If you’ve never heard of an experiential mobile app it’s because it hasn’t existed until now. Jim Sipe and I realized there was something wrong with the mobile market. Most mobile users stare down at their phones and disengage with the people around them – even in social settings! In fact just the other day a friend posted on facebook, “Celebrating Mike’s birthday, everyone is so cozy. Fun night!,” with a photo of everyone on the couch looking at their own phones. We think there has to be a way to use the mobile platform to bring people together and try to end head-down syndrome and we are doing just that by developing experiential mobile apps.

Most mobile users stare down at their phones and disengage with the people around them – even in social settings!


So what exactly categorizes a mobile app as experiential? Using the app:

  • makes you engage with the people in your immediate vicinity
  • leaves you with a memorable shared experience
  • it allows you to take the experience with you, it’s not stuck within the app

Experiential apps use the mobile platform to be less ephemeral. Do you really remember the photo you posted to Instagram last Tuesday? Do you remember what you commented the first time you saw Grumpy Cat? Can you remember the last thing your cousin posted to Facebook? Chances are you said no unless you have a photographic memory. The time you spend with those apps are about that moment and it doesn’t create a meaningful connection or extend much further. The experiential app creates new memories with your friends and family. Of course you can share the experiential app memories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. But the difference is you’ll remember that shared experience but not what you posted about it.

There are benefits to focusing on creating memories through shared experiences. Recent research from the Journal of Positive Psychology shows us that experiences make us happier than material items.

Experiences make us happier than material items.


Well, enough of me describing the experiential app concept. I want to tell you about the first experiential app we’re creating. The app is FoodFu, a game that allows users to have their own cooking competitions at home. In a nutshell, users can have their own Chopped or Top Chef adventure at home. All it takes is a kitchen and four people: two willing to cook and two willing to judge. So next time someone invites friends over for dinner instead of sitting around talking, which can create the urge for people to start looking down at their phone, users can create their own interactive dinner theatre. FoodFu is the first of many experiential apps we plan to create.

Do we really think we can end head-down syndrome with experiential apps? Honestly, no. The device itself is built to be viewed with your head down and there are so many uses for mobile devices that we can’t completely change the way people use their phones; nor do we want to. We do, however, think we can make people spend a little less time looking down at their phones while having fun.

Tell us what you think. Do feel like people spend too much time staring at their phones?

The Hidden Cost of Value-seeking: People do not Accurately Forecast the Economic Benefits of Experiential Purchases,” by Paulina Pchelin and Ryan T. Howell, Journal of Positive Psychology