de­vice ways to make your ca­pa­ble

APPS ARE THE REAL HE­ROES OF THE MO­BILE REV­O­LU­TION, NOT SPECS OR BRANDS.

Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - LAUNCH PAD - NANDAGOPAL RAJAN

THE STORY BE­GINS

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE NUM­BERS

GO­ING BE­YOND

Smart­phones al­ways man­age to steal all at­ten­tion with their ex­tra-large screen sizes and hy­per-ac­tive in­nards, but the brains of these de­vices are the apps that fi­nally run on them. So while these de­vices are es­sen­tially clean slates, it is the apps—short for com­puter “ap­pli­ca­tions” that en­able var­i­ous tasks—we down­load on them that give them char­ac­ter and use the hand­sets’ re­sources to full po­ten­tial. All the specs touted by the phones might make great read­ing, but they would all come to nought with­out the ap­pli­ca­tions to en­sure a good user ex­pe­ri­ence.

Apps are not new to mo­bile de­vices. In fact, the cal­cu­la­tor that you used on a Nokia 3100 years ago was also an app. But while the ini­tial apps were bun­dled into the de­vices, to­day’s ap­pli­ca­tions have bro­ken free of the de­vices. So, now you have app stores from where you have down­load the pro­grams of your choice de­pend­ing on the task you want them to per­form. Apps now han­dle most ba­sic func­tions, while also adding value to lot of your work. For in­stance, while your phone clicks pic­tures, there are thou­sands of apps that will let you do mil­lions of things with those pic­tures.

From so­cial net­work­ing to mu­sic play­ers and news ag­gre­ga­tors there are apps for al­most ev­ery­thing, ex­cept for maybe make a free call—in fact, there are even apps that let you make free calls and texts. Apps have be­come so much a part of our dig­i­tal lives that what we have on our phone of­ten shows the kind of per­son we are. Apps got their real big push when Ap­ple launched its itunes App store in mid-2008, a day be­fore the launch of the iphone 3G, the first phone to sup­port down­load­able ap­pli­ca­tions. The con­cept be­came so pop­u­lar that the other play­ers in the phone mar­ket could not af­ford not to have apps, or an app store. By 2009, Google had its An­droid Mar­ket up and run­ning, though with much fewer apps than its Cu­per­tino ri­val. More­over, the An­droid store was open source, which meant any­one could up­load an app and there was no con­trol over the con­tent or its safety. On the flip­side, it also democra­tised the app rev­o­lu­tion, tak­ing these tiny soft­ware beau­ties to more de­vices across the world. Num­bers don’t lie, and noth­ing else tells the app story bet­ter. By early 2012, the App Store had clocked 25 bil­lion downloads of its 5,85,000odd apps, while the An­droid Mar­ket, now rechris­tened Google Play, had crossed 10 bil­lion down­load with over 4,00,000 apps. There are apps else­where too. Like the Black­berry App world and Win­dows Phone Mar­ket­place, but they pale in num­bers in com­par­i­son. The pop­u­lar­ity of apps can also be mea­sured by the fact that by the end of 2011 mo­bile apps ac­cess­ing the Net was higher than tra­di­tional web con­sump­tion.

But then apps are not limited to pricey smart­phones or tablets. The

real story is how apps are now avail­able for cheaper fea­ture phones too, the de­vices that ac­tu­ally make the num­bers. So, apps that let users ac­cess Face­book or Twit­ter have be­come a ba­sic fea­ture in even the cheap­est phones. Apps also let peo­ple ac­cess Youtube and mu­sic sit­ting in places where the near­est tele­vi­sion set could be miles away.

Apps have also started mak­ing their ap­pear­ance in com­put­ers, which are be­com­ing smaller by the day. With new form fac­tors mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to add op­ti­cal drives—for long the pri­mary method for adding new soft­ware—com­puter mak­ers are now look­ing at apps for these ma­chines. In fact, Ap­ple took a gi­ant leap of faith when it launched the Mac App Store along with its lat­est Mac OS X Lion, free­ing the ma­chine from the need for an op­ti­cal drive to add new soft­ware. As al­ways, Google was the next in line, launch­ing an app cen­tre for its Chrome browser—it let users take the ben­e­fit of their favourite mo­bile apps and much within the com­fort of their browser. Oth­ers, mean­while, are bundling pro­pri­etary apps in new com­put­ers so as not to be left be­hind in the race.

In­di­cat­ing that this is the real fu­ture of the dig­i­tal world, apps are now be­com­ing pop­u­lar in Smart TVS and many other de­vices too. Apps and wid­gets on the lat­est tele­vi­sions let you ac­cess the In­ter­net, play con­tent from them as well as do a lot of ba­sic com­put­ing. Apps that al­low edit­ing of pic­tures and other value ad­di­tion are now a stan­dard fea­ture in dig­i­tal cam­eras, es­pe­cially those in the mid­dle seg­ments.

NOT ALL HUNKY DORY

But the pro­lif­er­a­tion of apps has also had some neg­a­tive ef­fects. The An­droid Mar­ket for in­stance has started be­ing iden­ti­fied as the big­gest se­cu­rity threat to mo­bile de­vices, es­pe­cially since there is no con­trol over the apps avail­able there. With screen sizes also vary­ing so much, users are of­ten un­able to get an app of their choice for their par­tic­u­lar de­vice. There are also fears that apps have ac­cess to too much per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, which could be mis­used by those who cre­ate these ap­pli­ca­tions. Sur­ro­gate ads on many free apps have also been an ir­ri­tant.

On the bright side, we could be on the verge of some con­sol­i­da­tion, with phone mak­ers and mo­bile ser­vice providers help­ing peo­ple se­lect the best apps. Users too are be­com­ing more ma­ture, and now un­der­stand that free does not nec­es­sar­ily mean good.

This is the world of apps, this is our world.

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