As the title implies, this isn’t about great apps, it isn’t about good apps — it isn’t even about bad apps.   This is about the worst apps.  The type of apps that make you not only curse the shitty application itself, but the bastards that made it as well.  Just last month, Yahoo released their list of “4 of the Worst Apps by Major Companies.”  We’re not just going to pile more on top of these abominations, though, because we think that talking about the bad can sometimes be good.  It can help you identify and avoid problems when it comes time to develop a mobile app of your own.  So let’s take a look at these mobile atrocities and see why these companies should have known better.

OFFENDER #1
First is Pepsi’s AMP UP Before You Score app.  As a promotion for Pepsi’s energy drink AMP, they released an app that listed 24 female stereotypes and offered tips on how to get each type of woman into bed.  Surprisingly, none of the tips involved drinking energy drinks until your pee turned neon green, but unsurprisingly, many people found this app incredibly offensive.

THE PROBLEMS
One of the problems here is fairly obvious.  This app was misogynistic and just offensive in general.  While it may be true that energy drinks are typically consumed more often by men, Pepsi as a company should know better than to alienate their female consumer base.  A low-rent app like AMP UP Before You Score might work as a novelty for immature young men but definitely not for a branded application by a major company.

Beyond being offensive, another issue with the app is the fact that it has nothing to do with the product it’s selling.  A successful mobile app that is used to promote a product or service should reflect that product, not simply rely on cheap attention-grabbing gimmicks.

OFFENDER #2
Next up is Pop Secret’s Perfect Pop app.  The app was targeted at users who were not only hungry for popcorn but hungry for innovative technological advancements with their popcorn popping.  What kind of advancements?  How about listening to the popping and alerting you when your popcorn is done?  That’s all.  The app stepped in where instructions and the beeping of your microwave weren’t enough.

THE PROBLEMS
The Perfect Pop’s biggest issue came from its basic pointlessness.  The app actually seemed to be adding an extra step to the already simple popcorn popping process.  The #1 rule of success with a mobile app is identifying a problem and offering a solution.  So at best mobile apps solve problems, at worst they waste your time.   Pop Secret’s app simply existed, and that’s never enough.

OFFENDER #3
Third is Longhorn Steakhouse’s 3D Steak app.   The marketing minds at Longhorn Steakhouse somehow managed to outdo Pop Secret.    At least Pop Secret’s app did something (not much, but something).  The sole function of Longhorn’s app was to allow users to flip a steak on a virtual grill.  A 3D steak that you can flip, over and over… for eternity.

THE PROBLEMS
Beyond the pointlessness, beyond the uselessness, it’s not what the app had as opposed to what it didn’t.  As the Yahoo article points out, the app completely ignored the needs of the users.  You couldn’t use the app to find restaurant locations.  There was no menu or no mention of even what steak you were digitally roasting.  The app didn’t even give you an option to navigate to Longhorn’s Steakhouse’s main website.    What was clearly an app used for marketing purposes completely missed the importance of branding and the needs of its users.

OFFENDER #4
Finally is Facebook’s much maligned Poke app.   Poke allowed you to take a photo, send it, and within a short period of time it would disappear.  Sound familiar?  It was an obvious and poor rip-off of the wildly popular app Snapchat.

THE PROBLEMS
Trying to ride the coattails of an already popular app usually doesn’t end well.  That app may have months and years of brand recognition and testing to get way ahead of your imitation.  What makes your app distinct?  Facebook’s clever tweaks on social media sites like MySpace made it a billion dollar company, but there was nothing special enough to set Poke apart from Snapchat which users were already in love with.  You can’t break up a good relationship unless you’re really bringing something exceptional to the table.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

Many of these apps do have something in common.  They’re unnecessary.  They provide no service or solve no user problems.  When it comes to developing your own app, this has to be the backbone of your idea.  Who is it for and why do they need it?

These questions might not be that easy to answer.  We’ll help.  Rootstrap helps identify users and finds your mobile apps place in the crowded mobile app marketplace.  Storycarding can visually break down your big idea into manageable pieces.  It’s a process that allows the entire perspective of your concept to play out in a creative environment that is primed to tweak, anticipate, and troubleshoot the pitfalls that plagued the world’s worst apps.  Want to know more?  Contact us anytime.

Author

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.