Innovation, Convenience, and Access: A quick look at six apps

There’s no question: apps and the mobile ecosystem in general are completely changing how we interact with the world. Think that statement is a bit bold? Think back ten years ago to what you would need to take on a family camping trip to Yellowstone Park: a bundle of maps, a camera, a separate video camera, CD player, flash light, paper to write on, books to read, DVDs to watch…now, you only need a tablet or smartphone to accomplish everything that all these devices did separately, and more.

Apps and education

The education genre is becoming more dynamic than ever before in history with the advent of apps that are innovating how we impart knowledge. The Apple Store’s pick for the top free iPhone App of the Year, Duolingo, reflects this shift in thinking:

“Languages used to be expensive to learn: “Sure, there was Rosetta Stone, but it's an expensive program (it starts at $274), and the folks who really need to learn to speak other languages "don't have the money," says von Ahn.”They need it to get a better job."

So they put their heads together and came up with Duolingo, which was released at the end of 2012. Twelve months later, Duolingo has seen 10 million downloads. And now Apple has deemed it the free iPhone App of the Year. (The app is also available for Android.).” – Duolingo Apple iPhone App of the Year,

From free language learning to apps that let you tap into the vast reserves of Wikipedia to learning math, engineering, and computer science via Khan Academy’s mobile app, the world is literally your oyster via education apps.

Apps and interaction

We’re all familiar at this point with the plethora of social networking apps on the market, with new variations being uploaded to various app stores hourly. There seems to be no end to the way we can communicate with the people around us both near and far. However, there is one app that takes that need to communicate and makes it more intimate:

“….Millions of people use Whisper and it is approaching 3 billion monthly page views. On average, people spend more than 20 minutes per day with Whisper, checking its content eight to ten times per day. Whisper has raised $25 million from early Snapchat investor Lightspeed and others.

The people who are spilling their guts on Whisper fall between ages 17 and 28. Heyward says less than 4 percent of his users are under the age of 18. The vast majority of its users—70 percent—are women. 

The reason Whisper gets so many people to share things they'd never say out loud is because everything is posted anonymously. In the past, anonymous social networks have been nasty places. Just look at the comments on YouTube…” Whisper app gets 3 billion monthly page views,

There’s no doubt that social networking apps – and communication in general via apps – will continue to evolve and explode at a phenomenal rate; humans are social creatures and anything that makes the process of connecting to others in a meaningful way is bound to get attention. Whisper stands out because it enables more intimate communication without losing anonymity, a feature that more social apps could use.

Apps and health

One of the most obvious topic areas where more apps are needed for greater flow of information would be the medical field. Imagine if you could access all your medical records with just the touch of a button, and not only that, but pay bills, co-pays, see what your plan looks like, contact member services, order prescriptions, etc. One app that is tackling the medical records issue is called iBlueButton:

“Relaxing after dinner, Dr. Mostashari, then President Obama's national coordinator for health-information technology, signed them up for a new app called iBlueButton that lets people access their Medicare records via smartphone.

The next morning, his father complained of severe eye pain. "I thought, 'It's the Friday after Thanksgiving. We'll be spending the whole day in the ER,'" Dr. Mostashari recalls. Then he remembered iBlueButton, which showed that a cataract surgeon had diagnosed a dry-eye condition, enabling Dr. Mostashari to get his dad the appropriate medication before noon.” – Next in Tech: App Helps Patients Track Care, Wall Street Journal

As our information moves to the digital format, apps that help us access medical information will become the norm; we’ll be able to access our data and make more use of it than just at a six-month checkup.

What about fitness? This time of year many of us are thinking about New Year’s resolutions, and one of the most perennial favorites is getting healthy. There are a wide variety of apps that can help users in their journey to fitness, including one called Runnit that actually gives you goodies for exercising:

Runnit for iPhone wants to reward you with discounts, free products and “exclusive content” every time you pound the pavement. The app is available to download in the UK only for now – but a US launch is on the cards for early 2014.” – Runnit iPhone app rewards running, TheNextWeb

Apps and shopping

Shopping is definitely something that has changed for the better with mobile apps. For example, this year instead of fighting crowds, I did the vast majority of my holiday shopping on my phone sitting in front of the television, with delivery free to my house within three days. Convenient? Yes. Potentially addictive? No comment. There are a lot of apps out there that make this entire process easier, but there are a couple that are taking it one step further. One of those is GroceryTrip:

“GroceryTrip makes building grocery lists from recipes and other webpages and documents you've clipped to Evernote easy. The app takes your tagged items, consolidates duplicates, sorts items by aisle or section of the store, and more.” – GroceryTrip is an Evernote-powered grocery list app,

There’s also Drync, an app that makes it easier to track down that delicious wine you can never remember the name of:

“The app called Drync is a cross between Cellar Tracker and a wine shop; like Shazam, it allows the user to buy a wine immediately upon liking it and identifying it, whether it be at a dinner party or a wine bar….From within the app, take a picture of a bottle label (or use the less fun, more tedious predictive type feature) to find the wine. Using image recognition technology, the app identifies the label from its 1.7 million bottle database and then cross-references it with the current inventory of Drync's retail partners. If that wine is in stock, you're in business. If not, the app will store your selection and automatically notify you when it's available.” – Drync, The Village Voice

Apps are changing the way we interact with the world

It’s fascinating to see the wide variety of innovations that developers are coming up with for apps in every imaginable genre. As we continue to grow the app ecosystem, apps will continue to evolve the way that people are interacting with each other, their environment, and the global economy.





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