When T.J. Bumpico and Kara York were recently in IHOP waiting for their food, they decided to pass the time by engaging in a light saber war at their table.
While the action drew the attention of their waiter, the couple didn't require any weapons or need anything other than their cell phones, which have light saber and AK-47 applications that they use frequently.
"It's completely immature, but it's fun anyways," Bumpico, 25, of Warren, said of their dueling habit.
Steve Poullas of Hubbard and Michelle Montecalvo of Warren browse cell phone applications recently at the Mocha House in Warren.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Sarah Sole
Those applications are a couple of many that Bumpico and York have used since purchasing T-Mobile G-1 phones in January.
It was their first introduction to smart phones, which, while functioning like miniature computers, have myriad downloadable applications.
"We went crazy when we got them," said York, 25, of Warren. Bumpico has 15 apps, while York has 30.
While Bumpico can see himself being able to return to a life without a smart phone, York has become a bit more attached.
"Once I have technology, I don't like it taken away," she said.
Like York, many smart phone users have become accustomed to using their phones for an increasingly wide variety of purposes. Apps can be practical, enabling users to navigate in their vehicles, pay bills or purchase movie tickets from their phones. They also can be recreational, providing endless gaming opportunities, and even a way to auto-tune one's voice.
Bumpico is particularly addicted to an app called Word Mix, which lets users form words from six given letters.
"I play it every day," he said.
Though many gaming apps are available, some individuals have learned to use apps that help them shop intelligently.
An app that Bumpico finds most useful is a bar code scanner, which works exactly how it sounds, enabling him to search the Internet for places that carry a particular item.
Michelle Montecalvo, 23, of Warren, uses an app on her Droid that lets her search for different coupons and compare local gas prices. In some cases, when suffering from a bout of indecisiveness, Montecalvo might also let her phone decide where she eats for dinner with the Urban Spoon app, which randomly chooses restaurants available in a given location.
"You just shake it and it's like a slot machine," she said of her phone.
Montecalvo said she uses her Facebook app the most, though she also uses apps for Gmail, GPS and for her horoscope. She even has an app called Goggles that works as an instant image search, letting the user take a picture of something and then search for it online.
Many people also use apps for money managing.
Jonna Clouser, 21, of Warren, manages her banking and her cell phone bill with apps on her iPhone, and said the majority of the apps that she uses are practical ones.
"I don't ever need a computer," she said.
Similarly, Steve Poullas, 26, of Hubbard, has a bill tracker on his iPhone that provides him with payment alerts.
In some cases, apps enable phones to serve as replacements for more traditional technology like TVs and radios.
Poullas, for example, uses the ESPN Score Center app regularly.
"I could just look at the scores right there without having to find a TV," he said.
Poullas and Clouser also use an application for Pandora, an online music site that lets you create personalized radio stations. Clouser frequently uses it in her car.
One local company has used the popularity and usability associated with apps in their favor. Turning Technologies in Youngstown offers a polling device app called ResponseWare, launched last summer, which works like a clicker. Users can use the app during presentations.
Turning Technologies typically markets the app to schools, governments and corporations, said Sheila Hura, marketing director at the company.
The app can be used for question and answer sessions, and it can also be used remotely, Hura said.
"Instead of using another device, they can use a device that they're already familiar with," she said.
Response Wear is not the only app that can prove useful in an educational atmosphere. In some cases, apps are serving as stand-ins for textbooks.
Rebecca Rosenblum, 23, of Howland, uses apps such as a drug guide book and a medical dictionary for her work in the nursing program at Kent State University. Instead of carrying five or six books around when she attends clinicals at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, Rosenblum uses one program that also includes a search function.
"I don't have to go and bring this huge book with me. Now I just bring this tiny phone," she said.