By Palau Shavin
ENTER a restaurant offering good WiFi service these days, and, instead of the chatter of diners, you may only hear the tapping of keys or the beep of computer games. In fact, it’s not unusual these days to see families at the dinner table, all busy with their own mobile devices.
Dad is sharing documents using Dropbox on his Chromebook, while mom is on the iPad, Skyping with the prodigal son who is away in college overseas. Meanwhile, the teenage daughter is on her Samsung S4, sharing her latest snaps with her friends on Facebook, while younger brother is engrossed in a multi-player zombie game on the iPad Mini.
What all four have in common is that they are using apps for work and play across a variety of platforms.
Whether you are on your laptop computer, a tablet, a phablet or a smartphone, you are probably using apps to get information, store documents and photos, communicate, and even do presentations.
According to Nielson 2012 Smartphone Insights Study, smartphone penetration rate in Malaysia stands at 27% in Q1 of last year, of which more than a third (36%) are aged 25 to 34.
And this is expected to increase to 60% in two years, according to a study done by McCann, which cites the various incentives given by the government such as the RM200 rebate to youths to buy smartphones.
Already, we can see just how much social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have permeated our lives to the point where we now need to be constantly connected, to check on and provide updates throughout the day.
But apps are more than just social media based. Malaysians download games, productivity, finance, communication, even shopping apps and just about anything that can make the day go by easier.
For instance, a media professional who lives in Kajang but works in Mutiara Damansara says she would not leave the house without first checking out the traffic update via an app on her smartphone.
And if I want to head to an unfamiliar place, I would just use Waze – a community sourced turn-by-turn navigation and traffic updater which is sounding the death knell for standalone GPS navigators.
At last count, there were over a million apps in Google Play (for Android market), 900,000 in Apple’s App Store, and about 100,000 each in the Windows Marketplace and in BlackBerry World.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available – some are free, and many mostly paid (but priced cheaper than a cup of coffee to encourage impulse buying).
A good app will stand the test of time. The first apps I ever downloaded were for my Blackberry device and I still use them till now.
They include gwabbit (pulls contact details from emails to create new contacts), DriveCarefully (reads out sms to user while they are driving), StickyNote (allows you to post notes on your main screen), Contacts to Excel (save your contacts as a excel sheet and emails them to you), Forward Reply and Edit (for email) and Reversi.
But all the more interesting app choices are found in the Android market (known as Google Play) and the Apple App Store.
Seriously, there is an app for practically everything you can dream of. Got a couple of bottles of alcohol at home and wondering what cocktails you can come up? Just use the Mixology app and you’ll be in cocktail heaven.
Stuck in a strange city and not sure where to eat? Let one of the many restaurant finder apps lead you on a culinary adventure.
A student or entrepreneur who needs to keep his notes – be they voice, written or even snapshots – organised would use Evernote.
Want to learn a new language? There are tons of language apps to get you conversing in Swahili, if that’s what you want.
There are apps for emergencies, apps to get recipes, learning apps for autistic children, even exercise and diet apps to keep you healthy. You can even take control of your TV remote with an app!
It truly is turning into an app world!
Tomorrow: Some must have apps for Malaysians… including our country’s very own MyTeksi