There's an app for that

By Ashley McNamee

February 27, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 2:12 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- All week, we are taking a look at technology and social media and its impact on our lives.

We start with a look at the applications available on smart phones and tablets and how much they've become a part of our daily routines.

"Um, haha, the sports scores. We work here late a lot, we're out running around and want to keep up on the sports scores. So, the sports scores and the weather," said Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy.

"Shazzam is my favorite app. The one where you're in the car, or at home listening to the radio. You can put it up there and it will tell you what song it is. You can just buy it on iTunes," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Apps. They're everywhere. The little programs on a smart phone and tablets offer everything from weather reports, to games to news.

But not everyone is into smart phones or their apps.

"You know, I am one of those old school tech guys. I still have a Blackberry. I haven't switched over to the iPhone and I don't know if I have any apps on a Blackberry," said Representative Aaron Shock of Illinois.

"There are some things that do have a practical application. Then, there are other things you might question and say, how necessary is this really?" said Ed Betzelberger, an addiction counselor.

Illinois Addiction Center Counselor Ed Betzelberger says apps have a way of making us think we need them. That we're addicted to them, when in all actuality we would be just fine without all the technology.

"It is growing so fast that we feel this need to get into the next biggest thing, to stay caught up and stay ahead of something that is frankly way ahead of us," said Betzelberger.

Which brings us to the idea of security. How safe are apps that require personal, sensitive information, like Turbotax, where you actually do your taxes on your phone?

"It should always be in the back of your mind when you work with any kind of technology," said Ben Sinclair.

Sinclair develops apps for his company Shift Interactive. He says the more precautions you can take, the better. He says if you're worried look for apps that require a password to log-in.

It's be very similar to if you've got an online banking app from your bank. Even if your phone is unlocked, somebody can't get into it. They need your credentials to log in," said Sinclair.

On facebook, we asked you what your favorite app was. Armed with your suggestions, we went shopping in the app store.

To be honest, some of them were not practical.

Take "Touch Wood". It is an app that gives you a fake piece of wood to knock on if you can't find any real wood. Then there's the finger treadmill, which does exactly what it says. It's a treadmill for your fingers.

Others can be helpful. We picked three to try out. Urban Spoon to find lunch, Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas and HyVee's app to get some groceries.

Gas Buddy picked the closest, cheapest gas station. The gas was even a cent cheaper than the app thought, not such a bad mistake.

Urban Spoon let us spin the culinary wheel giving us plenty of different restaurant options for lunch. We landed on Asia Grill in Junction City. It even gave us the number so we could call ahead and have it waiting.

At HyVee, store manager OJ Slavich says the app can do several things for customers.

"They've got lists, or the ad pulled up, and they'll say where is this located and they will find something in the ad. I guess they didn't know all the different features," said Slavish.

Neither did we, so he showed us.

If you can't find a random food item, you can tell the app what you're looking for and it will map you there. It also has the store's weekly coupons, recipes and can keep your shopping list.

The bottom line, apps are what you make of them. They can be stupid, time-consuming or all together non-existent in your life, depending on you.

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