Have you ever been curious about what apps other people are running on their iPhones, and specifically those which they’ve deemed awesome enough to warrant a coveted spot on their homescreen? If so, then you’ll probably get a kick out of Appetite.io, a new project from the creators of the simple messaging app for iOS called Verbs.im.
Appetite.io uses a combination of computer vision and machine learning to “see” which apps are on your iPhone’s homescreen, based on a screenshot you either upload to the website or email in to “firstname.lastname@example.org” directly from the phone’s Camera Roll. The service then quickly analyzes the screenshot, identifies your apps, and provides a short URL to your phone’s homescreen page which you can tweet, email or share.
The team quietly launched the service just this week, and it’s still fairly rough around the edges. So yes, it’s a beta product, but it’s kind of fun, too. Since its debut, users have shared over 1,000 homescreens, and over 2,000 unique apps have been detected through user uploads. Appetite.io currently has the capability to detect 45,000 apps from the App Stores in five countries: the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany and Japan.
From these early tests, the company found that Weather was the least-used native app, and the second least-used was Clock. Google Maps was seen 3.5 times more often than Apple Maps. Facebook showed up in over 35% of the homescreens.
Right now, Appetite.io’s homepage is showing off Ashton Kutcher’s phone’s homescreen, but co-founder Bhasker Kode, who created the service along with Chaitanya Pandit, tells us that Kutcher is not affiliated with the company, lest that give you the wrong idea.
When testing the service earlier this week, it initially got several things wrong. In particular, it struggled with the ability to identify the Calendar app (it changes every day, making detection tougher, Kode said), and it got confused by my Google Reader “app,” which was actually just a homescreen icon to the mobile website. However, the team has been continually hacking away on the project, and has now addressed the Calendar issue and has improved its ability to detect apps no longer in iTunes. They’re now working to fix the problem of detecting iPhone folders correctly, which appears to be resolved as of this morning (at least for me, though your mileage may vary).
Until all issues are addressed, in the meantime, if Appetite.io’s service incorrectly detects an app, you can simply click the close button next to it to remove it from the app list. When I ran my homescreen photo through the service again this morning, it got things right.
The service is very basic for now – there’s no way to browse or search through the hundreds of homescreens others have uploaded, which would be half the fun of using something like this. But to be fair, the thing is only a few days old. These upgrades will come in time.
Assuming Appetite.io ever really takes off, Kode says the tool could be used to “crunch behavior patterns” (meaning, profiling users), app discovery (i.e., people who installed this, also installed that), and gifting.
Analyzing users’ app collections is hardly a new idea. A wide range of services, often in those in the app discovery space, have come up with different ways to do this over the years. Homescreen.me, for example, is most competitive with Appetite.io, and far more developed. It even gives you short URLs with your username. However, it doesn’t do the tricky business of actually detecting what those apps are on your phone, and then providing a list with links. It’s just pictures.