I am a mobile app, a digital service designed and programmed to run on a device such as a smartphone or tablet computer.
I am currently, however, on neither.
What I do exactly? I can take a photo (.jpg or .png) and show what you will look like when you’re older, or younger, or a different gender, or anything other than what you are now. Then I can help you post it to your favorite social media channels, where others will laugh, giggle or be prompted to do it for themselves. The customer pain point? Well, there isn’t one, but it was National Age Day and the agency wanted to seize the moment.
My specific version 188.8.131.52 was first downloaded by Sandy, a thirty-something management consultant in New Jersey. I defaulted to his last screen, three swipes away. For several days in a row, I was launched and used. My product has been seen on Facebook, WhatsApp and of course Insta. Sandy doesn’t use Twitter and, obviously, not Pinterest.
Weeks went by. Then months. I waited. Yes, I know, I was competing for attention with 32 others, including weather, chat, calendar, camera, mail, music, podcast and a snore recording application. I hear the average person uses nine apps a day. I was lucky to be even a second thought. My 15 minutes.
The problems started with visual clutter. And then it became about space. Then an article came out about security. At first Sandy didn’t have the heart to do it, but there must have been a trigger — boredom, an inspired moment, or watching a colleague go all Marie Kondo. All I know is he held down the center button and all of us went active with X’s, danger in the air, we apps quivering on screen. Sure, we might be simply be moved or “foldered.” But we also knew we could be deleted.
Sandy swiped to third screen of apps, and his finger moved around, hovering over me for at least two seconds. I thought my fate was sealed. But then it moved next to me and the X that got axed was the bathroom finder app, created by a toilet tissue brand. I was surprised. It was clever. 2012 Cannes Lions award winner. Now gone. You could hear the sigh of relief, however, all the way to the virgin memo app.
Three weeks later, though, Sandy was in a Lyft. He should have been talking to a friend or looking at the window at the world. Instead, his face was in his phone, determined. He opened up SETTINGS > STORAGE and then the scrolling again became ominous. It only took a second, without warning. His finger turned the grey button green and… I was offloaded. I felt strange, uncomfortable as part of me as if below the neck slowly disappeared over 4G. Now I wasn’t deleted, but I wasn’t there either. Some of my data stayed on the phone. The rest went to… the clouds?
Offloading, you see, is a process that “reduces the storage burden of its binary, but holds to the documents and data with in it.” It frees up space, though not as much as wiping me off the planet. Although I am sort of wiped off the planet. The cloud? I think it’s in North Carolina.
I am neither fully here, nor fully gone. It’s like being a ghost, but not the funny kind Lesley Jones would chase. My morphed face icon still proudly can be seen. I can be found via Siri search. At any moment, I could be summoned back, restored as if nothing had changed. I am not optimistic, however. People tend to give up and move on. Like that Ariana Grande song. Thank you, next.
So here I am with friends like a productivity app, an event planner and thousands of versions of GarageBand. I have a lot of time to think. Did I truly fulfill a customer need, or was I a goof for a temporary campaign as support. I wonder also if I should have been a mobile website instead of an app. In dark moments, wonder if I should have existed at all. I hear stories of abandoned microsites and optimized display banners and am thinking of starting a club.million
All I know is that there are two million apps in Apple’s App Store, and the number is growing every day. That’s the population of Slovenia. Which, honestly, sounds like a better place to be.