Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Missing App – The Personal Touch

“Before apps, when there were attention spans, before “I’ve got five bars,” when bars were for boozing, before ring-tone selection, when the phone rang, before high-net-worth individuals, when love was all you needed, before hype, when there was Hendrix, we got by just the same.” - Roger Cohen (Globalist)

Read On:
Yesterday I was reminded of the above passage in an op-ed written by Roger Cohen titled Change or Perish. I was on my way to a meeting. It was around 10:15 AM and I spotted a line at least twenty deep outside the Apple Store. The scene validated for me how app crazed we have become.

Fact: The American Dialect Society named “app” the word of the year for 2010 thanks to its popularity. Apps is the abbreviation for application, a piece of specially programmed software that helps us navigate the world and makes our lives more manageable (time). Apps can run on the Internet, our computer, our smartphone, our tablet or other electronic devices like connected TV’s, the next major platform for app growth. Every time a product is developed for a different gizmo, thanks to each platform requiring a different code from developers, it counts as an app. Consequently, Mobilewalla reported that the one millionth app went to market in the beginning of December. Back in May, Apple indicated that 37 percent of their approved 500,000 apps were free and estimated that their paid apps had an average selling price of $3.64. Android operating systems have their own set of apps. Mobilewalla estimated they released over 500 a day earlier this month. 9 out the top 10 paid apps for the iPhone at the Apple store are games; Tetris® and Angry Birds are at the top of the list. The number one grossing app is designed for Major League Baseball fans. Facebook, Skype and the Weather Channel are free. Pages is a powerful, useful app for your mobile device that helps organize your documents/reading materials. You can use your Starbucks app (either on your iPhone or Android) to locate the closest Starbucks, pay for your favorite Starbucks drink, then use your smartphone to scan an in-store QR code to watch a video about their Caffe Verona blend, check in on Foursquare in case there are some friends nearby, before you tap your free Epicurious app when you sit down to plan your upcoming dinner party, etc. etc. etc.

At this point there is an app or an app in development for everything except the missing app, the personal touch. Remember handwritten thank you notes, birthday cards or better yet Christmas cards. When was the last time you celled up a really close friend to have a lengthy, one-on-one conversation to catch-up versus posting your latest activity on Facebook? When was the last time you interfaced with the checkout individual at your local supermarket or even the barista at your regular Starbucks? When was the last time you interfaced with a bank teller? Do you know your neighbors names? Disclaimer: I am an urban dweller. I cannot even remember the last time someone got into the elevator in my building, we said hello to each other, exited the elevator and engaged in the lobby, face-to-face for a few minutes.

Have you lost your personal touch?


  1. Another home run, Jimmy. I have seen several blogs lamenting the loss of personal touch, but none that positioned it directly as an APP war. Brilliant. I still try to maintain personal connections, but candidly I still find myself using social media APPS to fill in more and more of the gaps. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Jimmy, I "app"reciate you for reminding us that the rule is "people first, profits second." Merry Xmas!

  3. At Disney we were reminded over and over that there is the mechanical touch and the personal touch to each job. The mechanical touch is the actual job task, the personal touch is the human interaction while doing the mechanical. It is important for both to be done.

    I always try to remember this even 10 years later. Merry Christmas!

  4. Well said, Jim. Sometimes I see this whole 'is there an app for that' obsession as being akin to "Animal Farm" where in the 1970s we were promised that technology would liberate us to focus on those things that matter - the personal interactions and connections that make both business and personal lives more meaningful.

    Looking at the number of people with their heads pointed downwards towards their smartphones, it looks like the liberator has become the master.

  5. Another great take on our times. Maybe we could start a campaign to have app stand for "appropriate" or "approval" or "appreciate"... something our "app" focused society seems to have lost sight of. Merry Christmas!