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The app-driven life: How smartphone apps are changing our lives

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The world has adopted smart phones and tablets 10 times faster than it embraced personal computers in the 1980s, twice as fast as it logged into the Internet boom of the '90s, and three times faster than it joined social networks in the new millennium, according to the app-tracking firm Flurry.

Svelte, intuitive hardware helps propel the movement, but this new era in consumer electronics really started a year after the debut of the original iPhone. In early 2008, Apple opened the digital doors to its App Store, an online marketplace for programmers around the world to sell their own mobile apps.

While Apple guarded the gates – demanding that each app be submitted for review – it kept a wide berth. Programmers for the iPhone and Google's competing Android line could take advantage of tools unavailable on most personal computers: touch screens, cameras, tilt sensors, compasses, location tracking, cellular Internet connections, and the fact that people carry these devices with them at all times.

Soon, apps emerged for practically every need in a person's day.

Productivity goosed by zombies?

Matthew Ablon uses his Android phone to keep fit. This freshman at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., never liked running in high school. It seemed monotonous. Boring. A single app changed his mind.

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