The first in an occasional series on mobile apps.
Smartphone apps let us play games, count calories, find cheap gas — just about anything developers can dream up. And the app market is growing quickly. Last month, Apple hit a milestone of 500,000 apps approved for sale. Competitor Google has more than 200,000 in the Android marketplace.
For tips on hot applications for smartphones, we turned to Ben Keighran, CEO of Chomp, a search engine for mobile apps. His picks range from new ways to find a ride to a better way to run a yard sale. He started with Square, a payment app.
"Square allows you to take payments using a real credit card directly on your iPhone," Keighran tells Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne. "They'll send you a little card swiper that you plug into your phone."
The idea is that if you're holding a garage sale — they've bargained you down to $6.50 from $10? They can pay you instantly, right then and there, by swiping their credit card using your iPhone.
"The thing that's so great about this," Keighran says, "is, whether you're a contractor, or somebody mowing lawns, it makes it really easy for anybody to accept payments."
Here are more picks from Keighran:
Uber: An upscale taxi service that lets you track black sedans around town, and order one for yourself. The trip is billed to your credit card.
Getaround: "Just like Zipcar, but it's with your own car," Keighran says. Users open a map to see available cars.
Path: This photo-sharing tool allows you to have no more than 50 friends, theoretically limiting users to a circle of close friends.
Instagram: More public than Path, the popular service lets anyone see users' posted photos — a bit like Twitter, but with images, Keighran says.
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
We asked Ben Keighran to share with us some of his favorite apps. He's CEO of Chomp.com. That's a search engine for mobile apps. At the top of his list is something called Square.
BEN KEIGHRAN: Square allows you to take payments, using a real credit card, directly on your iPhone. So...
MONTAGNE: You, you, like me.
MONTAGNE: I've got a garage sale going and I can actually get paid on it with a credit card.
KEIGHRAN: And the thing that's so great about this is, whether you're a contractor, whether you're someone that wants to, you know, mow somebody's lawn; this just makes it really easy for anybody to accept payments.
MONTAGNE: Well, that's very practical. What else?
KEIGHRAN: Another great app is an app called Uber. So I live in San Francisco and driving around San Francisco there's a lot of those black Lincoln cars for hire. If you want to pay the extra money, because it's a little more expensive than a cab, you can jump into one of these nicer cars. And so what Uber does is when you open up the app, it shows you a map of all the black Lincolns that are driving around San Francisco right now. And you can literally like tap on one and say hey, I'll pay you $15 for a ride, and you can watch on the map this car, like, drive all the way up to you and jump in the car and away you go and it all gets billed straight to your credit card.
MONTAGNE: That would seem to be convenient, though where you can't just walk out and flag a cab.
KEIGHRAN: There is another app that's called Getaround. It's just like Zipcar but it's with your own car. So it makes you can rent your own car to anybody that wants to rent that car.
MONTAGNE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You can rent your car to the people?
KEIGHRAN: In the street, yes.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
KEIGHRAN: Yes. Yes. Yes.
KEIGHRAN: It's a brand new service that just came out a few weeks ago.
MONTAGNE: So if I saw a particularly attractive parked car and thought that would be a cool car to drive, will there be a sign in the window or something saying, get a hold of me and get around?
KEIGHRAN: Well, yeah. The user experience is you open up, again, a map on your phone and you can see all these cars around you that you can rent. It's peer-to-peer commerce, that's basically happening there.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MONTAGNE: Peer-to-peer - I don't even want to say that's futuristic, but I...
KEIGHRAN: Well, I think it is futuristic and I think that, you know, we're moving into that next generation of the Internet, we're going to see more and more of these types of applications come into our lives.
MONTAGNE: A couple of more that you suggested are related: Path and Instagram. Tell us about those.
KEIGHRAN: Something like Path is all about personal sharing. So on Path you can actually only have up to 50 friends, you can't have any more than that. Which is kind of interesting, because a lot of the social networks are really, really public and privacy is becoming a bigger and bigger concern to some people. And so what Path does that's different to Instagram is it's very limiting to your very, very close friends whereas, something like Instagram is very public and open like Twitter.
MONTAGNE: That's Ben Keighran who runs the app search Website Comp, and spoke to us as part of an occasional series on apps. You can see his full list of picks at npr.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.