Tahlequah Daily Press

September 12, 2013

Bad apps, free apps, blips and glitches

Managing Editor

TAHLEQUAH — Yeah, they have an app for that – but does it work? Or will it just make you want to throw your smartphone at the wall in frustration?

When I got my cell phone earlier in the summer, I promised myself I would not pay for any apps. I keep recalling that old bit of folk wisdom, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” For women of my generation, that saying was mostly employed by mothers trying to prevent their teenage daughters from having pre-marital sex. The mothers, of course, were operating under the assumption that being “bought” – rather than kicking up her hooves in the pasture – was a long-term goal of the cow.

I can see a more modern application, if you’ll pardon the pun: Why buy an app when you can get one free? We got similar advice during a recent webinar from an expert in apps designed for media. But whatever your intended use, there’s a down side to free apps, covered by another old saw: “You get what you pay for.” Or as TDP Multimedia Editor Sheri Gourd put it, you might be getting a “bad app.” Not that paying for it guarantees a good app.

Though I’m relatively new at this game, I’ve already had some experience with bad apps. I’m willing to allow that some of these situations might be cases of decent apps gone bad, due to misuse on my part or download glitches. That was the case Friday with a YouTube app I had acquired so I could post a video on Twitter. (Shameless plug: Follow me at KPoindexterTDP, or the paper itself at TahlequahTDP; the rest of the staff’s handles are listed on the latter homepage.)

I had used YouTube both on a computer and on my husband’s Android, and had no problems. But when I tried to log onto my YouTube account with my iPhone, I was met with resistance. “Something went wrong,” it kept saying. It eventually inquired, with a certain tone, whether I might have used the wrong password. It was obvious I was going to have to do a lot of typing, so I switched to the desktop computer, changed my password, and went back to the phone. I uploaded the video, assuming the process was complete, and jumped over to Twitter for posting. I was advised to “stand by ... the process is being completed.” No indication was given on how long the process would take, but after about three minutes, I began to envision a yellow Pacman, eating away at my data package as zealously as it devoured Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde.

Those of you who are on a “family plan” understand how the wanton use of minutes, texting capability or data packages can cause angst on the homefront, either through extra charges or encroachment on someone else’s privileges. Not wanting to incur either extra charges or the wrath of my husband and son, I quit the app, hoping that would interrupt the process. No such luck; when I peeked again, the same message was displayed. So I turned off the phone, waited, then turned it back on; the irascible app was still running. (At this point, I was reminded of a time when my siblings and I prank-called the “operator” and hung up; when we picked up the receiver a few minutes later, the operator was still on the line, demanding to talk to our mother.) So I did the only thing I could think of: I deleted the app. Maybe I’ll go back and reload it later.

I’ve done that a couple of times with another app, “My Disney Experience.” So far, my experience hasn’t been anything to text home about. When I click on “My Plans,” I’m informed that “We’re sorry, a blip in the network kept us from retrieving your information; please try again.” Trying again was – well, trying, as was calling the “technical help line” at Disney, from whence I got this response: “Hmm. It should be working.” Not much help. The only time this app even came close to functioning was when I was on U.S. 62 around Fort Gibson, returning from a workout at the Muskogee Swim and Fitness Center. It struggled mightily to cough up some data before it locked up my iPhone.

I also had trouble with the SkyGrid news app my boss told me about – an app that worked perfectly on his iPhone. That one finally decided to smooth out and fly right. Then there was the dragon game app I foolishly downloaded my first couple of days with the iPhone because I thought the dragon was cute. I had to delete it because I kept getting the message, “Someone wants to play with you.” As if I had the time.

Can I blame all these “glitches” – or “blips,” as Disney would have it – on bad apps, or is there another underlying problem? I keep wondering if there’s a setting that’s been turned off when it should be on, or vice versa. Maybe my iPhone is a lemon, or maybe something knocked loose – despite the $35 protective cover – when I dropped it on the truck floorboard a few weeks ago.

I’m not technologically prepared to address these issues. I might need the services of a nerd. Any volunteers?

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.