Apps are the new black

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I’ve just installed the new Chrome Browser for iOS app on my phone. It’s the most downloaded free app worldwide at the time of writing. It’s easier to use and better looking than Safari, it just feels better. However, since Apple won’t let Google use the fast JavaScript engine behind Safari, it is in fact slower.

But I like it so much I’ve replaced Safari in my iPhone’s dock.

But I’ll carry on searching for stuff with the Google app, looking up pub quiz answers on the Wikipedia app, posting stuff to Facebook, Flickr and Twitter with Instagram. staying up to date with the BBC News or Flipboard, watching videos on YouTube, listening to dad rock on 6 Music with Tunein Radio, finding trains on thetrainline and bikes on BarclaysBikes, getting my presentations into Minimal Folio using Dropbox, passing the time in queues on Scrabble. Mostly what I definitely won’t be doing is surfing the internet on my phone. Before I get on my bike I could look out of the window to check the weather. But I’m lazy so I use the Weather app. It’s still going to rain.

The mobile internet has finally arrived only I hadn’t noticed because it was called an app. Apps are just websites except they generally look nicer and work better, maybe it’s because they only do one thing. Do one thing well.  So well that I’m even prepared to pay for it, sometimes. But if I’m not paying I’m not surprised or upset when I give something else in return; watch an ad, sign a petition, give up some of my personal data. It makes me ashamed of the pointless bloatware that I’ve been involved in designing and building over the last 15 years. But it gives me hope that finally people are asking the important question about online activity before they spend money on it; what’s it for?

On the same day I read about Chrome for iOS I also read about Firefox OS. Mozilla announced that  “Industry support is growing behind Mozilla’s plans to launch a new fully open mobile ecosystem based on HTML5” A mobile web for everyone. Life outside the iPhone bubble. The opportunity to reclaim ‘design’ for the masses from the expensive chair porn showroom where Bauhaus originals have ended up. The chair/phone for the masses does not have to look crap or work badly. Good design doesn’t have to mean expensive products. But where’s the profit in that? If Mozilla are successful in creating an alternative universal eco system the moment for proprietary apps may be already over just as it has started [or not quite got off the ground if you’re Microsoft]. Leaving me one step behind as usual.

As a ceative I don’t particularly know or care what platforms I’m working on, so long as they work well and give me the freedom and control I need. But flash did that and what a dead end that turned out to be. Maybe the reason apps look so good is because of Apple’s obsessive control. But given the skeuomorphic direction Apple seem to heading in I am not convinced; Ye olde address book (contacts)? My little diary (calendar)? All work and no play (iWork)? No thank you. Designers need discipline but self discipline, not a playpen. Currently my entire digital world is broken in pieces; 1000 contacts, 5 calendars, 200 GB of music, 100 GB of photographs, 50 GB of portfolio, scattered over various hard disks and free cloud storage accounts.

I need to start again, to get rid of the junk, to put it all back together. That’s the good news. I need a new plan. That’s the scary bit, that’s the exciting bit.

I’m moving house too.