Answers to all your questions about apps

By ARIELLA SHUA | April 12, 2018



During much of the end of fall semester, I couldn’t wait until this time of year. 

Being inside constantly due to the cold, I was spending way more time on my phone than I wanted to, because anything on there — even just refreshing the same four apps over and over again — was better than walking outside. But by spring, I figured, I’d actually want to go out and lounge around on the Beach (and the few other quads that we have).

As everyone knows, though, except for a few and far between flukes (including, for whatever reason, an 80-degree day in February), it’s still not nice enough out to inspire going outside. 

While circling between apps recently, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why and how did some get so popular?

“Some trace apps all the way back to 1986, with the release of the Psion Organiser II in London. ”

Here are the questions — and answers, helpfully provided by the internet — that I found more pressing than the questions my professors had assigned this week:

Who created the first apps?

Apps, which are generally described as computer programs that run some kind of function on a mobile device (typically a phone or tablet) existed for quite a while before Apple took over the game. Some trace apps all the way back to 1986, with the release of the Psion Organiser II in London. 

The Organiser didn’t do much by today’s standards. It essentially looked like a calculator but with a letter keyboard instead of numbers. The Organiser had an address database and had text editing software, but it could do very little else.

Apps really exploded in popularity, however, in 2008 — shortly after the release of the App Store through Apple. Released at the same time as the iPhone 3G, the App Store had over 550 offerings, far outstripping anything that came before it. Over 100 million downloads were recorded by September, less than three months after opening.

What was the first mobile game?

The first mobile games differed somewhat from game apps today. 

Those of you who recall the days of flip phones — probably everyone, because contrary to the media’s portrayal of our generation, we do remember what life was like before the iPhone — likely remember stealing your parents’ phones to play mini games. 

Before smartphones, which allow for easy downloading from thousands of virtual options, mobile phones came with several apps pre-downloaded. The first of these was a version of Tetris, found on the 1994 Hagenuk MT-2000. 

But the first truly successful game was Snake, released with the Nokia in 1997. Modeled after the arcade game Blockade, the player controls a dot that picks up other dots, trying not to hit any boundaries. Snake can still be downloaded in various copycat forms today, or officially on Nokia phones or Facebook Messenger.

What are the most successful smartphone apps?

In America, it is not surprising to find that Facebook and YouTube hold the top two positions for most popular downloaded apps. All other apps in the top 10 are owned by either Facebook (Facebook Messenger, Instagram) or Google (Google Maps, Gmail), with the exception of Snapchat and Pandora. None of the top 10 seem to be much of a shock.

Looking at the App Store only in the past year, though, the number one position is quite different. Bitmoji was the most popular app downloaded on Apple devices in 2017. Apparently a lot of the Snapchat users like making customizable versions of themselves? (I truly don’t know what else a Bitmoji can be used for.)

What are some of the most bizarre apps?

I suppose that the definition of “bizarre” really depends on what each individual person thinks is normal or not. In the past few years, I’ve noticed that my friends and I have increasingly normal apps on our phones — the only game I have is Candy Crush Soda, and the rest of my downloads are for social media or transportation. 

But the days of Flappy Bird weren’t that long ago: the app was deleted in 2014. One strange app that I remember is Llama or Duck?! The title describes the entire game, really. Pictures of llamas and ducks appear, and the player just has to click on the name of the animal. That was the entire game. My ninth grade class was obsessed with it.

Weird apps still persist today. The strangest, purely for pointlessness factor, has to be the Nothing app. After downloading, you are given the privilege of looking at a blank space for free (or for $0.99, if you get the Pro version). 

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