Why do distasteful apps sell?

With all the potential practical and useful applications that are possible with today's sophisticated smartphones, why do some developers revel in coming up with the most distasteful (and sometimes horrifying) apps you can imagine? 

I suppose the most likely answer to my question is money. Developers only need to look at InfoMedia's success with its iFart Mobile app to see that gross-out apps are very appealing to those with the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy. And apparently lots of people have that sense of humor. iFart Mobile's novelty application shot to the top of the sales charts of the Apple App Store just days after it launched in early December 2008, earning InfoMedia close to $10,000 in a single day.

But some developers are taking distasteful apps to a whole other horrifying level. Just last week Apple was criticized for allowing a Baby Shaker application into its App Store. The application displayed a picture of a baby and played a crying sound. To make it stop you had to shake your iPhone really hard. After public outcry, Apple removed it from its App Store.

Of course, horrifying is not the same as distasteful. But nothing prepared me for the press release I received a few weeks ago about PMS Buddy, an application that lets men track the menstrual cycles of their female partners. The company claims that this application is "literally saving relationships one month at a time." But PMS Buddy lets users track up to 10 women. If one man needs to track 10 female's menstrual cycles, he's probably not worried about saving a relationship. The release claims the application already has 100,000 users.

I have an idea for all those enterprising mobile app developers looking for a fool-proof application: How about a Jerk Locator? Using location-based services, I'd love to be able to walk into a party and instantly know where all the jerks in the room are located. Better yet, how about letting me know all the men in the room that are subscribing to PMS Buddy? I think there are thousands of women who would pay for that application.

Clearly, mobile application developers are pushing the envelope on what is funny and what is downright offensive. Although tastefulness is somewhat subjective and difficult to pin down, I'd like to think that most app developers are more interested in creating clever solutions to practical problems rather than selling distasteful apps that make most of us cringe with horror. --Sue

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