Smartphones, like Swiss Army knives and SkyMall watches, have a few nifty features and plenty of useless ones. Who needs a checkbook when you’ve got Square, a toolkit when you’ve got iHandy Level, or a babysitter when you’ve got Fruit Ninja? Encyclopedias, gazetteers, even boredom itself now seems obsolete.
Are dermatologists next? A slew of skin cancer-detection apps—with names like SkinVision, SpotCheck, and Mole Detective 2—allow smartphone users to photograph and “analyze” their worrisome blemishes, offering diagnoses such as “problematic,” “high risk,” and “looks okay.” The free or low-cost apps base their findings on algorithms, rather than human expertise, and return results instantly. “Costs far less than an insurance copay, won’t leave a scar, and may save your life!” promises one advertisement. “The survival rate of melanoma is a dismal 15% at stage four,” warns another.