We live in an era of multi-functional devices. Our phones aren't just phones — they're internet-connected computers, GPS devices, cameras and more. So before you go buying new gear to fill a need, take blogger Fred Wilson's advice: Look for an app.
Wilson explains how he attempted to find a better solution for entering text into and controlling his home theatre PCs, having been dissatisfied with his current setup. His first instinct was to buy some new gear — specifically an Apple Wireless Keyboard and a Gyration Air Mouse, both of which set him back around $US160 total. (In Australia, the keyboard is around $95, while the mouse is near-impossible to come by.) What he got was more frustration. Then he went with a friend Andy's advice, who suggested a $US2 iPhone/iPod touch app:
So in frustration, I pulled out the iPod touch we use as a Sonos and Boxee remote in our family room and downloaded the Mobile Air Mouse app from the iTunes store for $US1.99. You have to download free "server software" for the device from the Mobile Air Mouse website as well.
Guess what? Andrew was right. It works very well. And you get a trackpad and a keyboard (iPhone style keyboard) all for $US1.99.
As Wilson is quick to point out, you would need an iPhone or iPod touch on hand—and those do cost good money—but assuming you already have a multifunctional device, Wilson had one takeaway: "Bottom line for me: apps beat devices. Lesson learned. Relatively cheaply."
Have you had similar experiences? What apps have you used that've taken the place of buying new gear? Let's hear about it in the comments.