10 Off-the-wall iPhone Apps

By: Peter May
A woman looks at an iPhone inside an Apple store in Palo, Alto, Calif., on April 21, 2009, in front of a display promoting iPhone applications. See more iPhone pictures.
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

iPhone users can choose from thousands of applications (or apps) designed to enhance productivity, simplify social networking or provide other useful benefits. There are also tons of games for the iPhone, many of which offer rich graphics and action-packed play that rival high-end game consoles.

With new apps being introduced daily, it's not surprising that a few of them would cause iPhone and iPod Touch users to scratch their heads, wondering how they came to be developed and, most of all, why. In this article, we'll explore a few examples of iPhone apps that appear to reflect the developer's desire to march to a different drummer.


But just because they're different doesn't mean that the apps described in this article are useless. Some appear to be solutions looking for a problem. For example, you may not realize that having an assortment of sound effects at your fingertips could somehow make your life more enjoyable. But it might.

So, look at our examples, listed in no particular order, then fire up your iPhone or iPod Touch and head over to the Apple App Store. If it's pure entertainment with little or no redeeming social value you seek, you're sure to find it in these apps.

Note: Most of the apps discussed in this article will run on the 3G iPhone or the second generation iPod Touch. Apps that utilize telephone capabilities run on the iPhone only. Please see the Apple App Store or the developer's Web site for details.

10: Hold On!

Hold On!
Screenshot by Peter May

Here's a game that requires no special knowledge, no finely honed hand-eye coordination and no strategic thinking skills. In fact, all you need to score big is a steady hand and a lot of free time. Hold On is the iPhone game for the rest of us. Fire up the app and an efficient, simple screen appears. In the center is a button that says "Hold On." Place the digit of your choice on the button and hold on for as long as you can.

As you hold the button, the app displays a timer that is accurate to a millisecond. The goal is to see how long you can hold the button. Is it more difficult than it sounds? No. And that's the beauty of this unique gaming app. When you reach your limit, release the button and, if you wish, save your score for future reference. Given time, your scores are sure to increase.


9: Sim Stapler

What is it about office equipment that draws us to it and demands we interact with it in some way? The stapler is a perfect example of this human trait. We've all found our hand suddenly resting atop a nearby stapler and felt the powerful urge to press down, despite the fact we have no need to attach papers to one another at the time.

Sim Stapler allows us to satisfy the urge to press without wasting staples. Put simply, the app makes a stapler simulation available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, right on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Now, whenever the urge to staple strikes, a solution is at hand. In fact, the solution is in your hand.


The question is; where do the developers go from here? Can Sim Tape Dispenser be far behind?

8: Designated Dialer

Designated Dialer
Screenshot by Peter May

There are times when we must be saved from ourselves. One of those times is when we're sharing a few drinks with friends, armed with an iPhone that contains the phone numbers of dangerous people, such as ex-girlfriends, an arch-nemesis or an old boss. One too many beers and the next thing you know, you've got a dangerous character on the line and you're giving him or her a piece of your rather drink-addled mind.

This problem can be eliminated with Designated Dialer and just a bit of forethought. Prior to your next night out, install the app and select the contacts you determine you should avoid calling with less than a crystal-clear brain. Designated Dialer locks those contacts and, should you decide to place a call to one of them, it will instead dial a special toll-free number at which you will receive a message reminding you of your wise pre-planning. After sleeping it off, simply launch the app again and your contacts are unlocked and ready for sober, well-thought-out conversations.


Simple, yet highly effective, this is a crazy app that could save your life, or at least your dignity.

7: iSteam

Screenshot by Peter May

Although mostly crazy and a bit odd, this app is a great example of creative developers using the most advanced iPhone capabilities to produce a unique experience. We've all written messages on a steamy shower mirror or a window frosted with cool condensation. iSteam makes it possible to "steam up" your iPhone's screen and use your finger to create messages or drawings. What's more, you can use any photo as a background, then steam up the screen and write a special message.

The coolest thing about this app is that, if you're running it on an iPhone, you can steam up the screen by blowing on it (actually on the microphone). A particularly cool application for this capability is to write an invisible message to someone special on the non-steamy screen, and then ask him or her to breathe on your phone. Assuming they don't think you're crazy and move hastily away, the screen will fog and your message will appear right before their eyes.


6: Moop Sounds Funny

There are tons of apps designed to make noises that are either appropriate to a given situation, or completely random. Choose the right app and your iPhone can moo, cry, make sad trombone sounds or, of course, fart. Moop Sounds Funny makes our list because it goes most of the others one (or several) better. You want farts? You got 'em. No less than 16 distinctive fart sounds will thrill your friends, assuming they like that sort of thing.

There are sound effects for almost any situation. A drum roll for the amazing feat or a rimshot to mark a funny line or comeback. The obligatory "splat" is here; along with the sad trombone "wa-wa-wa-wa" which is useful for highlighting those moments when someone fails rather badly. A very lifelike "ohh" is included for the three-foot putt that rings the cup then hangs on the edge for a double bogey. You get the idea.


At $1.99, this app may seem a bit pricey for what it does, but can you really put a price on funny, odd and disgusting sounds? Ask yourself that question and let the answer be your guide.

5: Rotary Dialer

Rotary Dialer
Screenshot by Peter May

Perhaps you've heard the expression "dial the phone" and wondered where it came from. Unless you are of a certain age, you may never have seen a phone with a rotary dial. Now, you can try your hand -- or finger -- at dialing numbers on the world's most advanced telephone. Perhaps you could even imagine you're Humphrey Bogart grabbing a heavy black phone from the desk and feverishly dialing a beautiful damsel, catching her just before she heads off to her demise.

Rotary Dialer enables you to experience the days when calling phone numbers containing mostly eights, nines and zeros required patience, as you waited for the dial to return to its original position for each and every digit. Due to popular demand, however, you will not experience the frustration of starting over again if you dial a single incorrect digit. The latest version of Rotary Dialer includes a backspace function. Of course, if you're a true phone-dialing aficionado, backspace simply isn't your style.


4: Zit Picker

Zit Picker
Screenshot by Peter May

And you thought Moop Sounds Funny was gross! Zit Picker is exactly what the name suggests. Here's how the game works: A face (Veronica, to be specific) appears on the screen and zits begin to sprout in various locations. Your job? Pop as many of those suckers as you can in the allotted time. While this may sound easy, it takes a considerable amount of time and practice to master the precise method required. Also, like a fine wine, you can pick no zit before it's time. There's no popping allowed until the white head appears. They ripen quickly, however, so if you snooze, you lose and poor Veronica gets a blackhead.

If you tire of Veronica, or just want to add an additional layer of grossness to the game, take (or import) a photo of a friend, foe or unwilling foil and pop their zits to your heart's content. The app keeps track of your scores and allows the top five players to enter their initials. You can also save end-of-game faces to your photo album. You just knew someone had to do it.


3: Yo Mama Extreme Voice Edition

Yo Mama Extreme Voice Edition
Screenshot by Peter May

Everyone loves a good "your mama" joke, with the possible exception of, well, your mama. It's all in good fun, though, and that's certainly true of this app. It may surprise you to learn that there are several your mama apps vying for your attention and, in some cases, your 99 cents in the App Store. Yo Mama Exteme Voice Edition sets itself apart by offering pre-recorded spoken renditions of more than 300 your mama jokes. There's also a free version to try before you buy.

The app includes an Internet mode that enables users to rank jokes, suggest new ones and send favorites to their friends via e-mail. New jokes are added to the site on a daily basis, so you need never fear not having a fresh yo mama joke at your fingertips.


As mentioned, there are a lot of apps to choose from in this genre (the App Store lists 17 your mama applications), so you'll want to spend some quality time selecting the best one to meet your insult requirements.

2: Email 'n Walk

Email 'n Walk
Screenshot by Peter May

Sometimes an iPhone app comes along that seems crazy, but turns out to have redeeming values. This is just such a case. Email 'n Walk does something amazing. Using your iPhone's camera, it displays a live view of the world in front of you above a virtual keyboard. Now, in the spirit of walking and chewing gum, you can walk and send e-mails at the same time, while reducing the risk of stepping into traffic or falling flat on your face.

As you walk and type, the text of your message appears in semi-opaque letters over the live video feed. When your message is complete, click "send" and Email 'n Walk transfers the text to the iPhone e-mail app. Just choose the recipients and fire it off. Email 'n Walk takes multitasking to a new level.


1: Jared

Screenshot by Peter May

Jared is cute. Jared is yellow. Jared is also is a lousy singer. What's more, Jared's mouth does not appear to have any relationship with the sounds (calling it music would be generous) he's emitting. Launch the app and Jared begins to "sing." A Guatemalan folk song, no less. Try as he might, singing is clearly not Jared's strong suit. He will sing for as long as you let him, which in most cases is unlikely to be very long at all.

Despite his nearly complete lack of talent, the fact that Jared presses on, putting whatever small amount of skill he posses into the song, is endearing. You may find yourself listening time and time again. On the other hand, you may not.

For more on the iPhone and related topics, dial up the next page.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • 148Apps.com. (May 21, 2009) http://www.148apps.com
  • Berg, Andrew. "Weird Apps: A Survey of the Unusual and (Sometimes) Impractical." Wireless Week. (May 22, 2009) http://www.wirelessweek.com/article.aspx?id=167640
  • Gizmodo, the Gadget Blog. (May 20, 2009) http://gizmodo.com/
  • Hutchinson, James. "eMail 'n Walk iPhone Application." PC World Online. (May 20, 2009) http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/review/software_and_services/phase2_media/email_n_walk/304366
  • Nelson, Robert. "Apps to Waste Your Weekend." iPhone Freak. (May 23, 2009) http://www.iphonefreak.com
  • Top iPhone News. (May 19, 2009)http://www.topiphonenews.com/