Apptitude: Deck your iPhone with the Chr

December 17 [Mon], 2012, 2:29
By Virginia Heffernan

Its Hanukkah. This is the stretch of the calendar known as the holidays, famous these days mostly for being a Source of Tremendous Anguish to all who encounter it.

Once, long ago, maybe in the days of the Maccabees or Jesus, the winter holidays brought childlike joy; wed light some candles against the darkness. But in the past century some Grinchy preachers and op-ed columnists decided to stake out Christmastime as serotonin-deprivation time, and family dysfunction time, and bankruptcy-alcoholism-airport-snafu time. Since then, plain Christmas joythe easy-won kindhas been in short supply. Ah, well.

Wistfulness: Thats still OK in December, isnt it?

Which brings me to . In 2012, a Christmas list is not something transcribed from the Sears catalog onto 17 pages of lined notebook paper. The Christmas List is an app. An app for making Christmas listsand planning to fulfill them. Its for wishing and half-granting wishes then using the power of the Internet, which really is a lot more magical than Santa ever was, even in his heyday, if youfor this split secondare open to some seasonal wide-eyed wonder.

The app icon looks like a wrapped-up present: a white box with red ribbons on it, and its happy-making. I love the way apps on the iPhone now come marked new when you havent used them yet. That new plus the wrapped-gift gave me a little thrill.

You import from your contact list all the people you want to buy presents for. I started with two friends, and grabbed their contact infoincluding photosin an instant from my phone, which is already loaded with peoples Facebook details.

Now I have faces and names to budget for. Budget for? Thats right! Its ingenious. Id never thought to cap my spending for any one person, or allot anything. Usually I end up getting monstrously big gifts for 3 to 4 people, chosen kind of at random, and then punk out on everyone else. Either nothing or a vague promise of dinner out.

Im not proud of this, but when I saw that budget optionand you put in the budgeted figure right under the persons photo, so youre inspiredI realized there was another, better way. Ten dollars, I entered for one friend. The app did not judge me as miserly!

I wanted to get my $10 friend a Kindle book, but thenlo and beholdThe Christmas List did not have an option of shopping on Amazon. Thats right. The humongo online megastore was not in the stores listed. I mean, I could enter it optionally. But it wasnt on the default list. Anthropologie, Best Buy, J.Crew all were. So were Macys and Williams-Sonoma and PetsSmart and Starbucks and Tiffany & Co. Maybe 50 in total, with some surprising omissions, like e-commerce giants Amazon and Overstock.

Whats there are evidently the great American retailers. If you werent thinking about these stores before you try the Christmas List, you will be afterward. (I wonder if they paid for placement.) In the end, when I made my list, I ended up adding Amazon, Overstock and Urban Outfitters to the options.

By then I had seendouble lo and beholdthe App Store as an option. Could it be that the Christmas List favored Apple products? And I was drawn in. An app! I could buy someone an app for Christmas!

Youre asked to price the objects you want to buy, because the app doesnt let you go directly to the store sites. (Id probably never come back, so that makes sense.) I imagine the whole list works best as something you carry around with you to brick-and-mortar stores.

It did feel immensely satisfying to check off the items on everyones list, while staying in my budget. I got a gift certificate from Anthropologie for a teenager I know, and the neat check I got to put in the purchased box was worth the 99 cents for the app.

As was the sense of virtue and organization and generosity! The elegant Christmas List app proves to be a gift for the giver. And it makes buying gifts in December without overspending seem not depressing, not chumpy and not impossible. Astounding.

Now if only apps could wrap.
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