What Makes an App “Mobile?”

Every time I go to Mint.com on my iPad, there’s a banner at the top of the screen. Taunting me.

Yes, I do have the Mint app installed on my device. No, I don’t want to use it.

The Mint app only has a fraction of the features available on Mint.com. It’s really disappointing. For the most part, I like Mint as a service, but it’s a rare occasion that I open their app.

But I’m not here to talk about Mint specifically. What I do want to talk about is something broader. I want to talk about what makes something a “mobile” app.

Six or seven years ago, Mint would’ve been a great app. These were the days that mobile apps were considered to be almost a satellite experience. A limited, on-the-go sort of experience. All the big features were on your computer, where you did real work, and the mobile app just had a few small, key functions that you might want to do from your phone. Doing real work on a smartphone was for addicts and Crackberries. No normal person would want or need to do work from their phone, right?

No one thinks this way anymore.

In fact, the paradigm has completely reversed. Instagram is a prime example: Instagram is an app first, and a website second. “Second” might actually be too generous a word. For years, Instagram didn’t even have a web view. Now they do, but it’s only that: a view. You can’t post to Instagram from a desktop computer, you have to use their app. Mobile is king.

In just a few short years, the focus has completely shifted. Twitter just killed their Mac app. 93% of Facebook’s daily active users are on mobile. And I’m willing to bet that the numbers for 18-35 year olds are even higher. Mobile isn’t going anywhere. Get used to it.

Mobile is king.

Twitter Moments: Still on the Fence

A few weeks ago, Twitter added a new section to their app and website.  Called “Moments,” it’s designed to be a place to keep up with things happening in the world.  Moments includes everything from political news to entertainment to internet trends.  The idea is that Twitter pulls together interesting tweets on a topic.  It’s meant to be a way of sorting through all the noise on Twitter and discovering good content.  If it’s coverage of a live event, you can “follow” it, and tweets will show up in your timeline just for the duration of the event.  Sounds cool.  However, my experience has been mixed.

Let’s start with the good.  After the attacks on Paris last weekend, Twitter had a moment showing the responses to that.  It was cool, and I genuinely feel like it helped inform me about what happened.  So after using Moments last weekend, I decided that I liked it and I would try to keep up with it.  And that’s where my interest began to wane.  When there isn’t a major breaking news story going on, Twitter Moments are kind of… boring.

At least the ones meant to be serious news are.  There are plenty of other silly ones – usually under the “Fun” tab – that are still, well fun.  Things like the trending hashtag #IWouldSleepMoreBut (spoiler: college and Netflix are prime offenders).  And some of the news stories are interesting, even if they’re not groundbreaking.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Twitter Moments needs to decide what it wants to be.  I thought it was pretty good for breaking news, but the problem is there isn’t always news breaking.  When that’s the case, it can just be a fun distraction to kill a few minutes while waiting on the bus.  I think it’d be cool if they had a Breaking News section that was truly only for breaking news.  What I mean is that a lot of the time, this would just be empty.  And that’s ok.  What I want them to do is to differentiate between keeping up with stuff that’s happening and just goofing off.  What I don’t like is them having a breaking news section that sometimes has breaking news and other times just has lame filler.  ••


Interim: Domains and Twitter and Readers, Oh My!

Hi everyone, this is just a quick note to let you know some of the stuff going on around here at Staring at Phones.

1.  I finally bought a domain name for the blog!  This means that you can access Staring at Phones by simply going to staringatphones.com (don’t worry, you will still make it to the blog if you go to staringatphones.wordpress.com).  This is an exciting step for the blog, and I hope the domain will serve it for a long time to come.  (Note: WordPress says that it could take as long as a couple days for all internet service providers to “figure out” the new domain name, so if it doesn’t work for some reason, please just be patient.)

2.  I also made a twitter account.  There’s not much up there yet, but if any of you are interested in what I’ve been up to, you can check me out at twitter.com/NickFoster56.

3.  Finally, I want to thank everyone who reads this blog.  It’s been almost three months since I started this project, and while I’m certainly not famous, I really appreciate all you who do read the blog.  I didn’t start the blog to get followers, I started it because I enjoy writing about technology, but it is nice to know that some people out there do appreciate and enjoy what I am doing.

Thanks again, and have a great rest of your week.  I’ll be back with a real post Sunday night, as usual.  God bless!  ••