Is this app for me?

How’s your pet lizard doing? You do own a pet chameleon if you have a smartphone or a tablet.

A chameleon, my favorite analogy for a smartphone, can change its body colors for “camouflage, but most commonly in social signaling and in reactions to temperature and other conditions” per Wikipedia. If environmental conditions trigger a chameleon's multiple palette skin tones to adapt to their surroundings, apps enable a smartphone to be more than a phone.

But there are too many apps in the mutually exclusive “App Store” for Apple devices and Google’s “Play Store” for Android-based devices. I quickly searched for a magnifying glass app and at least 200 different magnifying glass apps were in the Play Store; probably similar observations can be made in the App Store. Fortunately, there are tips to narrow down your candidates by looking at the data presented for each app listed.

The first is the average “rating” out of five stars. This can be represented as a number next to a single solid star or outline of five stars with whole or fractional number of stars filled to represent its average rating.

The second number gives more credence to the rating as it represents how many people contributed to the average rating. Simply put, a rating of 4.9 derived from 200 reviewers is not as convincing as an app with 4.7 rating derived from 7,000 reviewers in my opinion, even if the first app has a higher rating.

The third number, which may or may not show, is the actual number of people who installed the app. It doesn’t represent how many kept it so may not be too helpful.

Frankly, even with the first two numbers to aid you in the arduous task to find the app of your liking, it will require some trial and error. Again, use these numbers to narrow down to a couple of apps that you want to try. Once installed, use it to see if you like it; if not, uninstall. Repeat.

Basically there are two types of apps: free or premium. The former is usually supported by advertisements but can be converted to a premium app, sans advertisement, by paying a fee. Although not a totally new concept and seen as “shareware” software since the 1980s, this “freemium” business model spread to apps and digital world-based services with the advent of the cloud.

Going back to the magnifying glass example, once I find “the” magnifying glass app to my liking, I look within the app’s menu system for words such as premium, upgrade, or pro to see how much they’re asking to rid of the annoying (to me) advertisements. If constant advertisements don’t annoy you, keep using it for free.

As I wrote in the previous article of this three-part series, I recommend buying a gift card for the store used by your device to pay for your app purchases rather than registering your credit card to limit your losses in case you are victimized. Happy hunting!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with almost 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 11, Issue 4, Posted 9:57 AM, 02.19.2019