Drowning in Apps

“Middle-aged man beats himself to death with iPad. Coroner records a verdict of ‘Appcidental Death’.”


  • Take out the rubbish
  • Clean out the fridge
  • Update my apps

Don’t get me wrong: I love my iPad, but having to keep all my apps in tip top condition is becoming as much a chore as weeding the garden or cutting my toenails. You can keep putting it off, and you hardly notice the day-to-day difference, but in the back of your mind you know the problem is getting steadily worse and that the longer you leave it, the more traumatic attending to it will eventually be.

Here are the four horsemen of my App-ocalypse:

1. New Apps
New apps come out all the time, each doing what they do better than the competition. On my iPad I have two calculators, three news readers, five “Ideas” apps (that I never use but can’t bring myself to delete, because I’m sure they’ll come in handy one day), and more games than I care to count.
Why do I keep buying/downloading new apps that do the same thing as my existing apps? Because they’re newer, and shinier, and they often improve on what went before. My three news-readers are: Pulse, Blogshelf, and Flipboard, all of which do similar things, but they each have characteristics that irritate me, and some that delight me, so I end up keeping all three and using them in different ways.
And games? They’re my little treat to myself; I buy myself a new game whenever I’m at a loose end or need cheering up. After all, it’s only £1.79, right? It’s frightening how all those £1.79’s and £0.59’s add up. I have no idea how much money I’ve spent in the App Store, and I don’t want to know. All I do know is, I only use around 20% of what I’ve bought, the rest having been discarded to the bottom of my digital toy box. And you can’t sell them on eBay.

2. Updates
Vendors regularly update their apps to keep pace with the competition. Whether it is to fix a bug or to add a new feature or two, when a vendor publishes an update, users get the famous little Red Notification Button on their device to announce the update’s availability. The button counter increments for each app update that is added to the store, so if you don’t attend to it regularly the number creeps up. Just like the number of unread emails in my inbox, the update notification sits there quietly stressing me out, reminding me that I have chores to do. ITunes provides the same nagging reminder, but at least I get to choose whether to update an app directly on the device (and have it copy to iTunes on the next sync), or download the update in iTunes and do the reverse. My iPad is currently nagging me that I have 19 updates waiting.

The Dreaded Red Button

Part-way through the update marathon

3. Two iTunes Store accounts
I bought my iPad in the U.S., before it was released in the U.K., because I’m an early adopter (sometimes referred to as a show-off). The U.K. App Store had not yet opened so I got myself an account on the U.S. store. This seemed like a good idea at the time, and for a while I happily bought apps, games and books so that I could show off one of the first fully kitted out iPads in the U.K. Shortly afterward the U.K. App Store opened and the problem went away.

Or did it?


The problem I have had to carry with me ever since is that updates are tied to the Apple ID used to purchase them. So now when my Red Button tells me I have 19 updates to install, some of them are tied to my U.K. ID and some to the U.S. one, and I have no way of telling which is which (unless I go through them manually and make notes, which I can’t be bothered to do). If I try to get updates on my iPad I get prompted to enter my Apple ID and password each time, and it gets VERY tedious having to continually sign out of one store and into the other, then back again, then back again, then… you get the idea. Things are slightly better in iTunes—you only ‘see’ the updates from the store you are currently signed into—so now I use that because at least I only have to sign out and in once.

4. Multiple Devices
I also have an iPod Touch, and it too uses the same App Store and Red Button system. Things are further complicated by the fact that some apps are iPod Touch and iPhone, some are iPad only, and some are universal (buy once, run anywhere). When I got the iPad I stopped using apps on the iPod Touch, and now use it only for music, but all the apps and games I used to use are still there, and my little Red Button count currently stands at a neglected 37. True, I can grab all the updates in iTunes, but I still have to sync both devices separately, which doesn’t seem worth it for the iPod seeing as I don’t use those apps anymore.


So thanks Apple. You make lovely toys and I can’t stop myself from buying them, but all the time I saved by having my digital life made portable I now spend trying to keep my iOS house in order.

How likely is it that iCloud will solve all my problems? Not very.


About Chris Neal

Personal Technology Consultant. Tailored services and advice for people who want more from their technology.
This entry was posted in Rants, Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Drowning in Apps

  1. Jeff Polomsky says:

    At first I thought the headline was a story about you, but then I read “Middle-aged man” and then realized it must not be about you. You’re sooooooooo much older than “middle-aged”.

  2. C. Holmberg says:

    My 1g Touch is still working great, but having been left out in the cold by current iOS updates, I suspect it’ll soon devolve back to its original staples: contact/calendar, PocketSat, and music. I gave my wife an iPad 2 with 3G… and have managed to keep my paws off of it, for the most part, other than testing out some nav apps in anticipation of a trans NA road trip.

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