Skip to main content

I miss the joy and discovery of 3rd-party apps that Apple has since Sherlocked

Siri using Shazam
Siri using Shazam (Image credit: iMore)

When I got my very first iPhone — the iPhone 4S — I was thrilled to finally have a modern smartphone that could do so many cool things. Heck, Siri had just launched with iOS 5 at the time, and it was then when I felt like I finally was holding a device that was a glimpse into the future. Since then, I have been upgrading to new iPhones every couple of years, and it's been amazing to see the growth in functionality in iOS as a platform. Still, I miss the "old days" of iPhone for one big reason — discovery of third-party apps that unlocked capabilities that the iPhone didn't have.

Out of the dark — Flashlight apps

Control Center in iOS 11

Control Center in iOS 11 (Image credit: iMore)

Before iOS 7 launched Control Center and the flashlight toggle button, iPhones couldn't be flashlights without the help of some 3rd-party software. That's right — you had to download an app so that you could see in the dark.

You must think I'm crazy for somewhat wanting to go back to the dark ages of iOS. However, do you remember the first time you discovered a flashlight app? I do.

I was camping with a friend years ago, and we were on a night time walk around the campground and the flashlight we had died on us. It was pitch black and the wee hours of the morning, and we couldn't find our way back to the campground — sounds bad, right? Luckily, my friend pulled out his iPhone, launched his flashlight app, and lit up the way for us to continue on our journey. I was bewildered. I asked my friend a million questions. How did it work? How can I do it? Do the apps cost money? I was so transfixed on this new, simple technology, that the moment I got home from camping, I downloaded about 10 different flashlight apps to test them all out.

I miss that sense of joy and bewilderment of finding an excellent third-party app that did something that your iPhone couldn't do before, and the flashlight is just one example.

Finding music with Shazam

Shazam on iPhone 6 (Image credit: iMore)

Okay, technically, Shazam still exists, but ever since Apple integrated the service into Siri (and then later bought the company), the magic of using Shazam has kind of faded.

I remember sitting in bars and pubs with my friends and someone asking what tune is playing, only to have me whip out my phone, launch Shazam, and find the answer for them. This move always impressed people, and when I first started using Shazam, it impressed me a lot, but now I just sort of expect my iPhone to do that stuff for me.

Expectations kill the amazement

Apple has done an awesome job with growing iOS into what it is today, and part of that is thanks to developers who have created awesome apps that give your iPhone new functionality. The original Siri app, before Apple bought it and turned it into what we know today, is a prime example of how acquisitions help tech companies grow.

I expect Apple to take any good ideas that come from third-party apps and find a way to implement them into iOS. After all, that's how you remain competitive in the market and keep consumers engaged — we always want the newest feature at our fingertips with minimal effort. Building features like a flashlight, Siri, and Shazam into iOS make sense on every level, but that doesn't mean I still don't miss the old days.

Look, I'm sure if I loaded up an old iPhone 4S running iOS 5, I'd likely want to throw it at a wall. Still, having that sense of wonder when you found a new third-party app and then showing it to people was an excitement you just don't get as much today.

The future of iOS is bright, no doubt, but don't think for a second that the past was ever dull.

What are some of your favorite old apps that Apple has made obsolete?

Let me know in the comments down below!

More navigation links:

Techno-stalgia

iMore

Android Central

Windows Central

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 


Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.

4 Comments
  • The iHandy level app. Came in handy to level my washing machine, among other things. I still have my flashlight app and use it. It has features Apple's flashlight doesn't have. It's simply called "Light".
  • For me personally, I would rather not have to navigate and search for an app and like that they integrate them directly into the OS.
  • For the most part I appreciate having a lot more features baked into iOS. I eliminates a lot of app clutter on my iPhone and iPad, which in turn generally make sure it quicker and easier to use the functions I have come to expect and rely on.
    That being said, I agree that the enthusiasm has greatly diminished. There just aren’t Thant many big new discoveries any more.
    Personally, my biggest disappointment these days is that it seems near impossible to find quality new apps any more. Try looking for something and all that comes up are the old standards that have been downloaded endlessly, but no newcomers are show up...far to often. The old guard seems locked at the top of the lists, while anyone else wanting to gain notice for their new efforts has minimal chance of getting any attention. Sad...
  • The best discoveries come from AltStore, where apps that truly innovate go to because Apple's guidelines stifle innovation. AltStore has emulators, UTM (virtual machines to run Windows/Linux), a Clipboard manager, and more.