually three stages – review it, then if you think its interesting, download and install it and if you find that its unsatisfactory immediately uninstall.”

Applications have been around as long there have been computing platforms and the techies claim that the app revolution is “only just exploding”, at least in India. “Apps will continue to transform onto the latest and greatest operating systems. In our generation we have gone through the personal computer-era, and now there are mobile platforms. Tomorrow’s innovation might be wearable devices, or a surface like a dining table at a restaurant or a wall in your house, and apps will continue to define the usability of any platform and keep technology on the edge,” muses Jerry. Suneeth chips in: “In the next few months, I think we’ll see more of India-specific apps such as Indian Rail Info and Sweet n’ Spicy, a recipe app, which features Indian content. Hey, maybe even the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation will come out with an app where we can access/process documents at ease!” Wishful thinking? Not likely.

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