Skip the Round-Ups: ‘Homescreen’ Will Tell You What Apps Everyone Is Really Using

The App Store will tell you how important Candy Crush Saga is—this app will tell you what your friends are actually keeping on their phones.

(Photo via Getty)

(Photo via Getty)

You’ve probably been bombarded by dozens of year-end listicles and slideshows of 2014’s best apps, you head spinning from hundreds of new suggestions. Well, come on in from the storm: There’s something to help you sort through all of the madness.

Homescreen, a new app from Betaworks, is compiling an organized, networked database of what apps everyone is using. The app allows users to upload pictures of their smartphone home screens, uses image recognition to builds a database of what apps everyone is using. The whole system links to Twitter so you can see who an app’s most influential users are and what your friends’ favorite apps are.

“The App Store is kind of opaque, so Homescreen brings a little transparency to what people are using,” Betaworks’ Matt Hartman told Betabeat. “It’s almost like peering over someone’s shoulder.”

That may sound creepy at first, but you have to opt in to be indexed. Besides, before the Betaworks team took a crack at this, thousands of people had tweeted screen-grabs of their home screens with the #homescreen hashtag every day.

Betaworks, the anachronistic tech workshop in NYC that’s part design shop and part incubator, quietly put out the app yesterday. Their other in-house projects include a number of new media darling apps like Instapaper, Chartbeat, Bitly, Giphy and Poncho. Betaworks has a knack for building nifty utilities that help media people get to know their audiences.

“We think a ton about user behavior and what people like to do, and want to show data in interesting ways,” Mr. Hartman said. “What you decide to put on your home screen is a piece of that.”

Ok, so it’s a list of who’s using what apps—at this point, you might ask: Who cares? Well, if you’re a brand like, say, CNN, you can figure out how many followers of the @CNN Twitter actually have the CNN mobile app, what other apps are in the same folder as the CNN app and what your followers’ other favorite apps are. That kind of data is powerful to anyone who’s trying to on-board their followers to a native app, to say nothing of the value it gives to the people actually building the apps.

But in order for those insights to be worth anything, Betaworks is going to need more than just a few tech-minded early adopters to start sharing their favorite apps. Otherwise, it risks becoming another echo chamber for the media-minded to talk to each other about their favorite toys.