What’s a Fidget Spinner and Why Are These Finger Spinner Apps Taking Over the App Store (and the World)?

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Things “going viral" on the internet rarely make a whole lot of sense when it comes to the actual subject matter of whatever it is this time that has “gone viral," but at least there’s some logic in why this phenomenon is a thing: It’s incredibly easy to consume and share content, and it seems like the less time it takes someone to see the new thing, enjoy it, and share it, the harder it hits. Take “the dress" a few years ago, all you had to do was look at a photo. It took a fraction of a second, and you were then fully equipped to argue whether it was blue and black or white and gold. What’s exponentially more impressive is when one of these fads transcends what everyone has seen and instead becomes what everyone has, as is the case with these new toys that I’m sure you’ve already seen at least one kid fiddling with. They’re called “fidget spinners," and are by far the most popular of the various “fidget toys" out there.

Since they’ve hit so hard, there’s now a million varieties, but the basic idea and functionality is all the same: There’s a central precision set of ball bearings, like what you’d have in a skateboard or rollerblade wheel, and an axle of sorts that goes through it with two sides that you can hold on to. Outside of this central hub, there’s typically three, but sometimes two counterweights. The idea is, you hold the central axle, and give the outside a flick with your finger or something else to get it spinning and… congratulations, you’re now playing with a fidget spinner.

Toys you fiddle with like this aren’t really anything new, heck, ThinkGeek has more weird little fidgety desk toys than you would ever need in one lifetime. What seems to have kicked off this phenomenon is the success of the Fidget Cube Kickstarter. The fidget cube generated a ton of interest, as it’s a cube with different fiddly things on each side including buttons, switches, joysticks, and more. The problem with the Fidget Cube is you can’t do tricks with it. Combine a cheap plastic toy with a near-infinite potential for YouTube videos of you doing tricks with it, and, well, that’s really all it takes.

I ordered this one from Amazon back in late February, but really, they all seem to do the same thing. My local grocery store even sells them, so if you want to get your hands on a “real" Fidget Spinner, it shouldn’t be too hard. They seem to sell for around ten bucks or so, and if you’re looking to get into the Fidget Spinner reseller industry (which I guess is also a thing) you can order them in bulk from Alibaba for as cheap as 45 cents a piece.

We posted last week about Ketchapp’s Finger Spinner (Free) which has dominated the App Store since then. We wondered how long it’d stay there, as this whole thing is clearly just a fad, but the sheer amount of people I saw in the wild this weekend playing the Finger Spinner game was seriously just something else. I rode the train into Chicago for a friend’s birthday party, and in my adventures of taking public transit around the city I lost count of the number of people I saw fiddling with this game (or potentially any of the other incredibly similar games on the App Store).

As Jared mentioned on Friday, the idea of a virtual Fidget Spinner is a little strange, as the whole idea behing the toy is that it’s a physical thing that exists. After talking to a few teacher friends of mine, I have an alternative theory as to why the virtual spinners will likely hit harder than the physical ones ever could: While they were originally heralded as this great therapy item for kids with attention deficit disorder, they’ve become a disruptive nightmare for educators- Particularly as Fidget Spinner tricks have become a thing.

Of all the teachers I polled (which, admittedly, it not a super scientific data set or anything) 100% of them either had personal no-Fidget Spinner policies in their classrooms, or worked at a school which had similarly restricted them district-wide. So, while you might not be able to take your Fidget Spinner out in class anymore, you can use your phone (which blows my mind, but that’s neither here nor there), and on your phone, you can have any number of these Fidget Spinner / Finger Spinner apps / games to play with.

How long until the Fidget Spinner goes the way of the Pet Rock, Tamagotchi, and Beanie Babies? Only time will tell, but right now the things are red hot. When analyzing any trend like this I always like to use what I call “The Bieber Index." That is, comparing whatever the new cool thing is to the popularity of Justin Bieber based no Google Trends data. Here’s the last 90 days, with Fidget Spinners represented by the blue line and Justin Bieber in red:

These are strange times we live in where a plastic fidget toy can be more popular than The Bieb’, but, well, here we are.

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