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Learn and Have Fun With the PLAY-DOH App

By on Jun 20, 2013 in iPhone Apps |

Thanks to innovations in mobile technology, there’s not much you can’t accomplish with a well-equipped smartphone or tablet. The portability was only the first step, even though people spent two decades simply loving the fact that they could have phone conversations on the go, and rejoicing at the text message upgrade. The quantum leap, however, came with the advent of smartphone technology, which took your basic cell phone and turned it into a powerful, pocket-sized computer you could use almost anywhere on the planet. The app market soon followed, and now you’ll find hundreds of thousands of applications, many of them completely free, to handle everything from booking a plane ticket to investing in stocks, to charting the quickest course through busy city traffic. It’s fantastic for busy professionals, but app developers haven’t forgotten about the ability of mobile technology to educate and entertain the world’s children. One classic brand is now taking the leap, giving kids the chance to learn and have fun with the PLAY-DOH app. PLAY-DOH is an iconic name at this point, with multiple generations having grown up enjoying the simple fun of collecting and building with the multi-colored clay ‘DOH’. Now you can offer your kids a mess-free alternative, with the PLAY-DOH Create ABCs app. You obviously lose the tactile joy of squeezing the PLAY-DOH through your fingers and building it into whatever shape your heart desires. But for iOS device users this new app manages to capture the fun in the mobile space. This app is the first to come from a collaboration between Hasbro, the company behind PLAY-DOH and app creator PlayDate Digital. And the early reviews of that work are incredibly positive. Launch the PLAY-DOH Create ABCs app, and you’re taken to a splash screen to create your user profile. The app will support up to three unique profiles, so families with multiple children can avoid arguments. You’ll watch the introductory video, and then choose your direction through three unique navigational platforms: Create and Share, Letter Matching and Write and Craft. Write and Craft is probably the best place to start. You’ll trace letters using gobs of colorful PLAY-DOH. If you don’t trace properly, the game will ask you to do it again. After tracing a letter the game will play an animation, featuring a creation that starts with the traced letter. Then the player can put together their own version, dragging chunks of PLAY-DOH to fill in a trace of the creature. If the player likes his work, he can save it. Or even more fun, he can choose to squish it, smashing it flat by dragging a finger across the screen. With Create and Share you’ll first choose your background, with options as varied as deep space or an underwater environment. Then you can import your Write and Craft creations, placing them in the worlds of those backgrounds. This includes animals, letters and shapes, continuing to help children recognize the various objects. You can create any sort of scene you imagine, and then save a snapshot of the scene to share with friends and family. The Letter Matching application lays out a scene, gives the player a letter and asks him to find the object that matches up with that letter. You’ll see it visually represented, but can also push a button to hear it spoken out. The player will be prodded to keep trying until he finds the right match. The instructional videos that precede each section are fantastic, having clearly been designed by someone who earned a masters in clinical informatics online or something similar. The only drawback to be found is the price tag. It’s not free, but at $2.99 it still should be affordable for most...

‘Numbers’ Good for College Courses and Student Life

By on Jun 20, 2013 in iPhone Apps |

Students tend to be a notoriously disorganized lot. Perhaps this is because they simply don’t care – keeping a schedule and a budget isn’t important when mom and dad are still paying the bills. Or it could be that they are not only soaking up academic information like it’s going out of style, but they’re also learning to live on their own and manage their affairs as an adult for the first time in their lives. Likely there are several factors involved, but the truth remains that college kids, in general, tend to be somewhat lost when it comes to organization. Luckily, most take their education seriously, to the extent that they try to roll out of bed bright and early for class and they put a lot of time and effort into their assignments. And the wide world of mobile technology provides the modern student with a passel of tools designed to help them stay on track, from programs like Evernote that make note-taking a snap, to software like iStudiez Pro created to keep students on track with a schedule of classes and projects. In addition, students on the lookout for a spreadsheet tool that can help them not only in class, but in their lives in general, will no doubt appreciate the options offered by the Numbers application. This app is designed for use on both the iPhone and iPad, giving students options for the size of device they prefer to work on in class or on the go, and while the cost is a little steep for many students at $9.99, it’s still a lot less than Excel and it provides much of the same functionality. For example, it comes with a slew of standard numeric spreadsheet functions already built in, 250 to be precise, that can help users to easily create the formulas they need for data entry. And tools like sliders, steppers, and pop-ups can aid in data manipulation and projection. Although you may have to take the tutorial to get started, you’ll find that Numbers is fairly simple and self-explanatory, especially if you’ve used spreadsheet software like Excel in the past. However, the app also provides users with 16 different templates, and these can help students in their daily lives. One of the most useful by far is the budget template, which allows students to enter data pertaining to their income and expenditures. If you’re the type that has trouble keeping track of money coming in from scholarships, student loans, a part-time job, and your parents, not mention funds going out to pay for tuition, books, and living expenses, Numbers can help you to plan a budget and track every red cent. There are also templates for travel and even athletic activities, amongst other things, and these are designed for all users, student or otherwise. Of course, students in particular will also enjoy the many ways that this application can help them in class. Although you might think it’s only handy for math, science, or accounting classes, or those that deal with a lot of data, in other words, the truth is that it may be useful for a variety of courses and assignments that require charts or graphs, which the app can produce once you’ve entered data. And thanks to multiple export options, it’s easy to save and share. Whether you’re attending Harvard, Howard University, or an online school, Numbers can help you in class and in life. For the busy and disorganized student, it’s worth the cost of...

Mortgage Payoff Track Provides Easy Functionality

By on Jun 20, 2013 in iPhone Apps |

Some people are good at math. They can tell you what the Pythagorean Theorem is while you’re idly wondering why anyone would name a poor kid Pythagor (just kidding, it’s Pythagorum…Pythagoras? Whatever!). And they can certainly figure out their monthly mortgage payments by utilizing the principal-interest formula. But for the rest of us, this simply requires too much research, brain power, and recall of high school mathematics. In short, we just don’t want to have to figure this stuff out on our own. It is for this reason that many of us rely on our loan agents or realtors to plug in the numbers and do the math for us. Of course, there are other options these days. As you are probably aware, there are a number of mortgage calculator apps available for your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile devices. But what happens after you’ve taken the loan, purchased your home, and started making payments? What can you do if you want to pay more towards the principle and figure out how much it will save you on interest payments? Yes, Virginia, there is an app for that. The Mortgage Payoff Track app is uniquely designed not only to help you track your monthly mortgage payments in order to see what you still owe and how much is going towards the principal and interest each month, but it also offers you features that can easily show you what you’ll save in interest by paying down your principle faster. Although the functionality is relatively simple as compared to competitive mortgage trackers, the average homeowner doesn’t necessarily need a lot of complicated bells and whistles. And considering this app provides you with ease of use and a download price that is absolutely free, there’s very little to complain about. Mortgage Payoff Track pretty much delivers just what it promises. It’s easy enough to get started thanks to the prompts provided by the app. Initially you’ll be asked to enter just a few pieces of information pertaining to your current mortgage, including the amount of your loan (that would be sans your down payment), your annual interest rate, the term of your loan (15, 20, or 30 years, for example), the number of payments made annually (usually 12), and the date you started paying your loan. From there the app will extrapolate what you’ve already paid and create a chart that shows you not only your monthly payments made since the start of the loan, but also how much went towards the interest and how much remained owing after each payment. Further, you can view this information in a table or graph. But this is where Mortgage Payoff Track gets interesting. Whereas most apps of this ilk allow you to add additional monthly payments towards the principal of the loan, most automatically make such payments recurring. Not this app. Not only does it allow you to enter a different amount each month as you are able to pay extra, but after each individual addition the app shows you how much you’ll save in interest thanks to paying down your principal further. And if you don’t end up making your intended payment, all you have to do is delete it to get back to status quo. This app won’t help you find the best interest rates; you can check out Canadian GIC rates at Ratesupermarket for that. But it will offer you the tools you need to track your regular mortgage payments and figure out how much you’ll save by paying down the principal sooner. And that makes it a perfect app for the average homeowner that hates to do math, but loves to save...

Egg Baby App Offers Life Lessons

By on Jun 5, 2013 in iPhone Apps |

These days there’s an app for everything. You want directions to a restaurant and on-the-go reservations? No problem. What if you’d like to scan products at the grocery store and find out their nutritional value, or find them cheaper elsewhere? Yup, there’s an app for that. There are apps that can simulate zombies chasing you (to motivate you to jog), apps that can save your receipts for tax time, and apps that can show you how to replace the wax seal in your toilet. So it’s no surprise that there are mobile applications designed to aid in the educational process, providing kids with tools and games that aim to get them interested in science, math, language, and more. But what about the lessons that kids don’t learn in school, life lessons about caring and sharing that parents are on the hook for? Well, if you’re having a hard time trying to teach your tiny tots about the concept of caring for another living creature, Egg Baby for Apple and Android devices is one app that can deliver. The app is free to download and like many in the freemium model, there are in-app purchases (coins in this case) that can expedite gameplay. But what does the game have to offer? In essence this app provides users with virtual pets that they care for and raise, much like the Tamagothci of old. But if you’re familiar with the concept, you’re going to find that this little app that could is head and shoulders above competitors. And it’s still simple enough that even young kids should be able to grasp the concept and the controls. In fact, all you have to do to get started is choose an egg to adopt and bring home. From there kids will have to maintain their eggs and they do this in a number of ways. Eggs must be fed, washed, entertained, and put to sleep. In other words, users have to pay attention to their egg babies in order to keep them healthy, happy, and on their way to hatching. You can track their progress with monitors that show you optimum zones to keep your eggs in with food, rest, and so on. And over time your eggs will earn you coins, which you can then use for customization. Give your egg a wig, some cool shades, a hat, or a hoodie to make it look special. As a bonus, you can now take screenshots to post to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to share with friends or enter in the Egg of the Week contest. Eventually, the eggs will hatch, revealing one of several creatures that will live in your backyard and provide items for new eggs in the house. And then you can start all over again. For parents trying to teach kids about responsibility, the rewards of diligence, and the onus of a caretaker (to prepare them for a real pet at some point, just for example), this app offers a fun and creative format to impart these life lessons. And you shouldn’t be surprised if you get hooked on this engaging app yourself. When it comes to academic study, you can always hire a service like VarsityTutors.com to help your kids. But life lessons are a different matter altogether. Luckily, this is one instance where the app-sphere has you covered. So don’t hesitate to download Egg Baby and get your kids one step closer to caring for a real live...

MindSnacks Makes Kids Mouthy – in a Good Way

By on Apr 7, 2013 in iPhone Apps |

If you haven’t yet heard of app developer MindSnacks, Inc. then your kids could be missing out on a slew of tools designed to help them master language (or languages, as the case may be). The apps created by this company are dedicated to teaching kids new vocabulary, be it French, Italian, or Mandarin Chinese. But what may be of more interest to the average English-speaking parent is the app for the iPhone or iPad that focuses on vocabulary for a child’s native language. And the Kids’ Vocab application from MindSnacks aims to deliver with a slew of features designed not just to help children spell and memorize words, but to understand them so that they can learn to use them correctly in everyday speech. With nine games, twenty-five lessons, and up to twenty new words or phrases per lesson, kids age 7-12 (or thereabouts) will find a lot to love in this educational app. While download is free, you’ll have to pay $4.99 for access to all 25 lessons available through this MindSnacks application. But you’ll no doubt consider it five bucks well spent when kids start using words like omnivore and invertebrate. And the fact that it makes learning fun will not be lost on parents or kids. The main thing that will likely appeal to kids is the fact that every lesson is a game. In fact, there are nine different games that are designed to help children learn in specific ways. For example, there is one that deals with spelling and sounds while another aims to teach kids how to properly use the vocabulary they’ve just learned. Not every child absorbs information in the same way, so the idea behind the multitude of game styles is to target all manner of teaching methods so as to ensure maximum retention. In a way, every child that uses this app will get a personalized lesson plan. And the best part is that kids will love it! In addition to the 350+ words and phrases that kids will be exposed to, there are additional quests and challenges designed to motivate users and keep them going. And all of the elements of the application, from word selection to game design, were created with the help of in-house education experts as a way to ensure that kids have the best chance to learn and retain vocabulary. Plus, MindSnacks utilized state curricula to select words and phrases that children are most likely to find useful as they progress in school. And thanks to unique algorithms, the app can even pinpoint areas or words that kids are having trouble with in order to repeat material until users have it down pat. Your kids will certainly get more information here than they would from using flashcards. Of course, that’s not all MindSnacks has to offer. When kids complete the lessons provided by the Kids’ Vocab application you might want to spring for the SAT Vocab iteration that offers 500 new words designed to help your kids prep for (and ace) the SAT. The familiar games and lessons will make it easy for them to tackle new lessons and learn the vocabulary that will help them get through this difficult standardized test. And if your children are learning new languages, look for the many foreign-language apps offered by MindSnacks to supplement the lessons they’re exposed to in...

Trapster: the App That Helps You Skip Traffic Tickets

By on Dec 27, 2012 in iPhone Apps |

Speed traps are not only annoying; they can also be dangerous. Have you ever found yourself cruising merrily down road, going with the flow of traffic or even following the speed limit, when suddenly all you see before you is a sea of brake lights? Why has everyone suddenly decided to stop in the middle of the roadway with no apparent provocation, nearly causing multiple accidents? Oh, you see it now; there’s a police officer just beyond a bend in the road and he’s got his radar gun aimed squarely at oncoming traffic. Even people who were going the speed limit have panicked and hit their brakes, making for an unholy mess of a holdup. And for motorcycle riders this situation can be even more potentially harmful. But thanks to one very handy application for your favorite iDevices, you can now avoid these sticky wickets on the roadways (or actual wickets that fell off a truck and spilled out on the road). The app is Trapster, and thanks to a low price tag ($1.99) and a slew of useful features, every motorcycle rider on the road will want to download it for themselves. Trapster’s main claim to fame is that it keeps users informed of traffic cameras posted at intersections as well as live speed traps thrown into the mix. For drivers and motorcyclists alike, this provides the ability to plan out routes ahead of time in order to avoid these obstacles, or at least be aware of their locations to ensure that you don’t get caught doing something you shouldn’t. What’s really excellent, though, is that users can post instant updates when they see speed traps to let the drivers behind them know that a cop is waiting, radar gun in hand, to catch them exceeding the speed limit. The bikers out there might be thinking that this won’t do them much good since they can hardly look at their phone every couple of minutes to check for updates while they ride. So it’s lucky that the app also provides for audio notifications. That’s right; all you have to do is jack in your ear bud and you’ll be able to hear instant updates via half a dozen languages (English, Spanish, Russian, and then some) or selected sound effects. But even better than that, the app connects to NAVTEQ Live Traffic to offer real-time alerts about hazards along your route, including accidents, road closures, and debris in the road, just for example. So you can change your route to accommodate slowing ahead. You can also use the app, albeit before you hop on your hog, to find local businesses in your area, including gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and so on. And if you don’t want it to drain your battery life by leaving it running non-stop, you can set it up to give you push notifications for upcoming speed traps or road hazards as they occur. The best thing about this app is that it can not only save you from traffic tickets, but also from sudden dangers that could lead you straight to the hospital or have you dialing your motorcycle accident lawyer. For a dollar ninety-nine that’s an awful lot of mobile...