You would think with 100,000+ apps in Marketplace there would be enough of everything by now. Not talking about those popular titles like;Instagram or Pandora. Personally, if these big titles don’t think Windows Phone is important enough to invest a few thousand dollars on an app, because market share has not reached critical mass despite the fact that their entire existence (back end) most likely depends on Microsoft, I say to hell with them. There are alternatives. But I digress. No, I am talking about useful apps from indie developers. Those little things that help to make your life a bit easier. Maybe that’s why an App Store needs a half million offerings, so that you can find the 100 or so that will work for you. Not sure.
Pretty certain if I gave this some deep thought I could come up with a slew of projects to keep developers busy for months. But here are two that are so close to being “available” I can taste them (and have).
App # 1 – Not sure what you want to call this one. Catalog app, my stuff app, remember stuff app, whatever. I need an app that will allow me to do the following; Take a photo of an item, give the photo a title, add some additional comment in a separate field, organize said objects in self-titled folders, backup the data to the cloud. That’s it. Seems simple enough. Good luck finding it. What would you use something like this for? Well, say you are at Sam’s and you see a big bag of dog food, or maybe some Canon inkjet ink. If you don’t already know, a very large percentage of SKUs at warehouse club stores (and Walmart) are customized for that particular chain, which happens to drive up the price for everybody btw. Could be the net weight or maybe the way a combination of items are packaged. This of course makes it hard to compare apples to apples, which is “exactly” what the retailer intended. But wouldn’t it be nice to photograph the description placards for these items and add additional comment, so the next time you are at PetSmart or Staples, you can compare products and make an “educated consumer” decision. I know, I can scan the SKU and then spend 10 minutes searching for the best deal, filtering out incomplete entries. But shipping a 25lb. bag of Iam’s from Amazon is not exactly an optimal idea. This is but one example of how this kind of app could be used. I am sure there are many others.
How did I come up with such exact detail for for my imaginary app? Well, I had it on my phone way back in 2011. It’s called Remember All and has a whopping 3 reviews, including mine from 3/2/2011. The app does everything described. Plus, as a bonus, it also records the exact location the photo was taken. So you will know where you were when you snapped that whatever. So what’s missing? How about a backup solution. I used this app for several months and collected nearly two dozen entries. Then I needed to hard reset my Surround. Guess where all my effort went. That’s right, into that magnetic alternate dimension where all lost data gets stored. After starting to collect info again, and again needing an hard reset (back when I was tinkering with Registry Endpoints) I gave up on this app. Tried contacting the developer but got nowhere. As the app has not been updated in more than a year, the project appears dead in the water. I have searched and searched for alternatives and downloaded a few, but they all lack a backup solution. Something that is absolutely necessary for any app that will be collecting a large amount of user data. I did find a Home Inventory app that does most of what I have described above, and does have a backup solution, but it is so customized for its purpose I couldn’t use it for my needs (ok, where did I put the dog food photo, in the Kitchen or Living Room). Maybe my request is just to niche though, and I will forever be stuck without a viable solution.
App# 2 – This is an app that would compile expiration dates for; your passport, license, registration, anti-virus subscriptions, app and magazine subscriptions, XBox, Zune Pass, MagicJack, App Hub, domains, etc. You could see them all listed alphabetically or by expiration, and add/edit as needed. Then when an entry was coming due, you would get a notification reminder. Now wouldn’t this be a good idea,
So good that someone already thought of it. That’s right. It’s called Expiry Date Pro, the app with the most horrendous app icon in Marketplace (can’t be more than 2×2 pixels, taken with a blurry cam). Another app that’s more than a year old , and abandoned. Although the app design is a bit odd (this developer never read any Metro guidelines) I had everything I needed, including a backup solution. Well, sort of. When I first downloaded the app, I noticed there was no link to SkyDrive or Dropbox for backing up, so I had to ask. The response from the developer was that he was using some Azure platform thing and his backup was more secure than any other alternative. Right. While not perfect, the app worked. Prior to picking up my Lumia 900 on pre-launch day, I got all of the apps that provide for Cloud backup and did a sync, so I would be all set when I installed everything on my new device the next day. But when I tried to backup EDP, I got a failure message. Thinking it was a temporary thing I proceeded to install all my apps the next day, but couldn’t find Expiry Date Pro in Marketplace. Only Expiry Date, a free version (which does not include backup) released a few months after the paid app. So I downloaded Expiry Date and found a link within the app to upgrade which brought me to a hidden link for Expiry Date Pro. Downloaded ( I already paid for it) and tried the backup/restore function again without any luck. So there I was transferring about 35 entries from my Surround to L900 manually. That was almost five months ago and the backup feature is still dead, as are these apps. So much for that Azure solution. Dropbox would still be working, even with an app no longer receiving updates.
There are a couple alternatives in Marketplace, but none include a backup solution. And there are several that keep track of expiration dates for things in your refrigerator (would someone actually take the time to record the exp date for a bottle of salad dressing), but again no backups. I am thinking of maybe using the new web interface for Clever-To-Do (task app) and entering all of my expiration dates as tasks. I could categorize them all in a different context or project to keep them organized. At least I would have a viable backup for transitioning to another, or multiple devices. But this app just handled this function so well. I would miss it.
While on the subject of backups, I know WP8 is supposed to offer some type of global backup solution, probably to SkyDrive. But honestly, unless there is some type of “app specific” restore/sync function, it won’t work as well as you may think. Several of my apps not only backup, but sync data to the Cloud. So I can keep multiple devices up to data with my SkyDrive or Dropbox app specific backups. And what about app deletions/reinstalls. We have all encountered an app that needed to be uninstalled/reinstalled for new updated changes to take effect. How will data from a global backup be restored to that specific app? Lots of questions.
So, any developers out there interested in taking on a challenging project? How about contacting these developers and picking up where they have left off. That would make things somewhat easier, wouldn’t it. Can’t offer much more than one guaranteed download and a good review if the app is deserving. Oh, and a Mobility Digest app feature of course. And for non-developers, any indie apps that you wish were available to you today? Some app categories are saturated with alternatives, while others are sparse at best. Give the coders something to think about.