Death-related Apps for iPhone and iPad

A dozen recommended death-related applications for your Apple mobile device

Woman using iPad
Numerous apps offer information, convenience and even entertainment about dying and death these days. Photo © Maskot/Getty Images

If death is a fact of life, then so too is the prevalence of smartphones and tablets. These days, we increasingly rely on our mobile devices to access information about everything, including dying, death, funerals, burials, and grief. This article offers brief summaries of 12 death-related apps you can use on your Apple iPhone and/or iPad.

Ancestry

Whether you consider yourself an amateur genealogist or just feel curious about your family tree, check out "Ancestry" from Ancestry.com.

This iPhone/iPad app is free to download but requires you to create a free account (or you can use your Facebook account). Once inside, this app provides a wealth of information that will help you uncover, track and share your family history courtesy of more than 16 billion historical records, including high-resolution photographs and documents, and provides access to the existing family trees created by other Ancestry.com users.

"Ancestry" also offers numerous in-app purchases to expand the historical data you can tap into to trace your lineage -- such as birth, marriage, and death records, census and voter information, etc. -- as well as an Apple Watch app.

ANC Explorer

Probably the best known of America's 131 national cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) in Virginia holds the remains of more than 400,000 men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces dating back to the American Revolution.

Currently comprising 624 acres, ANC developed its own free iPhone/iPad app to help veterans, their families and the public navigate Arlington National Cemetery's extensive grounds and locate specific gravesites, columbaria/niche locations and other points of interest.

The app's extensive search function allows you to enter the name of a member of the Armed Forces, his or her birth or death date, or the gravesite location on the grounds, which returns detailed information and even a photograph of his or her grave marker, if available.

Using GPS technology, "ANC Explorer" quickly provides directions from your current location to your chosen destination onsite. Whether you're planning to visit this historic national cemetery or just enjoy exploring from the comfort of your armchair, this is a must-have app. (Arlington National Cemetery also offers an ​online version of its "ANC Explorer" app here.)

BillionGraves Camera App

The mission of BillionGraves is simple: Elicit the public's help to create the world's largest database of cemetery headstone information and photographs. Toward that end, developer Otter Creek Holdings, LLC, created the free "BillionGraves Camera App." Using the camera on your iPhone/iPad, simply shoot a photo of a grave marker or niche cover and upload it via the app using the free account you will need to create. Already tagged with GPS information courtesy of your Apple device, every photograph joins a growing database of user-submitted images from cemeteries around the world.

Unfortunately, you must take photographs through the "BillionGraves Camera App" itself in order to upload them -- probably to ensure that GPS information is recorded with each image -- so you cannot upload any existing picture(s) you might have.

Also, the search function within the app needs improvement; it's difficult to determine where a grave is located in terms of city/state/country within the app, unlike the search functionality accessed via the company's website. Regardless, this crowdsourced cemetery database project is a cool idea that offers future benefits for genealogists and historians alike.

Celebrity Dead or Alive

If you remember Abe Vigoda from Barney Miller, The Godfather or any of his other works, then you might recall that People magazine once mistakenly listed the actor as deceased, as did other sources afterward. These erroneous reports actually gave rise to a website in 2001 that simply listed Abe Vigoda's status, i.e., alive or dead. (The actor died on January 26, 2016, at age 94 and the website quickly updated his status.)

As in Vigoda's case, sometimes it just "feels" like a celebrity should have shuffled off his or her mortal coil by now, which is the premise of "Celebrity Dead or Alive" by Digital Therapy. This free app challenges your knowledge about the current life-status of famous celebrities through three types of gameplay: "Quiz" mode offers a round of 5 to 20 questions you answer by yourself; "Marathon" presents an unending series of questions until you grow weary and/or fall asleep; and "Party" mode lets you challenge 2-4 others by passing your iPhone or iPad around. After each game, you have the option to share your score with your friends via Facebook, Twitter or email.

Death!

If you're a fan of the Spike network's disturbingly morbid 1000 Ways to Die television series, you might enjoy this free, quirky iPhone-only app from developer 3ight, LLC. Above an ever-present, cartoony rendition of the Grim Reaper, "Death!" allows you to scroll through hundreds of historical unusual-death summaries in text format.

For example, in 1912, inventor Franz Reichelt fell to his death from high atop the Eiffel Tower while testing his latest creation, the "coat parachute." (Apparently, it didn't work.) The app also lets you mark your favorite dastardly demises so you can easily find them later, as well as quickly share your favorites via email or Facebook.

Dirt Bike Death Race

Ah, if only evading death was as simple as riding a speeding motorcycle so the Grim Reaper can't reach you. Yet that's the premise behind the free "Dirt Bike Death Race" app, a simple-yet-addictive game courtesy of RoboNacho Systems, LLC. Atop a dirt bike, you'll race across an undulating, increasingly challenging horizon, gathering speed on each descent (by touching the screen of your iPhone/iPad) before coasting up each hill (by lifting your finger) -- often performing physics-defying jumps through the sky.

With 25 levels to survive and numerous in-app purchases available to upgrade your ride, you might just find yourself spending a lot of time on this game in your bid to cheat death.

Ghost Detector!

Dr. Peter Venkman would surely carry this free app on his smartphone (if he actually existed). Developer Reservoir Dev states that "Ghost Detector!" can "detect the ghosts, spirits, and demons" around us using the built-in microphone and recording capabilities of your mobile device.

After selecting the number of recordings you want and how distinct a noise must be to trigger a recording, simply leave your iPhone or iPad in the area of suspected paranormal activity and walk away. Any sounds loud enough to activate the app, whether the clanking of chains or the wheeze of your furnace, will be captured digitally for later playback. It's best to remember, however, that Reservoir Dev does not guarantee that "the sounds detected through sound frequencies emanate from paranormal activity."

iWish

Unhappy that you're drifting through life without any goals and wish you could do something about it? There's an app for that. Called "iWish" by HighDream, this free program allows iPhone and iPad users to dream, plan and share lifetime goals courtesy of hundreds of ideas, suggestions and motivational quotes.

Sort of a "visual bucket list," this app allows you to quickly add the goals you want to accomplish during your remaining time among the living -- such as learning to meditate, visiting Australia, riding the most extreme roller coasters, etc. -- and then check them off one by one as you move toward the better you that you always wanted to be. "iWish" offers several sophisticated features, such as syncing between devices using the cloud, exporting your list as a .csv file, and even marking the locations of your goals on a world map.

Just to Say

Death makes us uncomfortable and often leaves us tongue-tied. Fearful of saying the wrong thing to survivors, we frequently end up saying nothing at all, which can complicate grief. This free iPhone/iPad app by Inderjeet Bains might help you find the right words to say to someone coping with a death courtesy of its hundreds of brief messages, which you can scroll through with the swipe of a finger.

Arranged within numerous categories, including birthdays, anniversaries, sympathy, etc., you can bookmark your favorite expressions and even share them via Facebook, Twitter, email or text message. A "pro" version of "Just to Say" for 99¢ offers an ad-free version of the app, but the ads in the free version are unobtrusive.

Mobile Florist

Funeral home websites now routinely offer visitors the option to order and send flowers for the funeral or memorial service of a loved one, and "Mobile Florist" by Syntactix, LLC, brings that same convenience to your iPhone and iPad. While not limited to funerals -- you can peruse, order and send arrangements for any occasion from within this free app -- "Mobile Florist" offers a wide array of casket sprays and sympathy flowers or plants that make it easy to let surviving loved ones know you care.

Each arrangement offers a photograph and description, and because every order is fulfilled by a local FTD retailer, same-day delivery is usually an option.

Odds of Death

Did you know that you're just as likely to die from the discharge of fireworks as you are due to an asteroid impact? The odds of both demises are 1 in 500,000 during your lifetime, which you'd know if you used "Odds of Death," a free iPhone app developed by Escape Plan B.

Using a slot-machine type of interface, you can simply shake your iPhone to randomly discover your odds of death across numerous categories -- such as "Death by Nature," "Death by Animal," Death by Motor Vehicle," etc. -- according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Although locking the category to limit the results doesn't appear to work currently, "Odds of Death" is still worth checking out.

TAPS Benefits and Finance

QuickSeries Publishing offers this free iPhone/iPad app, which is really an "e-guide" -- a user-friendly booklet in virtual/electronic form. "TAPS" stands for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1994 to help those who lose a loved one serving in the U.S. Armed Forces or a veteran deal with both the grief triggered by that loss as well as understand and access the death, burial and memorial benefits our nation provides to servicemen and -women.

The "TAPS Benefits and Finance" app provides an intuitive, easy-to-navigate primer concerning the financial, emotional and practical concerns that survivors face. If you or someone you know faces the death of a loved one who served in the military, this app is a must.

Sources:
"Arlington National Cemetery Fact Sheet," October 2013. Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved December 14, 2013. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/docs/ANC%20Overview,%20October%202013.pdf

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