Create Apps that Make Real-World Sense

Three years ago, a tech-savvy friend and I were chatting about trends. “The future is video,” I predicted. “No,” she countered, “the future is apps.”

It turns out she was right. With more than a million total apps in Apple’s and Android’s app stores and more to come in Microsoft’s nascent Windows Phone app store, it’s true that we’ve ended up with more apps than we know what to do with. And yet they keep coming. Why? Because they can be cheap and easy to create, and placing an app into an online store can yield a lottery-like win. Just ask those pesky angry birds.

But just because an app can be created doesn’t mean it should be created. More and more, we see apps that may look really good when they’re sketched out on a whiteboard but bear no real relation to how things work in the real world.

Case in point: Uber TAXI, the latest creation from Uber, a company that has already launched a successful app that helps travelers summon a non-metered car service easily. (In New York City, these “black cars” are everywhere.) While that idea may make perfect sense, the idea of extending it to the yellow cabs New Yorkers hail by waving their arm in the street most definitely does not.

While the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has blocked the launch of the app because of complicated issues around credit card payment systems, there’s a better reason why the app makes little sense in New York: fist fights.

What Uber TAXI’s creators seem to have forgotten is that available taxis that pull over to pick up a passenger are first-come first-serve, and the street-side etiquette is precise and time-honored. If a summoned taxi were to pull up and the person who thought he had hailed it walked over to it, what would the Uber TAXI user say? “Excuse me, my good man, but I have summoned that taxi for my use, so please step aside.” As we say in New York, fuggedaboudit. How about a knuckle sandwich?

And while we’re at it, do we really need a Tooth Fairy app (courtesy of Visa) that helps parents calculate the appropriate under-the-pillow gift based on information gathered in state-by-state surveys? C’mon, Mom and Dad. Just do your job.

Message to app makers: focus on solutions that will really make our lives better. That’s your best shot at winning the app lottery.

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