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Open Spot: Possibly The Most Useless Mobile App Ever

by Sean P. Aune | July 11, 2010July 11, 2010 8:00 am PST

Sometimes a new Web service or mobile app gets announced that you can tell a person or company has the best of intentions with it, but you can also pretty much tell instantly that it will never work as well as they intend it to.  Say hello to Open Spot for Android phones.

We’ve all been in that situation where it feels like you drive around for an hour looking for a parking spot, scanning side street after side street in the hopes we’ll spot that lone spot that was just recently vacated so we can zip in and claim it as our own.  It is possibly one of the most frustrating things in the world, but luckily Google has come up with a way to help owners of Android phones with this very situation … kinda.

open spotOpen Spot is the newest official Google app for Android phones that is somewhat of a “check out” service as opposed to a “check in” service such as Foursquare or Gowalla.  The idea is that as you pull out of a parking spot, you mark the space as available so that other people using the app know that it is open.  You will be shown all of  the spots within 1 km/0.9 miles of you for up to 20 minutes after it has been marked as vacant.  You can tell how “fresh” the spot is by the heat map, the more red it is, the more recent the check out was.

The problem is that for the first five minutes after the spot is marked, it remains bright red.  If you have spent any time in a major city hunting for a parking space, you know that five minutes might as well be a lifetime.  I would say in most cities, 30 second would be considered too long.  When you have situations such as parking spaces in Boston selling for $300,000, by the time your app updates, the space would probably be gone.

You can’t fault Google for the thought behind this, it’s a very considerate gesture actually.  The app even so goes as to award you “Karma Points” for the number of spots you mark as vacant.  What you can do with those points, if anything, is a mystery at this point, but you can at least pat yourself on the back for your good deed.

One of the biggest problems is that for this app to work effectively, it is going to have to have widespread adoption.  If only a few people are using it, it isn’t going to generate many hits.  People get frustrated easily and early, so the chances of this thing taking off feel like slim and none.

They say “it’s the thought that counts”, and we will definitely give Google “karma points” for the thought, but we can’t remember the last time a major company released such an ultimately useless app.

What say you?  Will you try out Open Spot?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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