The Most Inclusive Mobile App Platform. Ever.
June 6, 2014 9:29 AM   Subscribe


The list of apps make me think of text adventures and IRC, with random number generators and such.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:44 AM on June 6, 2014

Now I know how other people feel when I make a wicked funny joke about the Golgi apparatus.
posted by Mister_A at 9:53 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Rick Roulette! love it.
posted by entropone at 10:08 AM on June 6, 2014

Mister_A, I'm going to need that joke. Don't keep it secreted away.
posted by maryr at 10:15 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Interesting, given how dirt-cheap it is to get unlimited texting compared to data. Reminds me of IFTTT except that they've opened up the API here.
posted by .holmes at 10:27 AM on June 6, 2014

Awesome! A few years back, right as smartphones were becoming A Thing, I was playing around with Asterisk and building a way to check the weather from my dumbphone. It was totally more effort that it was worth, but a lot of fun.

Also fun: calling home to queue up music for your arrival.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:37 AM on June 6, 2014

When I was younger, the phone company had a bunch of phone-in services, . The one I remember most clearly, because it was so odd that it existed, was a choose-your-own-adventure type thing in a haunted house where you'd get killed by animated shower faucets or whatever, as narrated by some guy doing his best cackling horror-host impersonation. I think there was also a number that let you listen to one of the top-ten songs that week, as well as the more obvious stuff like weather and time.

I think they've dropped a lot of these services in recent years, but yeah, there's a lot that's technically possible if you set your mind to it.
posted by RobotHero at 10:54 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love this. Every dumb phone has a screen and can send and receive data. That should be enough for a huge number of apps: Text your intersection and Uber could return an ETA, driver name, and exceptional pricing info. Text "Y" one more time to confirm. Text the name of a restaurant and number of your party, receive a text back with available reservations, etc.

But instead the assumption is that everyone has a smartphone or will soon so let's just make lightweight web-based forms that can rely on sending endless data back and forth and reward the user with a slick interface.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:16 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

woah. yes. yes. YES. I thought the link was going to be something stupid, but as a flip phone user this is genuinely going to make my life more convenient. I used to use the shit out of Google's SMS service before they axed it, and I'm really happy to see something to fill that gap. Thanks.
posted by threeants at 11:30 AM on June 6, 2014

Looking at the available apps, I already expect to find a lot of use for the Wikipedia and Weather ones. The most useful feature of Google's old service was the ability to text the name of a place and get a reply back informing of its address; I really hope someone savvy will clone that capability!

So yeah, this is definitely not just a novelty or gag thing; I can't remember the last time I've been this excited to learn of a new service.
posted by threeants at 11:37 AM on June 6, 2014

I could totally have used this before I made the plunge into the Android market.

I mean, yeah, it's surprisingly affordable to own a smartphone if you are savvy (for example, avoid getting roped into 2 year contracts with plans you can't afford and have a realistic idea of how much data you'll actually use). I'm currently with Republic, who I planned on using the $10 unlimited text/cell with wifi-only data, but I ended up switching to the $25 plan because it's frustrating to not have GPS navigation when I need it, and I drive farther than Google Maps can store in offline maps.

But it's amazing what you can do without a serious data connection and smartphone. Even if you rule out J2ME apps (java for dumbphones), there are/were a bunch of great services that worked with text to speech and texting.

The worst was when Google killed Goog-411, though. That was the best, in that you could quickly call a quick inquiry to Google, and get all sorts of useful instructions, even including routes from Google Maps. Ironically, I'm pretty sure they killed Goog-411 because it was a honeypot to get voice data to develop voice search for Android and they had enough data to justify killing the product.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:40 AM on June 6, 2014

I hope developers will catch on that there's actual potential here to benefit the public, and not focus solely on cutesy stuff. Imagine if people in low-tech/income communities in Missouri or Louisiana could text, say, the word "alerts" to receive up-to-date info on tornado/hurricane warnings for their zipcode. That'd really be something.
posted by threeants at 11:45 AM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Would Ruby be difficult to learn for someone with no coding background whatsoever? This kind of makes me actually want to learn it in order to contribute.
posted by threeants at 11:54 AM on June 6, 2014

I'm not really an expert in Ruby, but it's often recommended as an "easy to learn" language along with Python. There's a big community around it, and a ton of tutorial sites, so I'd say it's a decent choice for your first language.

I do think Python and C are more readable in a lot of cases, but it might just be that I first learned to code in Python and C-like languages.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2014

I don't want to rain on anyone's project, but the overlap of people with non-smartphones who are tech savvy enough to interact with something in a command-line kind of way is small. This is more of a fun retro thing.

Straighttalk Wireless sells no-contract Android phones for under $50. They've got a reconditioned Samsung Galaxy Centura running Android 4.0 on sale for $19.99
posted by the jam at 12:07 PM on June 6, 2014


"Yes, it’s a fact: most people own smartphones. One analysis says that 133.7 million own them, which comes to over half of the marketshare of all cell phone users."

1337 indeed.
posted by oneironaut at 3:24 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is really interesting.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:48 PM on June 6, 2014

I really want a UK number to exist for this now. It would be nice if a web interface existed - isn't this what Twilio is for?
posted by absolutelynot at 3:37 AM on June 7, 2014

the overlap of people with non-smartphones who are tech savvy enough to interact with something in a command-line kind of way is small

Most people in the world do not have access to fat data pipes. Being able to get information and, ultimately, interact with other services via SMS will be a huge, huge thing for them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:40 AM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in a giant tech hub and only got my first smartphone last November. Although I am no longer sure how I lived without the entire internet constantly at my fingertips, I assure that I did so comfortably and was very sad when I could no longer text 46645 for the weather or sports score.
posted by maryr at 11:27 PM on June 7, 2014

This seems to be the same sort of thing, but possibly more advanced and more focused on the Third World: Two-thirds of the world’s mobiles are dumb phones. Meet the company getting them online
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:26 PM on June 8, 2014

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