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The multitude of smartphone and tablet apps in existence has reached an unnecessary level – over 500,000 in Apple’s App Store alone. While many are hugely helpful and timesaving, there are many others that are extraneous and redundant.

This redundancy has come to my attention lately when looking for technology-driven ways to help me stick with a new dietary style. While I haven’t eaten meat in years, I thought ditching dairy and eggs too sounded like a fun challenge. This prospect isn’t too terribly difficult living in a city like Portland, but it still takes some planning. When I can’t plan ahead and pack provisions for the day – or even if I just want to plan to go out for some food – it’s sometimes difficult to figure out where to go. The handful of places I know end up being in my rotation constantly and therefore get old quickly. And while vegan dishes can be found in most restaurants, all vegan dishes are certainly not created equal. Finding a spot with above-average ingredients will keep me hooked and coming back.

1x1.trans | Bon appetit: Animal free options for your smartphone

Vegan Steven displays the vegan spots nearest to the office.

I went in search of an app that could tell me what vegan fare was nearby and perhaps some reviews to tell me whether it was worth the trip. I found an app called Vegan Steven which does just that. Emphasis on just. This app is like many others in the app market that do one, highly specialized thing. While Vegan Steven and others like it are free to download and use, I find them to be an unnecessary use of precious gigabyte space. Why have four or five apps taking up space, when I could have just one meet the same needs?

An example of this multitasking functionality is the app version of the recommendation and review site Yelp. I’m sure most people have used at least the website version – it’s a one-stop shop for finding any number of businesses, whether vegan or otherwise. It’s easy to use and has a great built in filter feature. You can search by neighborhood, business type, cuisine type, and the list goes on. With an app or website that provides info on such a wide variety of businesses it’s difficult to justify bothering with the hassle of a bunch of specialized, one-task apps.

There are exceptions to that rule. Veggie Passport is an app that I think has unique functionality that would make it worth the gigabyte space and the $.99 it costs to purchase. In my ideal world I’d travel to foreign lands regularly. It would be a lot easier to avoid inadvertently ordering meat or dairy if I had an app like Veggie Passport to translate the phrases I needed to communicate. Translation technology is notoriously inaccurate, which is why I’d hesitate to use just any old translation app for something as serious as meat (I know that sounds ridiculous, but meat freaks me out). Veggie Passport’s translation has been vetted by native speakers for each of the 33 languages it covers, so I’m betting it’s rather accurate.

The ideal vegan app, however, has yet to be created. For some, veganism translates to only concerning yourself with not eating animal products, which doesn’t necessarily mean making healthier dietary choices. Hence folks who eat only Lay’s potato chips for dinner and call it good. It seems like there’s a niche for a “Veganize My Meal” app, which would allow folks to enter in their dream meals – if animal products were not an issue – and it would tell them how to use veggie-based ingredients to achieve similar flavors. It could also include info on nutritional stats for meals to help make sure things are balanced.

Maybe an app like this already exists and I just don’t know about it yet. With more than half a million apps to search through in the App Store, there’s a high likelihood that I could have simply missed it. If you know of this magical app or any similar apps – not the calorie counting/food tracking type, please – feel free to share it with me.

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2 Responses to Bon appetit: Animal-free options for your smartphone

  1. I have to say your idea of a “fun challenge” does not mesh with mine. :)