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Software Cellphones Technology

What Isn't There an App For? 421

An anonymous reader writes: "There's an app for that!" It's been both an educational comment and a joke for years, now. There are so many small, single-purpose pieces of software available that it's impossible to keep track of everything apps can do. Indeed, when I'm looking for more usefulness out of my phone, I tend to browse the various app stores for interesting software, trying to figure out what more the phone can do for me. But a recent article turns that around and asks: for what tasks does the software have yet to be written? Though most of the article itself doesn't focus on that subject, it got me thinking about apps I'd like to see. (Which was harder than I expected.) I'd like an app that'd help me diagnose bad noises my car makes. I'd like one that can aggregate all my communication channels into one screen. I'd like one that can easily pick up program states from one PC — like an IDE session — and carry them to another PC. What apps are you still waiting for?
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What Isn't There an App For?

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  • App Store (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 04, 2015 @09:32AM (#48729719)

    At least on the iOS platform part of the reason is that Apple does not approve some types of applications, mainly for political reasons.

    • At least on the iOS platform part of the reason is that Apple does not approve some types of applications, mainly for political reasons.

      That's why I haven't seen a single bad iOS app, whereas I've seen many such apps on WP 8.1. Android is somewhat in b/w, since it still has a lot of the decent iOS apps, while there are a few iOS only apps.

      • There was a story here on Slashdot a few months back about iOS fraud-ware in the Apple store. It was several apps. The example I remember had taken the name of a defunct office software suite, and the app itself did nothing but close immediately or show a grey screen.
        It would be interesting to know if the people who bought these apps were refunded by Apple, but that's a bit beside the point. It demonstrates that the iOS app store isn't as vetted or secure as Apple wants you to think. These programs appare
  • by Idou ( 572394 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @09:35AM (#48729739) Journal
    There isn't an app for telling you what there isn't an app for. . .
  • Not that there's anything wrong with that. But the percentage of discussion of apps was pretty low. Not zero. But low.
  • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @09:39AM (#48729751) Homepage

    I'd like one that can easily pick up program states from one PC â" like an IDE session â" and carry them to another PC

    If the issue is just location, and not resources (needing to move to a machine w/ more memory, better CPUs for compiling), then you can just use remote desktop technology.

    Of course, some IDEs also let you save the state of your project (what files are opened, how the windows are organized, etc), and if they save it to a file, you might be able to move that between systems, but you'd need the files laid out the same on disk so that it'd find everything again. If all of the files are in some version control system, it shouldn't be too difficult.

    (I'm a Mac user, so can't comment on PC IDEs ... and I don't really use an 'IDE' per se. I use BBEdit, which is more a text editor with some IDE-like functionality)

    • I was doing this with SunRays sharing a Solaris CDE desktop back in 2002. Apparently the past is here, but it isn't evenly distributed. Unfortunately it's not likely to be. With the exception of VNC, most of the remote desktop systems are proprietary so you can't pick up for example a Sunray session on an Android phone. And the proprietary platforms don't uniformly support VNC. It'd be great to see a general cross-platform approach to this, but the vendors are all going for supplying their platforms "as a
    • For eclipse, just archive your workspace directory (and subdirectories) and move it to another machine. There are two problems with this, though, if you're moving from *nix to Windows:

      1. You can't have any filenames that use Windows reserved words like PRN, CON, etc. They won't copy.
      2. You can't have 2 filenames in the same Windows directory that only differ by case - for example TButton and tButton and tbutton and Tbutton.

    • Better idea: Use an online IDE [hongkiat.com]. I've been using Cloud9, and it keeps its state between sessions, up to and including running terminal programs. It's even open-source (to some degree) so you can install it on your private server. Syncing IDE files from place to place is not a very good solution, it's better to either have a central server to remote into. The cloud services can be good ways to take the server management off your hands. It has many of the same drawbacks as a remote desktop, but RD has heavier

  • Ghost Car Alert (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Dashboard camera app that scans license plates and alerts when police ghost cars are immediately ahead or behind. Connects to a user-maintained database of known ghost car plates.

    May not be legal?

    • Dashboard camera app that scans license plates and alerts when police ghost cars are immediately ahead or behind. Connects to a user-maintained database of known ghost car plates.

      I already have this service, in the form of my four-year-old son.

      "DADDY! GHOST CAR!!! GHOST CAR!!!"

      Even if it's the most subtle ghost car you could imagine, he spots it instantly.

  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @09:41AM (#48729757)

    they are made to collect your data for later liquidation by means of selling or exploiting them. While usage statistics (with opt in!) are ok, for app improvement and good, I don't think there is really an user respecting app for everything.

  • Plant Recognition (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'd like to be able to take a picture of a plant or mushroom and have it identified for me. Bonus points if it tells me if it is edible. Bonus Bonus points for preparation instructions and recipes.

    • Re:Plant Recognition (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Yaotzin ( 827566 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @09:53AM (#48729807)

      Hopefully the app will be capable of discerning between immature Amanita ocreata and Agaricus arvensis.

    • One better: How about an app for picture recognition?

      Snap, save, and sexy robot voice telling me, That's a seat and spring from a pre-1972 Delta.

    • Re:Plant Recognition (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @09:59AM (#48729829)

      I'd like to be able to take a picture of a plant or mushroom and have it identified for me. Bonus points if it tells me if it is edible. Bonus Bonus points for preparation instructions and recipes.

      That's a long way off in my opinion. Positive plant identification relies on having reproductive material for the plant (e.g. flowers and/or fruit/seed/drupe/spore/etc) and a way of looking at those structures closely (often under a microscope). The identification of some plants will also take into account the root system.

      Some plants are able to be identified (but not 100%) using vegetative characters only: e.g. phylotaxy, leaf complexity, growth habit, stipules (and their position), bark, pubesence on the stem or leaves, shape of those hairs if they are present (probably need a microscope), etc, etc, etc. But the positive identification is elusive -- mainly because of the taxonomy of species classification in the first place which necessarily takes into account non-vegetative characters and morphology.

      That said, identification to the level of family might be a more realistic goal. Even then there are problems because not all genera (and certainly not all species) need not share common characters.

      Grasses (Poaceae)? Good luck.

      Identifying fungi using an app? Even more difficult unfortunately.

    • When it comes out, be sure and get it before it is sued out of existence by someone who ate something that was accidentally recognized as edible. I'm sure they will make you sign a release electronically, but someone will sue anyway. That's our new road to riches in America. Don't work hard, just find something that common sense and maybe even a sign tells you not to do, and do it, then sue somebody.
      • When it comes out, be sure and get it before it is sued out of existence by someone who ate something that was accidentally recognized as edible

        I have no need for an app that can't be trusted to do its job. Least of all when a mistake can be lethal.

  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @09:43AM (#48729767)

    I'd like to see that too, unfortunately the walled gardens of the industry seem to make this impossible. For everybody wanting to have such an app, I'd suggest to only use non-walled-garden communications: app developers should be abled to develop compatible apps for certain services.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arth1 ( 260657 )

      I would like just one communications app - a decent PHONE app. One that doesn't use a high-pass filter to cut off half of what my deep voice is saying, making people ask me to speak up even though I'm already making people around me look at me because I speak so loud. One that has voicemail on the phone itself, not as a dial-in service, so you can save voicemails for later use. One that has built-in access to public phone books and yellow pages. One that will let you choose whether to roam or not fro

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Oh, and let me add: A phone app that can automatically disable screen input while a call is in progress, so you don't inadvertently hang up with your cheek.

        • Every android phone i've had does this. When I put the phone up to my face the screen goes blank.
  • that decides the halting problem. :P

  • There is an app to create an app that doesn't already exist... there must be. Err... surely? Hmm.

  • Like FireFox?

    I just googled this, and it looks like Mozilla is working hard towards making this happen. Still, Apple isn't exactly open-source friendly on iOS from my perspective, (and I'm not an iOS user, so I am not exactly enlightened in this department).

    • by Teun ( 17872 )
      Firefox on Android is now very good, no more need to use anything else.

      I'd love to have a mail and news client like Thunderbird.

      • So long as Apple is going to insist that browsers have to use their Safari rendering, alternate browsers are going to suck on iOS.
        • There isn't a better mobile web renderer than WebKit. Even Chrome is just a fairly recent fork of it.

  • by mrsquid0 ( 1335303 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @10:02AM (#48729833) Homepage

    I would like to see a reliable app that identifies a piece of music from various forms of user input such as lyrics; whistling, humming, or bad singing; or other fuzzy information. Google does a reasonable job with partial lyrics, but it good luck identifying instrumental pieces.

  • I am sure there is more than one company working on this right now. The idea is quite simple. I want to get from A to B and would like to see all my options listed and sorted by speed and price. Including rental, flight, taxi, uber, train, car sharing, bus, own car, bike, walking, hovercraft, skateboard, and so on. And any combination of the above that would make sense. Optimized by weather forcast (less likely to bike, motorbike or walk), recorded walking speed, recorded bike speed, and options I can put i

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      For my hometown, this exists [switchh.de]. It will check a number of options including public transport, car rental and taxi service as well as walking.

    • Google Maps does that, though not necessarily including skateboards and hovercrafts in your area.
  • When you get in line at the supermarket, you press "start". When you finish checking out, you press "stop". The time you waited in line is uploaded to a database.

    When you are at home, trying to decide which supermarket to visit, you can check "which supermarket near me has the shortest lines at this day/hour?" and thereby decide where to visit.

    Some sort of statistical analysis would have to be done to filter out fake data inputted by store employees.

    I'm not willing to wait an extra 10 minutes in line to sav

    • I'm not willing to wait an extra 10 minutes in line to save 50 cents on a quick shopping trip - my time is worth way more than that.

      If your time is worth so much, hire someone to buy your groceries.

      Maybe there is an app for that.

      • by Tom ( 822 )

        Many of us are in this middle ground - our time is valuable, but not valuable enough that hiring someone to run errands is a real alternative.

        I'd definitely go to the slightly more expensive supermarket if it means I wait less. In fact, I do. But my selection is based on subjective personal experience and not hard data.

      • A lot of supermarkets (at least near me) are also doing online ordering. You order and pay online, stop by the store, and pick up your groceries. (A store employee gathers them together for you.) For an extra fee, some grocery stores will even drive the groceries to you.

        • Searching for every item you want on the web, or in an app is a pain. But I imagine it gets better as time goes on as products you've bought before are easy to reorder. I didn't persist long enough to find out.

  • Maxima/Xcas/Octave functionality, only with an actually usable interface?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 04, 2015 @10:15AM (#48729883)

    The idea of filling up my 'device' with a large number of nefarious, insecure, data-thieving, location stealing, mutually incompatible, crash causing, cross-selling little craplets that put me in touch directly, without choice to corporate hell, fills me with horror. What was wrong with the 'web' and 'choice'? Oh, I know, choice, although, in principle one of the tenets of capitalism is so annoying, much better to press the button on the craplet and get a Big Mac directly.

    Actually, my mobile is normally switched off and in my kitchen drawer, anyway.

    • The idea of filling up my 'device' with a large number of nefarious, insecure, data-thieving, location stealing, mutually incompatible, crash causing, cross-selling little craplets that put me in touch directly, without choice to corporate hell, fills me with horror.

      No you're not the only one. Those are the reasons lots of people choose iPhone rather than Android. It's not perfect but it's far better than the anarchy of Android.

      What was wrong with the 'web' and 'choice'?

      There's more than a million apps, on either iOS or Android. Lack of choice is not a problem.

  • A mountain scanner (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @10:18AM (#48729897) Homepage Journal

    I had a friend who was very quiet but one hell of a programmer and made his own circuit boards for his programs. I pushed an Amiga digitizer for him on my BBS. It was freeware, unless he constructed the board himself.

    He was always asking if anybody wanted a program they needed, I got a printer buffer that showed how much was left to print, this after I printed some 200+ pages (dot matrix) and no clue when it would end.

    He was working on car sensors, one would plug in a serial cable to their computer and it would show defects or problems, as far as I know he only used his car for this. I've noticed that this is a commercial product now (not his).

    Last I talked to him he wanted a 3D map of Mt. Rainier, and was at a loss of how to do it; not with contour maps, nor a 3D printer (not out then) but how to scan the Mountain itself, just a tad eccentric.

    I'd be very interested to know what he's up to now.

    So for him a mountain scanner :)

  • Linked to healthkit or whatever it is Android uses. Health data is of limited value if you ignore time of day.
    • many of the fitness trackers track sleep as well. Jawbone Up does this, including how much sleep per day and time of day. Fitbit does it as well.

  • Not the noise, but there is Torque Pro and several others that will diagnose your car with a OBD 2 dongle [amazon.com] that will show whatever the car is able to show.
    So that should already help.

  • That is, decent Computer Aided Translation and Optical Character Recognition software.

    As for OCR, we don't even have that for Linux desktop (the closest is the ABBYY engine, but it's CLI-only, which precludes manual area markup.) The situation with CAT tools has recently improved on the Linux side, with Heartsome Suite released as GPL and CafeTran becoming mature.

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      Word Lens is quite cute, and helped me a lot in Russia. It's far from perfect, but "decent" is an attribute I'd definitely give it.

      • by temcat ( 873475 )

        Thank you for the tip on an interesting app. However, Computer Aided Translation is not the same as Machine Translation; CAT tools are designed to aid human translators by remembering the bits that have been translated before and automatically inserting them where a new source document has identical bits.

      • when you're in russia and you don't speak the language, then a "decent" real-time translator is more than satisfactory!

  • ...no, actually, I'll keep that one under my belt. It's actually rather good.

    I mean, what is this shit, "Please do my homework for me by suggesting a phone app I can do to score higher and make a little cash into the bargain"?

    • Re:Here's an idea. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @04:18PM (#48731717)

      Ideas are like assholes. Everyone's got one. They're worthless.

      The ability, time and effort required to turn an idea, whether new or old, into a polished user-friendly app, and do all the other non-development tasks such as creating content and marketing. Those are the things that are worth money.

  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @10:50AM (#48730023)

    Quite frankly, I don't care about small single-purpose apps. The UI on phones and tablets aren't designed to help us find one app among dozens. In most cases, you bump into limitations as soon as you start using it. In many cases, you'll use it a handful of times then never use it again.

    If you are looking for anything that is even moderately sophisticated, chances are that no one has made an app for it. There will already be an app in many software categories, but they provide basic functionality at best. Consider what passes for word processors and spreadsheets, or even web browsers and email clients these days.

    If you are looking for anything that doesn't lock your data into an unsupported proprietary file format that is hidden in some unfathomable directory on your device, or forces you to use a network service to access your data -- well, good luck. While there are usually options for content consumption, content creation is hit-and-miss.

    There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest one is profitability. Very few people want to make a cheap app that takes a lot of time to develop. A lot of people want to translate the sale of cheap apps into more profitable online services. So what we tend to end up with are a bunch of apps that go after the low hanging fruit and sound revolutionary, when in reality they are little more than toys that you could easily accomplish with a single generic application.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BasilBrush ( 643681 )

      App(lication)s need to be appropriate to the platform. When people are using phone apps, they are usually looking for one of 3 things:
      1) Communication.
      2) Quick retrieval of information.
      3) Fill in some time with some entertainment. (Casual games, Youtube, Social apps. etc)

      Tablets, nearly the same.

      If someone's going to do spreadsheet work for example, they'll likely be at a desk, or they'll take their laptop with them.

  • ...putting the goddamned phone down and driving / walking / paying attention?
  • Since I read several years ago about a scientific application that can identify and count each an every penguin that comes waddling in front of the camera, I'm waiting for a visual bird-indentifying app for my feeding house.

    Also an app to identify each an every bird that's singing in my neighborhood and counting even individuals of the same species.

  • The only ones to reply so far are overly cynical, probably from having stayed up all night gaming or hacking code and likely are on their 6th cup of coffee.

  • "It's not unusual for my gf and I to get in a car, drive for an hour at random, and then let the satnav drive us back."

    Try that in LA a couple of times.
    You'll need no app anymore.
    Ever.

  • There are some apps available that I don't want as an app. For example, irealpro is available on android and iphone, but I want it on my computer. I don't WANT to carry around with me on a little device with crappy sound quality and that could be easily lost or broken. I want it on my desktop in my studio where it can be permanently integrated with my sound system and on a large screen with a keyboard and mouse so that I have a user interface that is actually usable.
  • I wrote one as a Grease Monkey script, but I've never seen it as an app. Of course I haven't lookeed - maybe there is an app. It sets display: none on any posts that are extremely long like the cleanmypc ones, any that mention a certain file used to map host names to IP addresses, and any users I blacklist.

    90% of forums run on one of two or three popular forum scripts, so one app could work on most forums.

    • any that mention a certain file used to map host names to IP addresses

      But then you don't get to see APK lose it again. The only person I know who scans multiple forums repeatedly to troll his crappy HOSTS file and engages in personal attacks on anyone who disagrees with him. He's like the Titanic - a lesson in how NOT to interact with people if you want to maintain any credibility.

      ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

  • would require an air sampler.

  • by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @11:47AM (#48730261)

    As a mobile developer and architect (primarily iOS now), I hate to say that there is much truth in that statement. In 2010, I started developing apps for both myself and corporate. The trend, which became very apparent in the early days, is that even if you have a great idea, you are up against several roadblocks. At the very least, an app/applet/program on a mobile device is supposed to do one thing and do it really well.

    In the private, consumer world:
    1) You have to set a price point that people will pay. That's typically either free, $0.99 or $1.99. And, it's why some developers people incorporate ads into their apps in the hopes of eeking out a living.

    2) Then, you have to get it noticed. For some reason, insanely stupid or novel apps make it on the chart. The apps that provide utility never rank high so they become to find.

    3) Then, you have have the copy-cats. They say copying is the finest form of flattery. Great - if it gets one a date with a really hot member of your preferred sexual preference. But, don't cut into my profits with that bullshit because you can't come up with an original idea of your own and then resell mine at a lower cost or give it away.

    4) Lastly, there is the app lifecycle and planned obsolesce. You app has a limited lifetime. Any slowness during loading or awkwardness in its UI and it will, likely, meet the squiggly icon of doom rather quickly.

    Platform of choice? Android and iOS.

    The Commercial world is where the money is to be made. Large corporations have products they want to sell and marketing/sales folks who keep coming up with ways to get their products out there. They also have the money to fund development of limited purpose apps. Most still prefer to use web-based apps as well as they understand the web platform and how it can get their message across and it tends to be cheaper. Done with it? Just turn it off. Users aren't out any money. Typically, doing so is no harm no foul. Their platform of choice? iOS. Android is not making a dent in our industry (Pharma and Health) BECAUSE it is so open.

    So, where does that leave us developers? Well, the market keeps evolving. First we had the older BREW and SYMBIAN phones (what a PITA). Then, we got smartphones followed by tablets. Now, through emerging tech, we have wearable devices. That will be the next market - finding the best ways to marry wearable tech with mobile, tablet and desktop technology to give the user something they find useful and affords the chance of making money. People might not like the ApplePhone or Pebble or whatever. But, it's coming.

    Case in point - My youngest son, now 15, said he wanted an AppleWatch. Why? He finds reaching into his pocket to see the time (he doesn't walk around with it in his hand all the time, oblivious to the world around him as many teenagers do). Still, he wants something that does more than just tell the time (he's a competitive swimmer...not that the AppleWatch will help him there as it's not, supposedly, waterproof).

    I still think a good online service providing utility via the web AND offering a useful web-service API is the way to go. I can build a mobile, tablet or tethered device to it when I am ready and think the market is ready and willing to pay for it.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @12:04PM (#48730337)

    My sister is a physician (internist, not a dermatologist) and she wants and app that would allow her to take a picture of a patient's skin condition and suggest possible diagnoses. Probably something that would need to be crowdsourced or tied into Watson.

  • I put in a list of items I'm interested in as I go about my day. Toilet paper, floss, pork & beans, taters, batteries (AA), crème brûlée, washer for the faucet ...

    While traveling around doing other stuff, this app barks that I am in the vicinity of Rao's Bakery and they have crème brûlée. On another day, I'm gassing up and "BARK!" they have pork & beans inside the store.

    I could decline: 1.) Not now 2.) Not this store (and that store is blacklisted for that item).

    I could

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @02:41PM (#48731201)
    There are zero good, classic-style turn-based RPGs like the Exile and Avernum series. Seriously, ZERO! I was as shocked as you were. There's an ungodly expensive Final Fantasy version for Android but that's not really old enough to be "classic." I'm talking like Dragon Warrior and other dungeon crawl and mission RPGs.
  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @04:03PM (#48731641) Homepage Journal

    There is not a decent point of sale app for phones or tablets. There are really bad ones, but no good one.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday January 04, 2015 @06:28PM (#48732331)

    For example, just the other day I wanted to listen to a sound file on my phone and it was a really long file. Something like 12 hours long. And generally when I am dealing with these files, I split them into 10 minute segments so they can be listened to easily without having to remember where in the giant file I was last time. I just remember I was on file 25 at 3 minutes. Most sound listening programs also don't deal with really large sound files very well. So it makes everything more manageable when they're split up.

    Anyway, long story short, I looked for such a program on android and it apparently doesn't exist. Lots of stuff for making ringtones but that isn't what I'm after.

    You can't really compete with the wealth of software on desktop OS's They've been around too long and the bars for entry are non-existent.

    That said, if someone knows of such a program, then please let me know.

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