With just over 140 million smartphones in the U.S., having an app for that is basically a prerequisite to being a cutting-edge company. Even traditional brick-and-mortar businesses are launching all kinds of crazy apps. Last week, Domino's announced a new app partnering with Ford that will let you order a pizza directly from your car with a few voice commands via the Ford Sync AppLink.
And, certainly, nowhere is a hotter spot for tech companies and startups than the Bay Area. Combine that with San Francisco's love of food and all things hipster -- artisan toast anyone? -- and the food apps coming out should be nothing short of mouth-watering.
While the food delivery app space remains the most crowded, there are plenty of other food apps hitting the market as well. As 2014 gets underway, we're taking a look at some of the food apps that should be big in the new year. Here are a few of the most exciting and best new apps.
FoodieTV: A new video app, FoodieTV provides five short videos each week about different tastes, cooks or places. The three- to five-minute shows are supposed to be TV-quality -- better than your average YouTube upload. Each week centers around a theme to form an "episode" that can be watched in pieces or all together, on your mobile or streamed onto your TV with an AppleTV. The hope is to capture mainstream interest in food and travel that isn't just recipes and insider coverage of the industry. Available in the Apple app store.
Pact: Originally launched a GymPact a year ago, the app has relaunched this year as Pact with new dieting features. Make a "pact" to eat more vegetables, log your meals in a diary or exercise. You then choose a penalty to pay if you don't fulfill your pact. For example, $5/day could be automatically deducted from your Paypal account if you fail to eat your vegetables. But, if you do meet your goals, then you can earn back money in rewards paid out of the pool of money from people who have not. While cheating is possible, posts and check-ins are required to meet your requirements. The eating more vegetables goal -- which has its own group -- requires uploading a picture of your vegetables and other members can vote it down if it doesn't appear to be real vegetables or if you don't seem to have eaten them. (Selfies!) Available in the Apple app store and the Google play store.
Leftover Swap: Launched in August (so still relatively new), Leftover Swap lets you do just that: swap leftovers. Have leftover food? Take a picture and post it on the app. Other users can then either barter for your leftovers, take them off your hands for free or offer up a donation for anything particularly tasty-looking. The founders aren't sure how to make money yet and the San Francisco Health Department has already raised concerns. Selling food requires a permit and selling leftover food is a health department no-no. But, the goal is to help eliminate some of the huge amount of food that is wasted every year. Available in the Apple app store.
FoodieQuest and Epicurator: Taking pictures of your food is so last year, so over. These two apps want to make photography of your meals cool again -- and more fun. FoodieQuest, which was supposed to launch out of beta in December but is still in the works, has made food photos a game. Compete against friends with your photos, earn votes or search by city. Epicurator launched at the end of the summer and is a cross between Yelp and Instagram. Post pictures of your food and rate the meal from "Bleh" to "Foodgasm." It's basically a digital way to say, "I'll have what she's having." FoodieQuest is coming soon to the Apple app store. Epicurator is available on the Apple app store.
TellSpec: One of the craziest and, if it works, most exciting technologies (and sort of an app) that could come out this year uses a small laser to scan your food and then uploads all the nutritional data about what you're eating to an app on your smartphone. TellSpec showed off a beta version at the Consumer Electronics Show last week and plans to go to beta testers in April. The goal is for the laser, essentially a raman spectrometer, to measure the composition of what you're eating and give you detailed information about the ingredients -- even those not listed on the label -- and more in-depth nutritional information. As more people use the scanner and app, the database of foods will grow. Right now, the company is using the $380,000 it raised on IndieGoGo and the $1 million it just received in seed money to make the scanner more lightweight and useable and to fine-tune the app.
These are certainly not all the food apps available or even all the new ones. Please share your favorite food apps in the comments.