If the invention of Apple and Android’s ‘automated personal assistants’ (the respective iBeacon and Google Now) and the burgeoning usage of push technology (see Dojit-notify) are anything to go by, we really are, as a recent Urban Airship report suggests, ‘moving into an age of hyper-personalised media.’ Whilst this revelation may be influencing some wayward developers to produce questionable and controversial applications, such as this highly offensive application which gratifies the basest of human urges and normalises the sexualisation of women, for the most part apps are being created that improve the day-to-day lives of the every person. As mobile technology is now capable of tracking user location to a precise degree and building an intimate profile of how, and why, an individual uses their smartphone, ultra-intelligent applications are staking an impressive claim in both the marketplace and our personal app libraries.
From helping smartphone users bolster their music database or genuinely offering a service that can save lives, featured below is a short list of the market’s most useful applications:
Released in conjunction with iOS7, this is the app that lifts the iPhone to even greater heights. What can you add to a phone that already has everything? Well, the ability to reverse time, of course! Despite a distinct lack of the fabled flux capacitor (although if anyone could successfully deploy this technology, I’m sure it’d be Apple), this radical ‘time machine’ feature allows users to recapture the past and record moments that would otherwise be confined to the ever unreliable province of human memory. Running the app’s recording function in the background during a family meal or party, without causing major harm to your phone’s battery, ensures that life’s defining moments can be captured at the tap of a button, with the app recording in five minute gaps and giving users the chance to rewind, find and store memorable words in an easy way.
A product of Tech 4 Good Inc, a start-up founded with the aim of reducing and combating social violence (sexual or otherwise) through mobile technology, Circle of 6 is a reliable and accessible application that ensures of the safety of its users on a night out. Based on the premise of inputting the contact details of a ‘circle of 6’ friends into the app, this innovation sends coded messages to the user’s trusted network to inform them that the sender may be in trouble or danger. The ‘Car Icon’ makes use of the aforementioned location technology, utilising GPS to find a user’s whereabouts, backed with the message “Come and get me, I need help getting home safely.” A second icon, ‘Call Me’, prompts one of the circle to ‘interrupt’ a situation that may have become awkward or uncomfortable and provide a friend in need with a reassuring line of communication. Easy to use and an important tool for people on dates or alone in an unknown place; Circle of 6 prioritises user safety and security by maintaining a constant connection to their friends and families.
In a world saturated with media, 24-7 news channels, websites and traditional newspapers, it can be hard to find and absorb the stories that matter to us the most. Perhaps influenced by the Independent’s concise publication, the i newspaper, Flipboard offers its subscribers an aggregation of the day’s most important events, and includes an option to customise the topics and categories covered. Highly functional and possessing refined graphics, this iOS-exclusive tool lets you ‘flip’ through your own personalised newspaper and engage with the topics that are most important to you.
The era of the mix tape may be dead (doubtlessly soon to be followed by the humble pencil that was once required to wind its content back inside) but Soundwave is putting sharing and recommendation back into music. Soundwave is a savvy system that collects the music listened to by your friends on social media sites, which succeeds in generating a dexterous and diverse new library for your ears to explore. Yet, it is certainly the ‘music map’ tool that is the most exciting feature of this new app. Drawing a circle around a map of your current location (whether city, street or building), this intelligent service will formulate a playlist informed by the music that is being listened to in the surrounding area. Therefore, not only does this app provide users with an abundance of new listening material gleaned from both strangers and friends but will accurately capture the feeling and vibe of an area, shining a light of the type of people who populate it.
Developed by the Kenyan Ushahidi, a small group who made use of interactive mapping to track areas of violence and promote peace in the wake of their country’s 2008 election results, the Ping functions in a similar manner to Circle of Six. Directly inspired by the recent terror attack that took place in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, this app allows its users to create a list of valuable contacts, including family, friends and lovers (to which each of these people add the details of another person) to ensure that everyone can be reached in the event of an emergency. If an act of terrorism or a natural disaster occurs, the app can be set up to contact all members of the list and await a response. Once a reply has been received, that person is marked as ‘safe’ and their relatives can rest easily. This is the sort of technology that would have reduced some of the trauma and anxiety of people waiting to hear news from their loved ones after high-profile atrocities such as 9/11 or the London bombings. Ushahidi is dedicated to utilising mobile technology to save lives and encourage safety, creating applications that expose the truth and make the world a better place.
It seems that applications no longer solely exist for play but for pragmatism and practicality, a hyper-sensitive technological phenomenon that adapts to the needs and well-being of its owner. Mobile phone applications have now become extremely useful to us as individuals and are invaluable assets to the modern world.