August 02, 2013, 11:02 AM — For all the functionality that mobile apps have brought to our lives, we've also witnessed the unfathomable success of iFart, an early iOS app that did little more than simulate flatulence. But iFart also managed to generate more than $10,000 per day, and its success dropped the creative bar so low that just about everyone and his weird, unkempt cousin began working on apps that would, uh, capture the same magic.
Dig it: Popular apps don't always need to be good. They just need to get people talking.
Here, we present a brief list of ill-conceived app failures that should never have been developed. Sometimes--to bastardize a phrase from Apple's marketing department--there simply shouldn't be an app for that.
What is it? A hyperlocal iOS app that allows users to locate their Facebook friends in San Francisco's Dolores Park. That's all it does.
Why this app shouldn't exist: It's frustratingly niche. There are other non-Dolores Park-branded location apps that allow you to find your friends within Dolores Park--or any park. Hell, they can even help you locate your friends in non-park settings. Go nuts.
But the worst thing about Dolo? It confirms what most San Franciscans already think about Dolores Park: It's become a way-too-precious playground for precocious app developers and everyone else who thinks San Francisco is ruining San Francisco.
Still curious? Start stalking your park friends on iTunes.
What is it? It's an app that invites users to simulate all the fun of using an electric trimmer, but without all the hassle of actually shaving. The picture of the trimmer on the display combined with the bzzzzz sound from the speakers will fool all your friends into thinking you're grooming right in front of them. I don't see how this app could fail to get any party started.
Why this app shouldn't exist: Shaving is not a game. But you wouldn't know that from the developers' description: "The free game makes fun of the believe that smartphones can do everything and turns your mobile phone into an electric shaver. The realistic sound and interface confuse family and friends and causes a lot of laughs and fun." Lies! All of it.
What is it? The official app of Waffle House, the popular southern-food franchise.
Why this app shouldn't exist: Aside from the winters, there's one major drawback to residing in the northeast--Waffle Houses are in short supply. Whenever I travel south, I make sure to plan a trip to a Waffle House, where some of the world's finest waffles can be found. Unfortunately, however, the official Waffle House app isn't nearly as indispensable as the waffles.
The only genuine service the app provides is a "Waffle House locator," which--in the Android version at least--appears to simply tap into the Google Maps API, but fails to provide access to any helpful Google Maps features, such as directions. All of that prompts the question: Why not just use Google Maps to begin with?
I don't want to pick on Waffle House, but its useless app affirms the greater trend of brands believing that they need to develop an app, despite the fact that the app serves no functional value. Waffles deserve better. We all deserve better.
What is it? No amount of Facebook is too much Facebook. That seemed to be the working philosophy of Zuckerberg and company when they designed the much-hyped Facebook Home, a launcher for Android that slathers liberal helpings of the social network all over your Android OS.
Not only do updates from your Facebook friends constantly crawl across your screen, but your friends' FB avatars also transform into creepy floating Chat Heads.
Why this app shouldn't exist: Despite Facebook's insistence to the contrary, we don't need constant Facebook. Sure, we all use the service, but do we really need it stalking our mobile lives at all times? Although the app was able to hit the 500,000-download milestone in fewer than ten days, over half the initial reviews were one-star.
Still curious? It's still racking up horrible reviews on Google Play.
Magna Carta Holy Grail
What is it? It's the official app of Jay Z's new album, and it allowed Samsung Galaxy users to get the album for free before the official release dropped.
Why this app shouldn't exist: This app has three main problems, but Jay Z isn't one of them. I can confirm that the actual album is pretty good! Not Blueprint good, but good. As a Galaxy owner, I'm not going to sneeze at a free album I would have purchased anyway, but the Magna Carta app manages to fall short in three notable ways.
1. Privacy concerns: The app wants to get all up in your personal information. Even if this app is the most benign of digital creatures, it represents a dangerous recipe--an amoral corporation need only hook up with a beloved celebrity to gain a treasure trove of data from a rabid fan base.
2. Horrible UI: Although the app allows users to download the album directly to their phones to play in any format they see fit, the app itself has an annoying interface that can play only one track at a time, making the delivery-by-app method all the more curious.
3. A terrible precedent: It would be a bad thing if albums became app-based. From a consumer angle, we want all of our music collection to live in one central hub, be it iTunes, Spotify, or some other music player. We don't want to encourage cloistering of our tunes.
Still curious? The app has since been removed from Google Play, but the album is available on iTunes as well as all the other usual outlets.
What is it? This app judges your overall smooching aptitude while promising to "improve your kissing skills so that you can kiss her more. The better kisser you are, the better are your chances of impressing your lover."
Why this app shouldn't exist: First off, germs are a concern. Furthermore, the last time I checked, kissing occurs in three dimensions. So unless you are romantically attracted to slabs of Gorilla Glass, this app will not help you master your tonsil hockey skills.
What is it? An iOS app that purports to help you control your dreams via audio cues set to go off at just the right time. You place the phone on the bed next to you as you sleep so that the app can monitor your movements throughout the night. When the app is confident you're in a state of REM sleep, it cues up a preselected atmospheric soundscape to help "create your desired dream."
Why this app shouldn't exist: Even though the app is free, it follows a freemium model by allowing users to purchase specific "dream influencers" that range from $1 packages (such as Ocean Sounds) up to $4 for a more suggestive 50 Shades of Grey soundscape. But you can already find various ways to customize your phone to play sounds while you sleep--for free. Set up your dreams to include kitties, volcanoes, or your favorite podcast crew. It's all up to you.
What is it? A Japanese perfume manufacturer's roundabout way of texting scents by way of a physical, perfume-filled reservoir accessory connected to the phone. You can prompt the perfume to release a small spritz of scent by another device remotely, so you are--in theory--texting a scent.
Why this app shouldn't exist: There is literally no situation in which this technology would ever be applicable. Not one. You are perhaps racking your brain to think of one, but stop. There is none.
Still curious? The app is still officially in development, but you can learn more about the technology and download the SDK here.
What is it? An app that measures how long the app can stay airborne.
Why this app shouldn't exist: Technically, this app is supposed to measure how far you can jump in the air, not your phone. The developer's description explicitly warns users not to chuck their phone into the air, but that message is somewhat negated by the app's happy little flying-phone mascot. And while a developer shouldn't be held responsible for all the ways people will misuse its apps, the mixed messaging probably makes the following behavior inevitable:
What is it? An app that allows users to zip and unzip pairs of virtual pants. The app's official description calls it "sexy, suggestive, and seductive."
Why this app shouldn't exist: It's a needless distraction that might otherwise stop someone from getting the help they desperately need. I'm specifically concerned for the people who paid $1 of their hard-earned money for the full version of the app, which gives the user the ability to change up the underwear behind the zipper.
Still curious? A lite version is available on iTunes, or you can plunk down $1 for the full customizable version.
What is it? A game that measures how long you can keep your finger on the screen. If you hold your finger there the longest, you win! Congratulations to you.
Why this app shouldn't exist: Things should have a point. To the game's credit, both the title and the official Play Store description provide a warning about the app's uselessness. If you download this thing, it's your own damn fault.
Still curious? The self-proclaimed pointless game awaits at Google Play.
Will You Marry Me?
What is it? An iOS app that will ask the person of your dreams to be yours forever.
Why this app shouldn't exist: Unless your future spouse-to-be is severely impressed by irony, this is the most thoughtless proposal you could put together.
What is it? An app that helps creepy dudes locate bikini shots of their female Facebook friends. The app employs advanced visual algorithms created by someone who should really be putting his talents toward something other than Pikinis.
Why this app shouldn't exist: It lets womenfolk in on a terrible secret: Guys will rifle through your photos section for bikini shots and similarly revealing imagery. That happens. And for the app's intended audience (creepy dudes), this is not a good way to meet ladies.
Still curious? The app is still in development, but you can be creepy and sign up to be a beta tester here.