I'm generally pretty disappointed by the apps I download for my little android phone. I get them, I wait for them to fundamentally change my life, I feel crushing remorse, I delete them and go eat some pretzels. It’s like my relationship with email. I’ve been waiting for an email since the beginning of emails that’s like “Jim, you are wonderful, and the very thought of you makes me feel great. Let’s move to a cabin in the Maine woods and never talk to anyone ever again.” I still haven’t gotten this email. Every day there is a chance I will get this email. Just like every time I download some dumb app I actually believe it can make my life truly better.
I use only a few apps: Twitter and Gmail and stuff. But I always like trying new things and basking in their newness for like 12 seconds. Although I think that’s only because they haven’t yet made the kinds of apps that I think would actually be transformative. I don’t know how to make them myself — I cracked open my phone and tried to make one, but it was just a huge mess. Designers, we need the following apps!
The whole point of carrying a phone around wherever you go is not all that attractive to me. I kind of like using payphones, it makes me feel like a drug dealer. Very few of my best moments have been spent on the phone. But a device I can screw around on while ignoring incoming phone calls, that’s great. And voicemail is clearly the worst app in the world. All you really need is a list of the people that called. If you care about what they have to say, you’ll call them back. Or, if they’re not your parents, you’ll just send them an email or a text or whatever. Phone calls are basically grenades. Why are you throwing grenades at your friends? No one wants to talk to you, really. Unless they called you. And I don’t want to talk to anyone, practically ever. How much better would the world be if we all took vows of silence and everything was quiet and black-and-white like in The Artist? Way better.
So what we really need is an app that pretends to be you on the phone, that gives the person calling the entire You experience. It sounds like you, responds like you, uses your catchphrases. But you’re taking a nap somewhere else. And later, if you care, the app will give you the highlights of the conversation you skipped out on. In a text.
“YOUR MOM CALLED. SHE STILL DISAPPROVES OF YOUR LIFE CHOICES.”
“STEVE CALLED. PARANOID. THINKS EVERYONE AT WORK IS TRYING TO DESTROY HIM. WANTS TO SEE HUNGER GAMES OPENING NIGHT.”
I don’t think my personality would be hard to replicate on the phone. It’s all very “Yeah, yeah. Okay. Sounds good.” Add in a statement about something that happened in sports and a joke about a Republican candidate’s stupidity, and you’ve pretty much got an entire phone call with me. If someone on the other end of this app starts to question whether it’s really you or not, the app could be like “Oh, I feel sick. I have to go throw up.” That ought to get the person off your back. I would call this app “Phone Force Fields.”
When was it that parents started needing to experience every moment of their children’s lives? Both my parents worked, and I turned out great. They gave me a key to the house and a bunch of matches and then were gone from ages 10-14. What exactly do these current parents think they’re passing along to their children by following them around all the time and reading Proust to them while they’re on the toilet? The creeping idea that their parents have nothing better to do. And the desire to institutionalize their own parents at their earliest opportunity. But, it’s clear, in America these days you can’t leave children alone for longer than 30 seconds. So what are you to do when you are trying to entertain your terrible friends over wine? Babysitter App!
Cell phones would make great babysitters! They have movies and music and games! This app could work like the app that shows you who’s breaking into your house. You better hope the ninjas come straight through the front door, I guess. Or else you won’t get any footage of them. With the babysitter phone you will have constant footage of your child’s face as they stare blankly at the phone, watching a cartoon, playing a game or reading Proust. They won’t be able to take their eyes off it or put it down, thanks to the colorful swirling lights beneath what they’re watching. They will be riveted. And most likely paralyzed, so they won’t get into much trouble. You can drink white wine and talk about your dreams of adultery with your pals without a care in the world. There can be a lullaby mode that turns on Bon Iver songs full blast if you want your kid to take a nap, and a shock mode that can zap them with a gentle blast of zaaap if they do anything you wouldn’t approve of, like think for themselves or stop loving you for one second. With an add-on for their teenage years that preps them constantly for the SATs, you can rest assured your kids will be great until they graduate from college and can’t get a job. I would call this app “Zappnanny.” And because the point of having kids is making other people with kids feel like you're better at having kids than they are, there’d be some kind of scoring element involved. Kids would get points for being mindless cyphers of your dreams, desires, and ideas, and lose points for picking their nose or getting pregnant. “Hegemonie got 5,000 on Zappnanny!” And you’d smile and smile, and the rest of the world would melt with shame.
X-RAY SPECS APP
None of us can actually have sex with everyone else in the world. There’s just not enough time. And soon there won’t be any contraceptives. All Hail the Emerging Golden Age of Dry Humping. But we don’t really want to have sex with everyone. See the following app. We just want to see people naked. And see what they’ve got. People check people out. When you walk by a guy, he will check you out. Quickly and thoroughly, faster than it takes to turn a page on your little fancy kindle. Women look like they’re reading or looking the other way or talking on the phone, but they're checking you out, too. I just haven’t figured out how. Women are much smarter than me. But what about an app that gave us the ability to see what people were like, deep down? Underneath their clothes? And no deeper. Because muscle systems are creepy. The promise of X-Ray specs have delighted Americans’ imaginations and always come up disappointingly short. But how hard could this technology be? There’s all kinds of wacky radiation coming out of these phones all the time. We just have to harness it for the good of society and stuff.
I have seen literally half a dozen people naked in my adulthood. And you can rarely guess just by looking at people how great they'll look naked. I have been constantly thrilled with naked people blowing away my expectations. It is always a thrill to see someone else naked. Even just random dudes on the subway. This is where the X-Ray Specs app comes in. And with all the phone camera technology, you could even get views of people bathed in a glorious sepia! Everyone looks better in sepia. And maybe there could be some kind of thing where you could improve how people look naked, Photoshop-style. For when you inevitably turn the naked app on yourself , drunk, and post photos to Facebook.
The thing already had vibrate mode? Why not make the vibrate work for you? You could get some kind of washable case for the outside, perhaps something ribbed, and bzzzzzzz away your worries. I can’t believe this isn’t already a thing.
GRASS IS GREENER APP
This is by far the best idea I have had, ever, yet. How much time do we all spend wondering if we could be doing something cooler and better somewhere else? For me, the nagging sense that I’m missing out on something great is almost overwhelming, particularly because I never leave my apartment, and nothing good ever happens around here. What if you got an instant alert when good times were happening somewhere else? “CHET DOING BODY SHOTS OFF POSTAL WORKERS! 42ND & 8TH!” If you knew the exact moment to leave the lame party you were at for the one that had just gotten out of control, your phone would be more than a phone. It would be a compass and a phone. A compass to good times and a phone that sometimes rings.
Jim Behrle tweets @behrle.