App Friday: Kids Riddles for Android

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring an app for the Android Market that keeps our brains guessing: Kids Riddles by Okenko BooksJitka and the team at Okenko Books are working diligently on an exciting new line of children’s books for multiple platforms (iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle are all part of their multi-platform strategy).  So what is beautifully illustrated, fun to read, and a thoughtful challenge for the whole family? The answer lies in this post!

What is your app about? Kids Riddles are classic riddles for kids with picture answers. Riddles are a part of oral traditions which ignite curiosity, imagination and logical thinking. They contain a simple sequence of pages; a text of the riddle followed (automatically or manually) by a picture answer.

Why is it special? Kids Riddles book apps encourage young readers to read the texts of the riddles, and confirm their guesses by seeing beautiful color picture answers. The illustrations were made by Slovak artist Katka Hustaty. We selected classic riddles with very descriptive answers, such as:

  • What goes around the world but stays in a corner?
  • What can you catch but not throw?
  • The more you take, the more you leave behind. What are they?

What’s in it for me? Okenko Books will set Kids Riddles to FREE for App Friday June 11th. These apps are available on the Android Market for Android phones. To download,  go to the Market on your Android phone and search in Applications for Kids Riddles.

Related Apps For more apps by Okenko Books, follow their blog and soon to launch website for fun titles like Lindy Lee Loves Pink, Sip’n’Cup Go On Vacation, and Andie Plays Pretend.  Looking for more apps for your Android phone? Try Rescue of Ginger!

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? A book app, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

The World Beyond iPhone

Our feature this week is from Jitka at Okenko Books, who shares a refreshing perspective on the role technology plays (or does not play) in our daily life. Jitka has launched several book apps on the Android Market, and has a few in development for iTunes. As a new resident of the United States, Jitka and family are making strides in mobile app development for kids. After a day of hearing the buzz from Apple’s WWDC about how iPhone 4.0 is going to change the face of the earth, this timely article reminds us that the best FaceTime might just be gadget-free.

The other day a colleague of mine mentioned, “Sometimes I forget there is a whole world outside of an iPhone”. Yes, sometimes we forget there is a whole world beyond our iPhones, iPads, computers, cars, and cities. Indeed, there is nature.

Though I live in United States, I am not an American, and English is not my first language. We have lived in California for two years, and one of our family goals is to explore America’s well-known national parks, and not so well known state parks and open areas. I try to imagine what it must have been like for Native Americans when this land was just for their use, and wonder about the feelings of the first European settlers who traveled across the vast plains, high mountains, deep woods and wide rivers.

We went camping this weekend to Point Reyes in Northern California, which is a very nice and calm piece of land. We went to one of the huge, clean, natural, uncrowded beaches, and hiked in the nearby woods. I noticed how the children are not bored, even for a moment, on our hikes. Though we don’t really entertain them or spend intensive time with them, they are still entertained by their surroundings and eagerly gobble it up. All of the colors, smells, and sounds: sea rolling, wind howling, seagulls crowing, blue jays calling, trees whispering, mice squeaking, grass rustling (I am sure there is an app for that), and all of the big and little creatures living outside. Not once did the kids ask us for our phones or TV time.

Today is Monday, and we are all back to the usual weekday routines. I am working on Okenko Books and am happily immersed in the project.

The thing I wanted to point out in this article is that we should be aware that our applications are not the most important thing in the world. Rather, apps and gadgets are just handy tools that complement a genuine, unstructured experience for our kids, and we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously because there is a whole world to explore outside of apps.

App Friday: Little Blue Penguin

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring a storybook app that families can cuddle up with: Little Blue Penguin. Produced by MobiStories, creators of award-winning digital books, this app blends words, illustrations, music and interactivity to make storytelling at bedtime a hit for everyone.

What is your app about? Little Blue Penguin is a book app that integrates storytime with engagement.  A sweet tale about a toy penguin’s journey as a beloved stuffed pet, this app provides cause-and-effect learning opportunities with user-directed animations on each page.  Sound effects and a musical score move the story gently along.  Readers can learn a new language as the text and narration can be switched from any page to English, Spanish or Chinese.  Hear the story in one language while following the words in another to increase language understanding.  Fun, interactive questions at the end of the story allow the reader to check their comprehension and memory of the story. Great for young, new or early readers ages 4 – 8 years old.

Why is it special?What’s special about Little Blue Penguin is it’s ability to maintain traditional storytime while offering just enough interactivity to engage kids without detracting from the story.  The introduction of alternate languages, the ability to mix and match text and narration within those languages, and the comprehension quiz create a reading experience that is unique to book apps.

What’s in it for me? For App Friday, MobiStories is offering FREE DOWNLOADS ON JUNE 4th of Little Blue Penguin from the iTunes App Store. But act quickly, because Little Blue Penguin will turn into a pumpkin and go back to regular price after bedtime!

Related Apps MobiStories offers a variety of book apps for different reading levels/ages in the iTunes App Store, including President Barack Obama in Pictures, Michelle Obama in Pictures, bilingual puzzle board books, and their latest masterpiece: The Marvelous Toy. Still thirsty for words? Check out our NEW Apps for Reading page from the developers at Moms With Apps.

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? A book app, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

Is A Digital Book Still A Book?

Our feature this week is from MobiStories, publishers of digital books for kids. The team at MobiStories blends reading and storytime with digital platforms such as Mac, PC, DVD, iPhone, iPad, and more (see their extensive FAQ). If you ever wonder how gizmos, gadgets, and mobile devices are going to affect our children, and what the future of reading might look like for kids, then read on!

We at MobiStories have been creating children’s picture books digitally for a few years; first exclusively as computer downloads, and lately as both downloads for home computers and as apps for iPhones and iPads. With the glut of app development, especially upon the release of the iPad, there seems to be a question buzzing around:  “What exactly is an app?”

Apps offer many varieties of entertainment: games, experimentation (with color, light and sound), preschool education, maps, restaurant reservations, coupons, and the list goes on.  With the release of eReaders like Kindle and Nook, digital books seem to be an easy sell. But something happens to a book when developers take advantage of the interactivity that can bring a book to life.  A totally different experience is created when readers can interact and engage with the book, its characters, and the story.

When a child can read a board book like MobiStories’ SpringHD on the iPad, and then turn each page into a jigsaw puzzle to be solved, is it still a book?  When youngsters who can’t yet read watch The Marvelous Toy app, a book based on the famous folk song from the ‘60’s, and learn the song by hearing the tune and following along with the lyrics in text….would that be considered a learning-to-read event?  So does that mean it’s a book?

We had a very busy month in May, attending several key conferences on app development and child development/education events.  Dust or Magic’s App Camp, presented by Warren Buckleitner, explored all areas of app development including educational apps, books, and games.  Sandbox Summit, held at MIT by the folks from Parents’ Choice Awards, looked at how children learn through play and through doing. Engagement was clearly the key topic at this conference.  We also exhibited at the nation’s largest publishing tradeshow, Book Expo America (bea) in New York.  Seeing the publishing industry finally embrace digital books was inspiring.  But at all events the same question was raised:  “If a book is on a screen, is it still a book?”

Once a book is transferred to a digital property and transformed into an interactive app which invites the user to explore and engage while maintaining the integrity of the story and original text & illustrations (although they may have been enhanced to allow for the interactivity)…

Is it still a book? Or is it something different, something more?

Many digital book creators have chosen to highlight text as the narrator reads it.  Some reading experts agree that this can help teach youngsters to read, while others disagree, saying that everyone reads differently and may naturally read more or fewer words in a phrase than is highlighted.  Many parents may remember the “follow the bouncing ball” of sing-a-long songs and this memory makes them think highlighted text is crucial.  But when kids read a traditional book, the text doesn’t magically turn into a bright back-lit color.  So, how crucial is it to learning to read?  With apps we have the benefit of making this happen, so why wouldn’t we?  Or, just because we can do it, should we?  For that matter, if a book is a printed version of oral storytelling, is an app yet a different method of storytelling, and if so, are printed words (text) even necessary to the storytelling experience??

Is there another term that should be used for books evolving in the digital realm?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment. Maybe you can come up with what an interactive digital book app really is..…“BookApp” ?? Hhhmmmm.

App Friday: Sound Shaker

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring an app for curious young minds who love to experiment with their eyes and ears: Sound Shaker. Developed by the team at Tickle Tap Apps, this app is about as open-ended as it gets. You don’t win or lose, you just work that iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch until it becomes your own pocket orchestra. Little conductors, take note!

What is your app about? Sound Shaker is a wonderful preschool sound-making game. It’s the most popular game in the Tickle Tap Apps series, has been featured by Apple as a “What’s Hot” app, and was selected by the Children’s Technology Review for an Editor’s Choice Award. Kids love to play Sound Shaker because they can create all kinds of sounds (drums, whistles, barnyard animals for example) with simple taps. Tilting makes sounds spin and collide in whimsical combinations. Colorful graphics and surprise animations add to the fun!

Why is it special? Preschoolers enjoy Sound Shaker because there’s something new to discover with every game play—whether it’s a new sound, funny combination of sounds or different colored bouncy balls. It’s fun to fling balls around the screen and watch what happens when you tilt or shake the device. We’ve tested the game with kids who shriek with laughter each time they press a ball long enough to make Robin the bird suddenly appear—and that’s incredibly satisfying to see whether you’re a parent or a game developer (or both!). Watch a demo of Sound Shaker,  and see a four-year-old immersed in Sound Shaker gameplay. It’s also the first of the Tickle Tap Apps available as a ‘universal’ app so it’s optimized to use on both the iPhone and iPad.

What’s in it for me? Here at App Friday, we love FREE. So the folks at Tickle Tap Apps have set Sound Shaker to FREE on iTunes for May 28th. To get your copy, click HERE TO DOWNLOAD. But make sure you do it by Friday, May 28th, before it goes back to regular price.

Related Apps Looking for more from Tickle Tap Apps? Try the Tickle Tap Toddler Pack (5 incredible Tickle Tap Apps bundled for just $4.99!); Still interested in Toddler Apps? Try Fish School (the latest from Duck Duck Moose); Learning to read music? Try DoReMemory (teaches young composers where notes belong on the treble and bass clef staffs).

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? An app for toddlers, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

Making Tickle Tap Apps

 Our feature this week is from Jason Krogh of Tickle Tap Apps, who shares how this successful line of preschool apps got started. If you or your child have ever played a Tickle Tap App, you understand the quality, clarity, fun and effectiveness of their designs. An ideal role model for aspiring developers, Jason provides insight on what it took to make it happen. Toddlers never had it so good.

I love building interactive games for kids. Last year we set out with the goal of building a set of fun, inventive apps for young kids. Fast forward to today and we now have eight Tickle Tap Apps in the iTunes store. I thought this might be a good chance to share our experience.

Ten years ago I set up zinc Roe – a company dedicated to building interactive content for kids. We’ve grown slowly over time and now I lead a group of ten really talented programmers, designers, writers and artists. For us Tickle Tap Apps is a bit of a dream project. A chance to put down our typical work and build something totally new.

We gathered together our team and, starting with a blank slate, generated idea after idea for iPhone apps. And then we quickly tossed out most of them out. Eventually we settled on an eclectic mix of apps with one thing in common – they were all based on simple, focused concepts – shapes, patterns, counting, sounds, etc.

Then the real work began. We took each idea and sketched out all the screens and tried to hammer out how they would look and work. A few more of our ideas were dropped at this stage. They had sounded good, but when we tried to map them out they just didn’t come together.

Next we brought in an illustrator (the very talented Aaron Leighton) and music composer (Brian McBrearty) who looked at the ideas and brought the sound and visuals alive.

Our programmers went to work putting basic versions of the apps together, our writer worked on the voice overs, and our animator set to work on some fun character animations. Once these elements came together it was time to show the kids. This part is always scary and exciting because you never know what to expect.

We took our team, gathered together some kids and a couple of iPhones, and went to the park. We played and played and made notes of what the kids liked and didn’t like. We repeated this process in our studio and in the homes of friends, relatives, and neighbours. It was a great learning experience. And it was humbling. Some of the ideas we were so proud of just didn’t work in the hands of a four-year-old.

Making Tickle Tap Apps has been a great experience. We’ve learned so much and we love sharing our apps and our story with friends and other iPhone developers. There is a great community of people building kids content for the iPhone, from the mom developers working late at night to the big kid brands (there are even a few kids making apps themselves!). We can’t wait to see what comes next!

App Friday: Family Matters

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring the only app in history suitable for the dinner table: Family Matters. Developed by a family (Weiner Family Studios), for families, this app gets parents and siblings talking, laughing, questioning, and discovering together. With Family Matters in your pocket, traveling with kids just got better. Let’s find out how communicating more, and whining less, is possible with this brilliant app.

What is your app about?Whether your family is heading to the airport, on a roadtrip, visiting the doctor’s office or waiting at a restaurant, Family Matters has hundreds of interesting questions and activities to keep your family busy and engaged. This app is not a game you win or loose. Rather, it is a stockpile of thought provoking topics that take family communication to a new level. For example, in the airplane module, you might find:

  • If you could take your family anywhere on vacation, where would it be?
  • Do you think flying a smaller plane would be easier than flying a bigger plane? Why or why not?
  • Why do your ears pop on an airplane?

Why is it special? Aside from the cool questions illustrated above, Family Matters also has engaging activities. This app MOVES YOUR BRAIN, AND YOUR BODY. For example:

  • Everyone draw their perfect airplane
  • Can you think of five similarities between an airplane and a helicopter?
  • See who can find the word AIR in any magazine. Ready… Go!

What’s in it for me? Have you heard of FREE? That’s what’s in it for you if you download from iTunes on AppFriday, May 21st. If you miss a beat, the deal will be gone. So DOWNLOAD BY FRIDAY MAY 21ST to get your FREE VERSION OF FAMILY MATTERS.

Related apps? Traveling soon? Check out the post our 12 Helpful Apps for Family Travel.

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? A travel app, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

Thinking About Android: Perspectives from a Parent / iPhone Developer

Our feature this week is from Scott Weiner, Dad developer over at Weiner Family Studios and creator of the hit travel app Family Matters. He and his family worked as a team to create a game-changing app that made ranks on the iTunes App Store. I’m not surprised. His dedication to family values, innovative technology, charitable contributions and team collaboration has topped all of our charts. Enjoy reading his insights on the great Apple vs. Android debate. If you are considering multi-platform support for your mobile apps, Scott’s article is a good place to start.

I started developing iPhone applications about a year ago because of an idea my wife had. She knew I liked to program as a hobby, and that my kids loved the iPod touch. She thought we should combine the two and involve the family in a project. The result was our first commercial iPhone app called Family Matters, which spent a few weeks on top of the iTunes travel chart and was a great overall experience.

In January 2010 it was time to get a new phone. I was considering the iPhone, but my company plan is on Verizon.  I decided to get an Android phone and considered the possibility of porting my app to that platform.

My wife and I decided we would each get an Android phone and evaluate them as both phones and parenting tools.  We spent a week with each of the available Android phones (Motorola Droid, Nexus ONE, HTC Eris, etc.) and ended up with the HTC Eris.  We created evaluation criteria for what we thought was important as both developers and parents (the target audience for our apps).

As developers we were concerned with:

  1. Size of market
  2. Multi-device and OS support issues
  3. Supportive marketplace
  4. Quality and pricing of the applications in the marketplace
  5. Piracy

As parents we were concerned with:

  1. Ease of use of the phone
  2. Variety and cost of family-oriented applications
  3. Ability to assess and find applications good for our family
  4. Ease of upgrading the applications
  5. Parental controls

Our findings on Android from a developer perspective

Size of Market

Every developer wants to make sure they have a large enough market for profitability. Even if you have a free app, you want to be sure that enough people will appreciate your offering. Recent data indicates Android ships 60,000 apps per day and Apple ships 97,000 apps per day. This is really good news (see “Comparing Android Phone Shipments With iPhone, BlackBerry”). Note: I don’t know if this includes iPods and iPads. I suspect it doesn’t but Android’s numbers are still good.

Multi-device and OS Support Issues

One concern we had was that the Android might behave differently on various phones, meaning developers need to support a variety of phone implementations and hardware. From our perspective this is a weakness of the platform. Variety of phones and OS implementations might be good for consumers, but it is troubling and costly for small developers.

Supportive Marketplace

By “supportive marketplace” I mean a shopping experience that allows consumers to find our application, and a platform that encourages people to purchase the applications.  Even though the Android Marketplace may be a tenth of the size of the iPhone App Store, it is still large and growing.  We want to know that people can locate our application and have the information they need to make a purchasing decision quickly and easily.

When we first tried the Android Marketplace it was an awful experience. Searching would often not locate apps even when we typed the exact name. Furthermore, we could search on the same term and actually get different results – bizarre. The categories were almost meaningless and there was no way to filter by paid or free. Since the update to 2.1 on our Eris, the market has improved. The categories are more helpful and the buying process is pretty easy on the phone.

However, the lack of an iTunes Store equivalent has proven to be a big deal for us. In January we were on Apple’s “What’s Hot” list, and through informal surveys we found that large numbers of the parents found us not on their phone but from the larger pictures on their computer via the iTunes App Store “What’s Hot” promotion. iTunes is such a centerpiece of media management for users of any of Apple’s products that it becomes an effective marketing tool as well. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent experience on Android so we have to hope the phone experience is sufficient to encourage people to try new applications.

One other concern is it doesn’t feel like anyone is at the wheel. iTunes App Store has What’s Hot, Staff Picks, New & Noteworthy, and Apps for Kids sections. So as a developer of family apps I feel like there is a chance that if I produce a quality product Apple’s marketing machine may support me. Not only do I have a shot at a front-and-center promotion on the App Store but my app could end up in a television commercial (yeah that’ll happen).

That brings me to a personal gripe – the commercials. Apple advertises their phone and ultimately their OS as a way of getting things done.  Many of their commercials have messages that resonate with my target audience of parents (See Apple’s Family Man Commercial). The only Android commercials I have seen are techie appeals for openness by Google (see Android Commercial) and ones from Motorola/Verizon showing off a giant robot arm taking over the world with a Droid (I couldn’t locate the “Droid Does” commercial online but you know the one).  I don’t have a clue who they are advertising to but I know it isn’t helping me sell an application that promotes family communication or stimulating my audience.

Quality and Pricing

Why should I care about the quality of other applications and their pricing? As a parent I know that if the majority of the apps are garbage then I am going to stop looking for good value and ultimately not bother buying or even downloading free ones.  Overall the quality of the Android marketplace is OK, but the lack of consistency in this “open” platform leaves me uncertain.

I also care about price because if great apps are given away at bargain basement prices, then the market has set a low value on them.  In the Android marketplace there are a lot of free apps so the expectation for FREE is high. I’m hopeful this is just a short-lived issue for developers. There are some really great apps already on this platform so I think this will just get better.

Piracy

Piracy is a fact of life on every platform. What I want is some level of control so honest people stay honest. I expect some level of piracy and don’t consider this a platform issue. On the iPhone, however, you have to jailbreak to pirate and you need a tool and some level of technical expertise. This restricts the number of pirates to a small fraction of the population. There is no such restriction on the Android platform. I was amazed how easy it is to pirate on the platform and how rampant it is already. You don’t need special versions; you don’t need special software; you don’t need special skills. I can’t see any reason why every developer shouldn’t expect a much larger percentage of their application copied illegally. This is somewhat demoralizing for a small developer.

Our findings from a parent’s perspective

As a parent and owner of two Android phones I’m also interested in how the platform will work for my family. I appreciate the quality, variety, and easy installation of iPhone apps.  I’m hoping to see similar value from Android so it becomes a viable tool for us to entertain, educate and communicate when we are mobile as a family.

Ease of use

The ease of use issue for us matters because if the phone is complicated it won’t get used for anything but making calls.  As developers, we need you to love using the phone and its various capabilities. I’ll start by saying this:  Android is no iPhone. We actually had the same experience on all Android phones, not just Eris. However, if you feel it may be less controversial to focus solely on our phone that is OK with me. There may be a dozen ways you can say that Android is technically better than iPhone, but when it comes to simplicity and comfort and an “it just works” feeling, Android isn’t even close in our experience.  The number of hours we had to spend to customize and configure and research to get this to feel comfortable was astounding. What this means to us is that parents may get this phone and potentially lose interest in downloading apps. For us it just isn’t as addictive as the iPhone experience.

Another weakness we found is ironically one of the most touted strengths of Android: multitasking.  One of the big claims to fame for Android has been the idea you can run multiple apps at once. For us what this means in a practical sense is if you are trying to do one thing there may be something in the background running which can slow down the phone, or pop up unexpectedly, or fail to quit properly. Many times I went to hang up a call and it took several seconds for the call to quit because of something running in the background. For the non-technical user it makes the experience unpredictable and less enjoyable.

Android is alright for ease of use, but not great. We know the best thing we can do is make sure our app is considerate of the multitasking environment. We expect iPhone 4.0 multitasking support may introduce some of the same issues.  The possible difference, I suspect, is that Apple will require a certain amount of compliance with what they consider good practices, and Android will most likely stay the “Wild West” for some time.

Variety and Cost

As a parent I want a variety of applications to choose from.  Competition is great for me and encourages me to see “what’s new”.  Although Android is increasing its volume of apps, trying to find quality apps for my family is still difficult.  Many apps don’t have pictures on the marketplace so you don’t even know what it looks like before you buy it. The family categories don’t seem well organized, so I found it a little difficult to find the apps. This is great news for MomsWithApps and other websites that help people discover those gems that the marketplace doesn’t highlight.

Cost of apps is on the low side which is great for parents but I did feel like there is still a lot of experimentation going on.  I would find two apps for first grade math and one was .99 and one was 2.99 and I couldn’t see any difference in the quality.  I think the market will sort these price issues out over time as it has on the App Store.

Ability to Assess Apps

One of the most difficult things for a parent to do is figure out which apps are really good for their family before purchasing them. Personally I do the following:

  1. Read reviews
  2. Look at screenshots
  3. See what other apps parents purchased
  4. Check out review sites if it is an expensive app

All of these are possible with the Android market, but many of the apps don’t have screenshots, which can deter a purchase.

Ease of upgrade

One thing we have learned from the iPhone is that upgrading is key.  Apps that upgrade often are considered “better value” assuming the upgrades include features and not just bug fixes. If the upgrade process isn’t smooth, a user will view upgrades as a burden, which could cause support headaches for developers too.

The general flow of upgrading an Android app is similar to the iPhone: a user views the app in the marketplace, sees which ones have upgrades available, and clicks the upgrade button. But from my experience the updates didn’t always happen, and there was no indicator of a problem.

If I had multiple apps to update it was much worse. First, there is no “update all”, so updating each individual app was necessary. One time I had 15 apps that had updates. That was not fun. It almost turned me off to the platform altogether – it was that frustrating.

As an aside, the whole install process needs some work. Once you install an app it does not appear in your workspace, so you have to locate it in the list and then manually place it.  This adds a lot of steps and reduces overall usability. Deleting an app also lacks refinement. To delete an app you have to locate it in the settings and then delete it. This might add about 4-6 additional steps based on our typical usage patterns. I am much less likely to try an app if it is going to be a hassle to get rid of if I don’t like it. This means as a developer I believe I will get fewer casual users. Small things like this add up. They really need to improve the install/upgrade/delete process so updates are seen as a good thing and not something to dread.

Parental controls

Parental control is currently a very weak area on Android. On the iPhone I can control what content is downloadable, what major apps are allowed to run, even what type of music can be loaded. In addition, Apple restricts a ton of inappropriate content so I don’t have to worry as much. As far as I can tell there is nothing like this built into Android. I feel like I have to scrutinize every single app and can never let my kids make an impulse download or purchase.  This will drastically restrict my family buying habits.

Conclusion

Writing an article like this is bound to rile some people who are advocates or invested in one platform or another. My goal was to evaluate if this platform was right for me and then share my observations in the hopes they may prove useful to others. I would love to hear about the exeriences of others. I also realize that the Android platform keeps evolving and new phones are coming out all the time. Even while writing this article we saw some better phones appear like the HTC Incredible (and of course iPhone 4.0 is coming).

Overall the Android developer outlook is good. It’s a growing market and a powerful platform. I don’t think the market support for small developers is great right now and I am hoping they will improve this. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a good opportunity, but it seems there is less chance of getting noticed right now.

As a parent I’m less optimistic. I think for the time being I will stick to using my iPod for kids’ games and educational tools, while using my Eris for calls, business needs and occasional entertainment.  I’m put off some by the lack of parental controls but mainly I just find the app management to be too cumbersome and don’t want to waste time customizing the phone. Obviously this is a personal choice, but I know that most parents don’t have time to play with their phone. They just need it to work.

I’ll keep an eye on how the market progresses. Multi-platform competition is great news for developers. I suspect for people like me, developing on Android may only be a matter of time.

App Friday: My Pictures Talk

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring an app called My Pictures Talk by Grembe. This husband-wife team started their iPhone careeers with a series of lifestyle apps, and created My Pictures Talk to bring digital photos to life by linking them with personalized audio clips. After familiarizing myself with the menus and functions, our family spent time together taking pictures, recording messages, and playing back the results. Photo Albums beware, the competition has arrived.

 

What is your app about? My Pictures Talk is a photo utility for the iPhone and iPod touch that associates pictures with your own recorded sounds.  Use it with your family, at school, for projects, or on your next trip. We realized the power of this app when we grabbed a picture of an owl from the web and showed it to our two year old and he started saying “Owl…Owl…Hoot…Hoot” while we recorded, played it back to him, and mailed it to friends and family. He laughed and laughed hearing himself. It was priceless.

Why is it special?

  • Take a picture. Record a note, memory, someone speaking, or ambient noise.
  • Mail to friends or yourself. Post the picture to Facebook.
  • Our kids love it (non-stop giggles and pointing). They touch the pictures to hear themselves laugh and talk, then ask to take more pictures.
  • Take snapshots and record a travel log on your next trip.
  • Record a lecture and listen later.
  • Work on flashcards with your kids. Record them saying a word for the first time.
  • Record a loved one to hear when you are away from home
  • Motivate someone to talk
  • Categorize and organize your existing photos
  • The uses will change depending on what is going on in your life: home improvement pictures, vacations, lectures, fun with family…

What’s in it for me? For our May 14th App Friday, Grembe is offering FREE DOWNLOADS of MY PICTURES TALK. If you are curious about the app and have ideas for blending words and pictures, this App Friday is the perfect time to give it a try. TIP: If you are using this in a family setting, take time to learn the interface before handing it over to the kids. It has a lot of functionality, and requires both a category and name for each photo. By investing a little time upfront, you’ll begin to see how much potential is available in this app, especially when kids are happily listening to their own voices.

Related apps? If you like the idea of personalized apps, Grembe has more to offer. iCommunicate (also available for the iPad) provides a way to make customized storyboards and visual schedules for children, and is highly acclaimed in the education and special needs communities.

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? A useful tool, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

Why I Love My iPhone

Our feature this week is from Lisa Brandolo Johnson, co-founder of Grembe iPhone Apps and mother to three growing children. Lisa and her husband created a series of applications to help families march forward together. Their apps cover interactive communication, special needs, motivation, and record keeping. You name it, they are making it! Filled with creative energy and tremendous inspiration, this “Mom With Many Apps” shares why she values technology and how she uses it in her own own home.

I recently read a post on Twitter that asked “How do you know if someone you meet has an iPhone? Just wait a minute and they’ll probably tell you.”  It rang true for me since the iPhone did change my life. It sounds kind of silly since that is what people say about having kids too, but it is true.

Kids do change your life. They bring you lots of wonder but they also take up a lot of your time. As they grow up a little and become a little less dependent on you for their every need, moms need to find balance between the many parts of life that demand time. Kids, husbands, jobs, family, friends, hobbies, and our health. The balance can be elusive. That is why I love my iPhone. I’m not saying it equates to my mother-in-law watching the kids twice a week so I can still have a career, or the friend who will take my kids at the last minute if I need a break, but the iPhone does make my life easier.

Some nights I might get very little sleep if one of the kids is sick. I may have very little energy to care for my 3 young children. Instead of sitting them in front of the TV, I can lie in bed with them and my iPhone can read to us. We love the quality children’s literature by PicPocket Books, Storyboy, and Touchoo. We can all cuddle up together and no one knows if I close my eyes for a few minutes.

There are times when we have to wait in long lines, on bleachers while another child participates in a sport, or at a doctors office. Sure, we love talking together, but sometimes an educational diversion really comes in handy. I may have forgotten paper and crayons, but I can hand my child my iPhone and they can let their imagination soar with My Little Suitcase, or practice sorting, counting, or writing with TickleTapApps bundle pack.
Today was not only Mother’s Day, but also my daughter’s 6th birthday.  There was a lot to do. Her favorite breakfast was being made, preparations for a visit with family were underway, new toys were waiting to be taken out of their packaging, and all the while I wanted to capture her, the essence of her, on her birthday. Six years have gone by fast. My Pictures Talk allowed me to snap her photo and record her voice telling me what six years old meant to her. She wanted a porcelain plate and mug this am, not a plastic one from IKEA, because she was six. She is smart, she is tall, she knows how to take care of her brothers. She is six and I’ve got it all recorded with her picture on my iPhone.

My iPhone is fast becoming that object I’d try and rescue in a fire. It has memories on it that I don’t want to lose.  Sure I could grab a camcorder, but in the bustle of my home life, grabbing my iPhone and using apps is much easier.  In my attempts to balance all the pieces of motherhood, I love the things that help me parent more effectively.  Of course that list includes family and friends, but it also includes my iPhone.