I recently purchased an iPad and, like most users, now spend every waking moment perusing the online App Store, randomly purchasing applications that I will use religiously for about 30 minutes, roughly the shelf life of an app before an upgrade becomes available.
The good people at Apple have helped me navigate the half-million apps by grouping them into categories. If I'm feeling out of shape, I can search "Health and Fitness." If my entrepreneurial spirit kicks in, there are thousands of business apps available. Lazy? Just tap "Productivity" apps.
They also have created something called "push notifications." That's the technical term. The nontechnical term is "alerts." The even more nontechnical term is "too lazy to lift a finger to actually open the app." Which is why, when I turn on my iPad, the home screen shows my flight status courtesy of the United Airlines app, while the USA Today app posts Olympics results before I've even had a chance to set my DVR. Thankfully, push notifications can be disabled.
Other companies have jumped on the alerts bandwagon, as well. We can tell our bank to alert us, via email, when mortgage and car payments are due. Or we can just use the automatic withdrawal feature and let the bank remove funds from our accounts once a month in case we forget to read our email.
My wife, an avid jogger, recently purchased a Nike sport watch that tracks every tedious step of her daily journeys. That's a useful feature, but the watch also alerts her that she hasn't run in awhile, even taunting her with messages like, "Ready for another run?" and "Are we running today?"
Nike wisely chose not to include a keyboard on this watch, thereby eliminating the user's desire to type a truthful reply like, "Yes! Running to hardware store to purchase sledgehammer for u."
Personally, I don't need new technology to tell me I'm neglecting exercise. My 20-year-old bathroom scale does that just fine, thank you. But developers hoping to create the next great app for the Apple's App Store seem to think we need alerts to help us remember even the most basic tasks. A great example is Basic Baby Feedings, containing a feature called "Feeding Reminder."
I ask you, who is FORGETTING to feed their baby?
My wife and I have two children, both of whom were born PIP ("pre-iPad" or "pre-iPhone" . . . you choose). Still, we had an app that told us when it was time to feed the baby. It was called THE BABY!!! Our infant offspring faithfully told us when they were hungry, via their lungs. This feature never failed. And the best part? Our kids didn't need to be hooked to the Internet for the alert to function.
Even more strange is that Basic Baby Feedings allows the user to send baby information to Twitter or Facebook. How nice to be able to tell the entire social networking community that yes, you remembered to feed your baby. I can only imagine the responses.
"Congratulations! You are truly an amazing parent!"
Speaking of parents, for couples who are struggling to conceive a child, there's hope thanks to numerous apps that actually alert you when a woman's body is right for conception. However, it might be wise to turn off any sound feature associated with these apps. How embarrassing to have your iPhone ding loudly at a dinner party and then have to explain why the two of you must leave immediately.
Apple customers also quickly learn that being informed often comes with a price. iEarthquake alerts you that an earthquake, tsunami, flood, tornado, cyclone or other cataclysmic event may be bearing down on your area. The app costs $2.99. Or, for free, you could download iEarthquake Lite, which does everything mentioned above with one minor modification: no alerts.
That leaves users with a choice: spend three bucks or get the free version and wonder why everybody in the neighborhood is boarding up their windows and fleeing to higher ground.
As I age, I know I will have to rely on these push notifications more than I care to admit. Just recently I needed the calendar app to alert me to a radio interview that had completely slipped my mind.
Yet even if my memory fails completely, I can say one thing with absolute certainty:
I will NEVER, EVER download Bowel Mover Pro.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun