3 Free Odd Apps for iPhone and iPad

| Free on iTunes

Every once in a while I run across an app that is odd in some way, that is until you dig into them a bit. That's when you'll either discover that the app was not only a waste of your time and the bandwidth it took to download it, but is also complete embarrassment to the person or people who produced it, or, despite an odd name or other peculiarities, the app turns out to be kinda cool, or at least interesting.

Free on iTunes

Examples of the time wasters aren't hard to find, just search for "pimple" or "fart" in the iTunes Store and even the cruder among us will raise an eyebrow at the number of apps the search produces. (On a related note it turns out that gas passing may be a sign of good gastrointestinal health. So why play-poot when you can toot for real?)

Examples of the cool odd apps are a little harder to find, but they are out there. In fact, I'm dedicating this week's Free on iTunes to two of them. Each are strange in its own way, but once you get pass the peculiarity you'll see that they are, indeed, cool. So let's get to them.

Sick Weather [10.8 MB, runs on all iOS devices capable of running iOS 7.0 or later, Maker: Sickweather LLC]

Sick Weather

The app's names sounds like something you'd find in a Mad Magazine article, and when you hear about what it does you may wonder if the idea for it came from watching too many zombie movies.

Sick Weather attempts to do for flus and colds what the crowd sourced app, Waze, does for traffic. Users of the app anonymously report illnesses, either their own or observed around them. The report produces a pin drop on a local map that gives others, presumably healthier users, a general idea where nasty bugs may be lurking. You can filter for different types of illnesses too. Cool, right?

Sick WeatherGet alerts when you enter a Hot Zone

Does it work?

Well, yes and no. In order for any crowd source service to be even remotely useful a literal crowd has to get and use the service, and then the crowd has to be honest about what they're reporting.

Waze, for instance, works because it provides direction and useful traffic info in nearly real time. It's easy for a user to add info and be anonymous at the same time. And the info provided isn't about the user, it's about what the user sees, and the info is transient, slow traffic is slow for everyone in the vicinity until it's not.

Sick Weather, on the other hand, wants you to tell others when you're sick or see others who are. In either case it borders on divulging personal info to strangers. Whereas that shouldn't be a problem some may feel a bit self conscious telling others, even anonymously, that they are suffering from, say, a stomach virus. Of course you can choose not to tell folks you got The Trots, but doing so diminishes the effectiveness of the app.

Sick WeatherThat spot with the dark shadow around it, A hot zone! (School!!)

Still, there's no denying that it's an interesting idea, and as it is it reveals some interesting things about your area. For instance, it validates that daycare centers and schools are hotbeds of disease. You can tell this by the number of pin drops in a particular spot. The odd thing is that not all schools and daycares show up though you know they should.

Should you grab the app? Sure, if for no other reason than to sate your curiosity.

Now This News [10.7 MB, runs on all iOS devices capable of running iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: Now This Media Inc.]

Now This News

News aggregating apps are a dime a dozen these days, so an app has to offer something really unique to get any notice. Now This News does that on several levels.

First, it doesn't just give you headlines like everyone else, it lists stories and videos that most of us would never see otherwise. For instance, there's a feature article series called Wait For It and it shows videos that are always surprising. (Love these!)

Now This NewsGood mix of news

There are also other articles that you may not easily find on the Web, stuff that just plain peculiar. Why do beached whales explode? Hamster Eating a burrito(?). Craziness like that mixed in with regular news resulting in a very strange combination of items that I actually want to browse through.

The other odd thing is that each article is designed to be easily digested. The articles are part short videos with subtitle-like text thrown in and a paragraph or two of related info under. If you wait a second or two after the article is done then the next article in the queue loads up automagically.

If you get your news from the more traditional outlets then you'll likely agree that after plowing through those articles you're not in the best of mood. Not a great way to start a day. I make Now This News and Digg part of my morning news update ritual and they usually leave smiling and thinking. That's a much better way to start a day.

(I mentioned Digg in a previous article so I won't go into it here, but I'll briefly say that Digg is like Now This News, but even more lighthearted.


Each article link is prefaced by a slanted and often humorous comment. Digg also provides its own content as well. What you wind up with is a hodgepodge of articles and commentary that's hard to find elsewhere.)

That's a wrap for this week.

Before you go please take a look at this week's Free App of the Week, Notability, and this week's free Single of the Week from G-Easy, Far Alone.

Popular TMO Stories



Hello Vern:

As much as I like the concept of Sick Weather, that is, having a near realtime map of where illnesses are by category, after all, what self respecting medical epidemiologist would not, the inherent reporting and observational biases are simply too great to ignore.

The people who are likely to self report will likely not only be non-representative of those at risk for these common illnesses (they have to not only have a smartphone with this app installed - a select group to be sure, and they have to be motivated make that illness public - again, likely a minority of sufferers), they will basically be reporting only what they think they have, and not necessarily what they actually have. In the world of acute viral respiratory infections, for example, separating out specific pathogens that are associated with flu-like illnesses is not easy and the subject of ongoing and expensive research. What might start out as a cold, the likely point at which someone would be well enough to report their symptoms, might progress into something far more sinister and or serious from a public health viewpoint, at which point the person may no longer be well enough to report their symptoms, rendering the report not simply inaccurate, but potentially dangerously misleading.

Those are the simple limitations of this type of activity. For most common illnesses, these limitations will simply result in an incomplete map.

I actually like the idea, and feel that it could evolve, as our technology becomes ever more capable, into something truly powerful and a capable adjunct to public health and mitigating the risk of transmissible infectious diseases.

Great find.

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account