The most useless apps of 2015

It’s end of year list time, and everyone’s going on about the best of this and that, but what about the worst?

1. Apple Music

Deep cuts, my arse

No matter how hard I try, I can’t enjoy Apple Music. It has ruined music on the iPhone for me. This isn’t as serious as it might be, as 95% of my listening is to podcasts via Overcast, but the reason I have relied so heavily on podcasts in in large part driven by the upset caused by Apple Music. My first experience of it: the set up process, whereby you select artists you like or like a lot on those circle things; that alone was enough to annoy me. But after you tell the app that Bruce Springsteen is one of your absolute favourite artists and they throw up a playlist curated by some no doubt underpaid 20-something called “Bruce Springsteen Deep Cuts”? Well, that’s just an insult to the very notion of fandom. What? As if I don’t know all those and more? As if a fan of a particular artist can’t lovingly construct a better playlist and not give it such an overbearingly pompous title? As for playback: rage, and more rage. Why can’t the fucking app remember where it was in the alphabetical playback? My iPod managed it. But every time I plug my phone into the car, whatever unfortunate track has found itself at the start of the playlist becomes the focus of my hatred and ends up being deleted forever. More complaints about this app will be included below. Can’t delete, but would if I could.

2. Écoute

My search for an alternative to Apple Music threw up Écoute, which takes away the awful radio option (at least on iTunes I can hide Radio, why not on my phone too?), but doesn’t help the phone remember where it was in the playlist. As with Apple Music, the playback buttons are way too small. I have a massive 5.5″ phone screen, so why is play/pause the size of a marmoset’s finger? There’s a horrifying lag when you hit play, too, so you think it’s not working, and so you hit it again, sometimes multiple times. Oh, the fun we’ve had. It also fucks with your music database: Elodie has ended up with four different artists, all called The Rolling Stones, and three Bruce Springsteens. Deleted in the end.

3. Pacemaker

Still searching for an alternative playback app, I tried several others, including this, which encourages you to “be the DJ” and crossfades songs based on beat detection/matching. First of all: no right-thinking individual ever wants to “be the DJ”. Those people, as a breed, are unrelentingly horrible human beings. Second of all: this crossfade beat-matching nonsense might work for EDM, but it certainly doesn’t work for country/rock/Americana/60s soul etc. What you get is a sometimes terrifyingly long mishmash of two completely incompatible tracks playing at the same time. The only thing this app might do worse is have some shithead come in and talk over the song. It’s final sin: when your playlist ends, it starts playing shitty EDM, which it streams from some internet back alley without so much as a by your leave: and you can’t tell the app not to ever, ever, ever do that. Delete.

4. Vivino

Seems like an interesting idea. You’re in the supermarket or the wine shop, and you take a photo of a wine’s label, so the app can tell you whether it’s any good, and give you a guide price. Clever, if it works. Doesn’t. Scanned a bottle I had (a £15 bottle, not any old shit), and it got the grape variety completely wrong. Tried again, with the same bottle: completely wrong again, but a different wrong variety. It’s like a random grape variety generator. Deleted.

5. BBC iPlayer Radio

This used to be all right. Had a simple interface with the day’s schedule (you could change the day) and another section with recommended listens and a third with podcasts you could download (although I use Overcast for those). Then they “improved” the app with an update and I find it unusable. Launch takes you to live radio, so if that’s your thing, I suppose it’s okay, but I’m almost never interested in what’s on right now, or it’s halfway through something. Menu takes you to a screen with Schedule, Highlights, Downloads. I’ve tried downloading things several times, and it either doesn’t work or when it does work does it so slowly that you forget you wanted to listen to something and it just sits there. Highlights splits between Featured and Podcasts, and neither of the interfaces works as well as the old app in terms of discovery. The app has added layers of unnecessary taps (anything more than three to get to what you want is too many taps, just as four mouse clicks is one too many) and “features” that nobody really wants. All in all, I’ve stopped using the app except on those rare occasions when I’ve listened to all the podcasts.

6. Hipstamatic*

A recent update made it look like most of the other camera apps. You can put it back to the “classic” look, but it was never the way it looked. It was always a bit of a faff to choose lens, film, flash etc., so I rarely bothered. Now it seems like even more hard work. Too many options, in the end, to make it fit into a busy life or for it to work as your main camera when you want to snap a quick photo. I’d delete it if I hadn’t spent a fortune on new films/lenses over the years (most of which I’ve barely used). Pictures of my living room are all I ever took with it.

*And, let’s face it, all the other camera apps other than the main camera app and the companion Photos. Too many apps, all doing the same thing, and it’s all a big wash. The one exception: Hyperlapse is better for timelapse.

7. Odeon.

I downloaded the app because I thought it’d be a quick way to book tickets, but it’s actually quicker to just get the laptop out and do it online. The app doesn’t even remember your preferred cinema: doesn’t even use location services to pick it automatically based on distance.

8. Stocks, Game Center, Videos, Watch, Find Friends, News, Podcasts

All the Apple apps they won’t let you delete, with special mention for News, which is utter shite, and which flashes a stream of offensive right-wing news propaganda in front of your eyes. There’s a special circle of hell reserved for Game Center. As for Watch, what if you haven’t got one? What if you want to free some fucking space on your fucking 16GB phone? Think of the children, Apple. (My own phone is 64GB.)

9. DropBox, OneDrive

There might be some people who make use of these apps on their phones. I’m not one of them. I’ve got them because I do use the services from my laptop, but they are always getting updated and I never use them. Deleted.

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