I’d guess that most of us have at least one app on our phone that we tap when we want to get our brains working in the morning, or to give us something to do to fill those random ten-minute snippets of the day that happen while, for example, we are waiting for our spouses to get ready to go out.
There are some crucial requirements for these brainstarters and timewasters. First, they need to be sufficiently interesting to actually get your brain working and allow you to fill the time you’re looking to occupy. If the app is so boring that you lose interest and would rather sit there drumming your finders on the arm of your chair, it has failed in its essential function. Second, at the same time the app can’t be so riveting that you can’t promptly stop when your spouse comes downstairs and is ready to go and would be offended if you gave her the one-minute sign and kept tapping your phone. It therefore needs to be a game, or puzzle, or challenge that you can readily put down and pick up again at your leisure, And third, if the app is going to have staying power on your phone, it’s got to be set up so that you’re always facing a new challenge.
Me, I’m a Spider Solitaire guy. I picked up the free version from the app store, because I just wasn’t willing to pay for a timewaster, so before I can play a game I have to sit through the snippet of an ad for a new game, a new car, or something else — but reacting to that helps to get the brain started, too. I come from a card-playing family, so a card game appealed to me. There are thousands of different variations of how the cards can be dealt, so there’s no real worry about repetition. It’s easy to put down mid-game and pick up later, and trying to figure out different approaches to how to win a game when the cards are really working against you keeps my interest. And some appropriately triumphal music plays when you win a game, so you feel a certain sense of accomplishment with each little victory.
Brainstarters and timewasters aren’t the most important things in the world, of course, but they serve a crucial role in deflecting utter boredom and minutes that seem to stretch on for hours. We’ll appreciate them even more if we ever get to the point of waiting at the gate for an overdue plane flight again.