IPhone Apps for Units of Work

December 23rd, 2008 Leave a Comment

Call a CabI found myself reading Floyd’s story about the Call a Cab iPhone app and nodding my head.

That was embarrassing, like when you find yourself silently agreeing with a presenter like a bobblehead, except there was no one around to agree with my agreement with Floyd.

Like I said, a bit embarrassing.

Anyway, Floyd’s experience reminded me of what I’ve found to be most useful with apps lately, not just iPhone apps, but web apps too. Whatever you call them, gadgets, widgets, apps, they all follow a simple paradigm: accomplish a small and targeted unit of work.

Simplicity usually happens by accident, if not by design, since the goal of the app is targeted.

Over the last several years, I’ve tried a lot of desktop-based gad/widgets; I like the idea, but with a fully functional computer, I don’t find myself using much more than calendar and weather gad/widgets. On the iPhone however, I have loads of apps that are “just in case” apps, much like Floyd’s use case for Call a Cab.

I’ll bet you have these too; you install them because they fit a certain use case that you might need at some point, and if that time ever comes, you’ll be really glad you don’t have to pull up Safari (or another mobile web browser) and wade through the ‘tubes to call a cab or find a movie showtime.

Even if the mobile browser experience doesn’t bum you out, what with the tiny keyboard and small, (ahem) optimized version of web pages, the location-based features on smart phones will save you loads of effort. Most iPhone apps will use your location to target their content, making them even more useful.

This is why I have apps like Flickster, OpenTable, Urbanspoon, Yelp, and TWC on my iPhone. I don’t use them much, but I may need them at some point. And when that time comes, I’ll be so happy. Trust me, it’s happened.

So, successful apps on the iPhone for me are the ones that do a single unit of work really well, that one use case you think you might need. For example, I would be ecstatic to get apps from my favorite stores that only did store location based on where I am.

How many times have you been out and about and wondered where the nearest <blank> store is?

Google Mobile+Maps on the iPhone does a pretty good job of this, but again, it’s not targeted enough for me.

Attention developers: Please build the uber-store locator that uses my location to help me find any store I need. That would rule.

So, do you have these type of apps on your iPhone? Do you like gad/widgets on your desktop? What do you most commonly ask your app, gad/widgets to do?

Let us know in the comments. I’m off to download Call a Cab.

Update: I forgot to mention my favorite off-the-wall app, Flashlight. Not location aware, natch, but way more useful than you’d think at first blush. Unless you carry a mini flashlight everywhere you go.


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