What Next, Talking Elephants? Oh Wait...

At the time of writing this, the number of Android applications in the Google Play store is 1,319,987.

This, in my opinion, is proof that as a species, we have far too much free time on our hands. There seems to be an app for pretty much whatever you can think of.

To demonstrate, I will now search the Google Play app store for the first thing that pops into my head. For some reason, the first thing that popped into my head was ‘flying elephant’.

I’m sure a psychologist somewhere may be able to tell me what deep dark reason there is for that being my first thought. But this isn’t about me, it’s about whatever point I end up making/not making.

So let’s search the app store. At first it’s a little disappointing as the first five options are ‘Elephant at Doctor’, ‘Biker Elephant’, ‘Dancing Elephant’ and two ‘Talking Elephant’ apps.

Let me say that again for you. TWO TALKING ELEPHANT APPS! How have we developed to the point where the demand is so high for talking elephant apps that two exist? Two!!

Both have got 4/5 stars too! Unless it connects me to a video conference call with an actual talking elephant, I can’t imagine any app called ‘Talking Elephant’ being worth anything more than 2/5 stars.

I’ll get back to my original point in a minute but first I need to check the reviews to find out why people like this app so much.

Aha! I have found my answer. Darrell Hobbs, in his 5/5 star review states “I love him he is soooooo cute. He even dances Michael Jacksons songs”. There we go, my question is answered. It has an average 4/5 stars and over 100,000 downloads because he “even dances Michael Jacksons songs”.

Thank you Darrell.

Anyway, so after these initial five results, I see what I was looking for. An app called ‘Poli: Flying Elephant’.

From the description I learn that with this app you can “Pull back the hammock with your finger and fling the elephant away into the distance!”

And people think Grand Theft Auto is promoting senseless violence! Pfft.

Don’t go writing to your MP just yet though. Reading on in the description I learn that “While it is in flight, you can make sure that it eats a snack or two, avoids bolts of lightning and catches the airplane.”

So it’s a game where, for some reason, you fling an elephant into the distance and then, seemingly out of guilt, you assist the victim of your senseless assault by steering it out of the way of lightning, smash its face into magical hovering food and finally catch the plane. I guess when you catch the plane the elephant smashes into it, dying on impact, sending the innocent passengers to their certain demise.

I may have possibly misread the tone of this game…

This random search really highlights how saturated the market is. Apps about nonsense for the sake of…I don’t know…maybe distraction? I suppose most of what we use consumer technology for is just distraction.

That’s fine, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that every whim is catered for. However, all I can think when I look at all of those search results is: if more of those app developers got together, could we not have 250,000 brilliant apps instead of 1,319,987 random, often ropey apps?

It is truly wonderful and inspiring that there are so many people that not only have these ideas, but then make those ideas a reality. Imagine if more of those brilliant, creative minds worked together. Imagine how good those 250,000 apps could be!

The advent of the smart phone gave us a platform on which to create and share software like never before.

However, like with photos on Facebook, just because you can share it, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should (well done, you went on holiday/had a drink with a friend/saw a funny looking tree/decided to take a picture of your own face for no apparent reason).

At risk of sounding like my simile-championing colleague Si, viewing the Android app market is much like browsing a chain-pub menu. There is too much choice to reasonably process, very little of which is likely to be of any notable quality.

I’d much rather the app store was like a Michelin-star winning restaurant. A fraction of the choice, but every item hand crafted to be as delicious as possible.

I can’t see this happening in the near future though. Darrell will be delighted.