Smartphones these days come with virtually endless capabilities. Performance and functionality is no longer strictly determined by the operating system itself, but primarily by the associated ecosystem and digital content available.
Between Android and iOS, there are over 1.6 million applications available. Windows Phone has over 145,000 apps, and BlackBerry OS has somewhere north of 105,000 apps. Just take a second and try to quantify those numbers – imagine having to scroll through a list of 800,000 applications every time you want to download a new app, instead of simply searching.
It’s a byproduct of the portability and flexibility of mobile platforms. And it’s a feature many of us overlook … until we’re in a spot where we miss specific apps or we switch to another platform where our favorite apps are no longer available.
Last week, I wrote about some of the critical applications that would keep me from switching to Windows Phone. Among the list were some native, first-party applications, such as Facebook, Gmail, and YouTube. And there are things like Pebble and Pocket Casts that I would have to give up if I ever made the switch full-time.
But after writing the piece, I thought about how important every application is, how I really only download what I need anymore. The second I realize there is an unused application installed on my phone, I long-press and drag it to the Uninstall button. Every application – with only an exception for some pre-installed apps – has a specific purpose. And then I thought, “What if I had to pick only one application? What if, of all the applications I normally use on my phone, I could only use one for the indefinite future?”
I realized just how important and vital every application I download is, and how much I take for granted. And I quickly realized that choosing just one application to use moving forward would be impossibly difficult.
When talking to Anton about it this morning, his reaction was the opposite. “It really wouldn’t bother me.” He said the only things he would miss were Spotify and possibly email.
So I asked some friends at the coffee shop what the most important application on their phone is. One lady told me Insight Timer for her meditation and work is irreplaceable, and her friend said she couldn’t give up the app called Relax and Sleep, a noise generator that helps with falling asleep. Three said maps and navigation would be vital to keep. A male said he couldn’t go without his ESPN app, and his wife said Pinterest is an absolute must.
Asking others to answer the question is fun and intriguing. Watching them squirm at just the thought of not having every little thing at their fingertips is one of the most entertaining things I’ve done in a while. But when the tables are turned, I can’t help but cringe at the thought.
I use navigation regularly – more so lately than usual. I stream music for hours on end every day through Spotify (also currently through Google Play Music All Access, until my trial is up). I handle a lot of work and other email via mobile. Most of my Twitter activity is done using Falcon Pro on my phone. Every picture I take to share goes through Snapseed for editing. Every link I share goes through URLy, not only to shorten, but to send it through my Bitly account for analytics. I use Hangouts and Google Voice for communicating with friends, Press for reading news, Pocket for saving links, Pocket Casts for listening to podcasts, Agenda Calendar for staying on schedule, and I use Facebook to keep track of personal friends.
Cutting out any part of those applications would seriously put a damper on my mobile experience. It would drastically change how I use my phone. But the vast majority of my mobile usage is social. And most of the other uses can be supplemented some way or another – with another device, or through a stock application.
The one application that I currently could not give up is Google+. Of late, Google+ has become one of the most important parts of my online existence. My circles are always delivering interesting and useful content, and the level of interaction on things I post is growing by day. As much as people bash the network, it is a thriving, growing culture that offers tons of value.
The Google+ application has many of Snapseed’s greatest features built directly into the app. Hangouts, technically, is accessible from Google+, and my feed can be used as an RSS feed replacement.
I am fully aware that I am falling (deeply) into Google’s evil plan to take over the Internet. I’ve already fallen so far into the ecosystem that I probably couldn’t dig myself out if I wanted to.
No less, my answer remains. Google+ is currently the one application I would not want to give up. But I would have a seriously difficult time supplementing my music needs. I suppose, if nothing else, I could take up pencil drumming on the edge of tables.
That said, we want to hear from you. What is the single most important application on your phone? What one app would you have a difficult time giving up? Of the dozens of apps installed on your phone, which one would you keep?