Friday, May 7, 2010

Why iPhones Apps Suck

Sometimes, an advance in technology is so strange and exciting that you can't help but get your hopes up. When the TV networks started covering political campaigns, some commentators predicted that since ordinary people would see more of the candidates, it would be harder to fool them and more serious, issue-driven campaigns would result—ha! Similarly, the idea of cell phone “apps” is pretty cool, in practice: a whole lot of independent software designers working on shareware that will turn our phones into space-age Swiss Army Knives. The possibilities appear limitless, until you realize that, like with TV and the internet, cell phone apps will basically just allow us to watch bad movies, look at porn, and buy stuff. Any attempt to color outside of the lines will not be tolerated.

Case in point: Atari Teenaged Riot, everyone's favorite German electro-punk group, tried to include a feature on their new app that would cause riots, sort of, only not really—the “Riotsounds” feature would make the phone produce “noise sounds which trigger hysteria and panic within the audience." Sounds kind of ominous, but all the app really does is play some grating techno music. It's not like ATR have access to supervillian-level technology; “Maximum Carnage” is not likely to result. (Although the group did actually start a riot one time.)

Still, ATR's app smacks of intentional anti-authoritarianism—they advise people to play the Riotsounds on the largest speakers they can find—and that made Apple nervous. Acceptable uses of the iPhone apparently include finding restaurant reviews and giving people a multiplicity of ways to purchase music on iTunes, but not encouraging people to take up arms against the police, which is too bad. We already have apps that let capitalists track stocks and buy extraordinarily expensive iPhone cases—where are the apps for the hard-core leftists? It's good to be reminded that no matter how many ads Apple runs with cool, bourgeois hipsters endorsing their products, they don't really want you to rock the boat, which is why some people prefer Microsoft these days—at least they don't pretend to be the good guys.

1 comment:

  1. So, this post should really have been about how Riotsounds is a really stupid idea for an app. And yeah, Apple controls the programs that can run on its device. This isn't a problem, though, unless we're also forced to exclusively use Apple devices, which we're not.

    Also, inciting violence (e.g. a riot) is not covered under free speech protections. For a good reason.

    See the recent events in Iran for examples of mobile technology being used in a revolutionary manner.

    However, I totally sympathize with your broader point about how scary it is that corporations control just about everything.