The sheer quantity of iOS apps available today, combined with low average prices, means we end up trying a lot of apps, quickly replacing older ones. Sometimes it’s because a new app in the same category offers interesting new features. Sometimes we delete an app because after the initial appeal we discover we rarely get to use it again. Sometimes an app simply ceases to be updated, or perhaps it just doesn’t get frequent updates, we think it’s no longer developed or maintained, and we discard it just because of that, even if the app is still capable of doing its job. All in all, there’s a sort of ‘disposable culture’ around mobile apps.
Getting rid of an app because it’s no longer developed (or effectively discontinued and removed from the App Store) in some cases is justified because of security concerns, or because some features no longer work, like when an app connects to a series of services which, in the meantime, have updated their APIs. Other times the reason for deleting an app is æsthetic: there are still many apps with a pre-iOS 7 look out there, and their dated interfaces badly stand out when we launch them in our otherwise updated iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Meanwhile a fresher alternative has come up in the App Store and we choose the new over the old.
Earlier today, out of curiosity, I did a small census of the apps on my iPhone 4, and discovered that I still use a bunch of them that are old, no longer developed, or have been discontinued for a long time now. Generally speaking, some of the reasons I still use them are:
- Habit — Maybe there is a newer app in the same category, but I’m so familiar with the old app’s interface that I can do things more quickly and efficiently with it.
- It was a considerable investment at the time — Despite the ‘disposable culture’ I mentioned above, I don’t like wasting money on apps. If an app cost me more than $5, I’ll use it until it can reasonably be used. Paying for another $5 app in the same category only because it has a fresher UI is silly, as far as I’m concerned. (Unless of course this newer alternative offers a stellar set of features and improvements.)
- It’s still good at its job — There are apps on my iPhone I’ve been so satisfied with that I’ve never bothered to look for replacements.
- It’s still unique in some way.
- It keeps being fun — I’m a very casual iOS gamer and I still have a few old games I love to return to when I have five minutes to kill.
Here’s a list of such apps, in no particular order:
- Mill Colour — [Free · iTunes link · Last updated: Dec 15, 2011] This app is not even Retina-optimised, but I still use it every now and then because of its colour filters. A small selection, but created by professionals.
- addLib S — [$1.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Feb 13, 2013] This app has been updated rather recently, but if you consider the app activity (as reported by AppShopper), the previous major update was in March 2012, and before that there was no activity since September 2010. It’s a cool photo/design app, whose interface never looked outdated, which still offers the occasional interesting result.
- KitCam — Discontinued and no longer available on the App Store. There is a clone, however, called KitCamera [$2.99 · iTunes link], which is your best chance to use this incredibly versatile and complete photo app on the iPhone. I’ve explained what I love about KitCam in My essential iOS apps.
- Momentile — Discontinued. I still use it to upload photos to the site.
- Design Observer — [Free · iTunes link · Last updated: Oct 18, 2010] I use it to browse and read news and articles from The Design Observer Group website. The site was recently redesigned, but the app still sports the old look and colour scheme. I like the site redesign, but I must say I use the app more frequently.
- Meernotes — [$2.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Nov 7, 2012] I still love certain instances of skeuomorphism, and I’ve been using Meernotes since day one to keep a sort of micro-journal, so I haven’t given up on it yet.
- The Typography Manual — [$3.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Mar 26, 2012] It’s still a handy and excellent resource.
- WhatTheFont — [Free · iTunes link · Last updated: Dec 16, 2011] Again, I keep it around because it’s a practical resource. Sometimes the results are a bit hit-or-miss, but often it helps me have an idea of which kind of family a typeface may belong to, especially typefaces I stumble on when I’m out and about.
- Tuner Internet Radio — [$4.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Oct 28, 2010] Honestly, I kept this app on my iPhone for a long time because when I bought it in 2008 it was one of the most expensive apps on my iPhone (it was originally priced at $5.99) and I wanted it to be a lasting investment, so to speak. As it turns out, it has been exactly that. I got it at a time when I listened to internet radio stations much more than now, and I always liked its simple, clean interface (now, of course, it looks dated), so I never felt the need to replace it with another app of the same kind. Now I use Radium more often on my iPhone 4, but still use Tuner on the iPhone 3G/3GS.
- Deep Green Chess — [$7.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Apr 19, 2011] Well, it’s still a beautiful app, and for my occasional game against the AI (or to study famous chess matches) it’s more than enough. Bit of trivia: It’s from the developer of Deep Green for the Newton: here’s a screenshot from my MessagePad 2100.
- SlotZ Racer — Discontinued. Now it has been replaced with SlotZ Racer 2 HD [$0.99 · iTunes link] but I still find the original game to be simple and fun, so I’ve kept it.
- Air Sharing for iPhone — [$8.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Sep 12, 2013] True, it’s been updated recently, but it’s been around for a long time and it was one of the first apps I bought back in 2008. I still find it quite useful for quick document exchanges from Mac to iPhone via Wi-Fi.
- MotionX Dice — It appears to be discontinued, as I can’t seem to find it on the App Store anymore. It was probably last updated in 2010. Still my favourite to roll virtual dice.
- ShakeItPhoto — [$1.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Aug 18, 2011] This app does one thing, and does it well. You take a photo with the iPhone camera, or choose a photo from the Camera Roll, and ShakeItPhoto turns it into a fake Polaroid. There are other apps which achieve the same result, including one made by Polaroid itself, if I remember correctly, but I still like ShakeItPhoto because it has no filters or effects. It’s all meant to be as immediate as taking a photo with a Polaroid camera.
- Cocktails+ — Discontinued. Last update was probably in 2009. Here’s a brief Macworld review. I love this app for its large database of cocktails and the various ways to search for recipes (you can search by Base, Type, Flavour or Tag, or browse everything alphabetically). I’ve tried other similar apps, but I still haven’t found a worthy alternative to Cocktails+.
- Scotty — [$2.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Sep 27, 2012] I use Scotty almost daily. As I wrote in My essential iOS apps, This app transfers photos and videos between iOS devices or from an iOS device to a Mac, over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. There are probably a lot of similar apps out there. I find Scotty to be a no-nonsense, fast, reliable app and so I don’t see why I should look for alternatives.
- 1. There are a lot of iTunes links in this article. If you want to prevent iTunes from opening every time, I suggest an excellent Safari extension called NoMoreiTunes. ↩
- 2. Some interesting examples of search by Tag include: Caffeinated Drinks, Contains Dairy, Has Defunct Ingredients, Historical, Non-Alcoholic. Searching by Flavour is also useful, because sometimes you don’t know what you’d like to drink exactly, but want, say, something that has Citrus, or Coffee, or Grapefruit, or Hazelnut, or something Herbal, or with Lime, or spicy, or with Irish Whiskey, etc. Searching by Flavour helps a lot in this regard. ↩