By Brittany Britto
If you’re searching for your soulmate or a way to keep up with prayer, there’s an app for that,
and students are using them.
The ever-growing technology in mobile devices (how ‘bout that iPhone 6?) has transformed
social interactions and how people around the world seek information.
Flurry, Yahoo’s app analytics company, reports that people are not only using their phones
more in 2014, but the use of mobile apps is also on the rise.
The average US consumer spends two hours and 42 minutes a day on a mobile device, and 86
percent of that reported time is used primarily on apps, according to Flurry’s 2014 report.
Flurry’s graph, a visual of where time is spent when phone or tablet is in hand, reports that 32
percent of our time on mobile devices is spent on gaming apps (more Angry Birds, please).
Facebook comes in as the second most time consuming app, accounting for 17 percent of our
time glued to our mobile devices.
Utility apps, like navigation systems and calendars, rank rather low on the scale at 8 percent.
Youtube and “other” forms of entertainment both take up 4 percent of users’ time, while news
apps take up only 3 percent.
What’s hAPPening in Jewish student mobile use?
The use of Facebook and Twitter among Jewish students and organizations are a given in
the bustling social scene at University of Maryland, but what about apps that qualify for those
mysterious “other” categories on Flurry’s map?
Dating apps geared toward the Jewish community are well known among UMD students,
including the E-Harmony-esque J-Date, or the similar JSwipe, referred to by UMD students as
“the Tinder for Jews” – an app you certainly know about but never seriously admit to using.
It’s not all about the social scene, though.
Sophomore studio art major Meirav Finn swears by app Waze, a live navigation system
incorporating community-based reports on traffic and road conditions, saving users time and
gas. The internationally top rated iTunes app was co-founded by Israeli entrepreneur Uri Levine,
who recently sold the company to Google for more than $1 billion, as reported by Bloomberg.
Convenience ranks high among Jewish apps, as noted by freshmen Eliana Kahan and friend
Micah Speilman, both whom use the Kosher Near Me app from time to time.
Kosher Near Me, available on iPhone, Android, Windows mobile phones and more recently,
Kindle, uses navigation systems on mobile devices to locate nearby kosher restaurants, a savior
for travelers and people on the go.
Jewish and Israeli students also use mobile apps for a sense of awareness and connection to
their Jewish roots, no matter how far away.
“Most of my friends have the app Red Alert, which warns people in Israel about incoming
rockets,” freshman finance major Stuart Krantz said, who studied at the Alexander Muss High
School in Israel for a semester, a program offered by his high school, Charles E. Smith Jewish
Day School. “It’s a prime source and a direct way to stay connected with what’s going on.”
Religious apps, like the “virtual prayer book” iSiddur, are available to more religious students,
and are used weekly by some, according to Krantz, a factor that turns sophomore Rebecca
Yatovitz away from most Jewish apps.
“The popular Jewish apps seem to be for more religious people,” Yatovitz said. “It’s not for me,
but if I were more religious, I would.”
One app, however, is finding a way around religion.
The Shabbos App, a mobile app that plans to debut in February 2015 with the help of
Kickstarter funding, claims to make communication via smartphone acceptable during Shabbat.
According to the Shabbos App’s Kickstarter campaign, which has made nearly $2000 out of
the $36,000 funding goal in just one day, the app claims to have several features that avoid
breaking halachic law, like maintaining the smartphone’s screen brightness and battery level
Shabbos App developers also claim to have unique typing features that erase data to avoid
permanence and allow the phone to be charged and used upside down to distinguish Shabbat
smartphone-use from weekly smartphone-use.
News of the Shabbos App has swept the Internet, causing dialogue among Orthodox Jews,
rabbis and millennials.
Others seek a more social connection with the Jewish community, like sophomore Dani Mzhen,
who enjoys the concept of the app Wigo, a social network that shows college students which
students at their university are going out and where.
“That would be cool if there was [Wigo] for Jews,” Mzhen said.
Freshman Stuart Krantz, however, believes the Jewish community is social enough.
“Jews like to talk. There’s a lot of communication already going on between us,” Krantz said.
“I’m not really sure we need apps.”