The Android Parent http://www.androidparent.com Fri, 07 Aug 2015 04:04:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.11 Clangers by StoryToys Released – [New Game] http://www.androidparent.com/2015/08/06/clangers-by-storytoys-released-new-game/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/08/06/clangers-by-storytoys-released-new-game/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 03:43:02 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1449 Clangers

StoryToys, one of our favorites here at Android Parent, strikes again with another great looking game. This time, the game features the Clangers, from the childrens TV show out of the UK (which would explain why I never heard of it before), recently brought back to TV across the pond.

The Clangers are, in case you are interested, little mouse-like creatures that live inside small moon, communicating only using whistles. The initial app includes five mini-games set throughout the Clanger’s home planet, as described in the Play Store description:

• SKYMOO RIDE. Guide a Skymoo as it swoops over the Clanger planet, avoiding moons and satellites and gobbling bubble flowers along the way.
• EGGBOT SING-SONG. Help Tiny play 6 delightful tunes from the TV series by tapping on the singing Eggbots.
• PEEKABOO CAVES. Tiny and Small are playing a game of hide and seek in the Sleeping Caves. Can you find them?
• MYSTERY STARS. Help Small Clanger explore the stars, swiping spinning constellation to reveal their hidden shape.
• BOUNCING PEAS. Tiny and Small are having trouble collecting some very bouncy peas in their basket. Can you help?

If you are a visitor from the UK and you are a fan of the Clangers, whether it be the original show or the reboot, you should take a peek at this game. To find out more, take a peek at the trailer below and as always, find the full details on the Play Store.

 

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Traveling With Google Now http://www.androidparent.com/2015/07/14/traveling-with-google-now/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/07/14/traveling-with-google-now/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 06:58:07 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1439 Google Now

Since the launch of the Google Now functionality, Google has been busy improving existing features and adding more. The point is, of course, to show you information that is relevant to you right now, whatever that may be. These past couple of weeks, I have been traveling with family and it seems like a good time to see how well Google Now together with Android Wear works.

In preparation of our trip, I made sure that all confirmations for hotels, flights, rental cars and such were sent to my Gmail account in order to ensure that Google Now would be able to pick up all relevant information. I also downloaded the calendar app by Google since I found it ties in very well with Google Now.

A few days before our trip, I notice that my Google Now cards started to show weather cards for not only my destination but also our flight layovers. From a last minute planning perspective, this meant that I was aware of what the weather was going to be like on the ground and I could plan accordingly.

Next came flight information about the various legs of the flight, including relevant information about departure and arrival times, confirmation numbers, passengers, gates etc. The day before the flight, a quick link to check in also became available (that I did not use for other reasons).

Car rental details and hotel information also appeared on the day of departure, all in the proper sequence of events, with flights first, then rental car and finally the hotel information card.

As the flight departure times came closer, the proper gate and terminal information also populated within the flight information cards, which helped with planning terminal transit ahead of time and whether we could take it easy between flights or not.

Even in flight, with no Internet connection, the flight card proved useful for determining how much of the flight remained.

After picking up the rental car, Google Maps provided everything I needed for navigation. My prior searches for hotels and other destinations were saved in my search history and were easily accessible. After just seconds my travel path was mapped out and we hit the road, successfully avoid traffic problems on the run by being rerouted by Google Maps as needed.

In the end, we arrived at our destination without having to use any of the paper printouts with trip information I usually bring along. The prompts by Google Now together with a complete itinerary within Google Inbox took us all the way to out destination.

During our vacation, Google Now continued to provide information that was useful. Depending on location, information about local tourist attractions and events kept appearing. Expanded information about places I searched for showed up as well a sports scores for the local MLB games. Google Maps continued to perform well. Even when I, the driver, missed the prompt to turn, Google Maps quickly provided an alternative route that avoided clunky maneuvers to turn around.

The trip home played out in a similar manner.

Google Now worked pretty much as I needed it to but also beyond my expectations. Where previous trips have involved a lot of trip information on paper printouts, this whole trip pretty much ended up being a paperless experience with Google guiding us through much of the trip.

Google Now and Maps did most of the heavy lifting on this trip but as mentioned, Inbox also provided a good itinerary based on the information from all of the various confirmation emails. Google Photos turned into a trip diary of sorts, being the record keeper of hundreds of photos from museums, family gatherings and sports events. Google Calendar provided an overview of the whole trip, day by day, in an easy to read format that at a glance quickly told us what was planned for a specific day and whether we had time to fit in one more stop.

Of course, no service is perfect and even Google in their infinite knowledge mess up here and there. For example example, our flights consisted of two separate bookings. Although Google Now had no problem putting all the information from the two into one card, the two different confirmation numbers did not show up on the flight card. Although we did not end up needing these in the end, if we would have I would have had to dig through my email to find the second one.

In one instance, Google Maps asked me to take a u-turn on a busy street when I knew from driving around for a few days that I just needed to go to the next street to go an alternative route which in fact was likely to be just as quick. Once I got to that “next street”, Google Maps stopped shouting about doing a u-turn and picked up on the route but I think it’s a good example of where you should not rely exclusively on Google Maps for navigation. Study the area you are going to and pay attention to where you are going. It will undoubtedly keep you save and also possibly prevent you from being pulled over.

Overall, using Google as the keeper of our trip information was a success. Google Now did indeed give me the data I needed as I needed it, plus information that could have been useful if I wanted it. After seeing how Google handles trip data, for my next trip I will be putting as much information as I can into my calendar, knowing that Google will serve it up for me as I need it.

To top it off, the day after we arrived home, Google Photos had stitched together a photo “story” about our whole trip, using photos and videos from the trip. It was quite remarkable. Although I will be adding more photos to the Story, it was a great start.

Have you tried using Google’s apps for family trips or events? Was your experience similar to mine?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

For those interested, below are links to Google apps I used, in case you do not have them already.

 

 

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Going Fishing with Kapu Fishing – [Game Review] http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/25/going-fishing-with-kapu-fishing-game-review/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/25/going-fishing-with-kapu-fishing-game-review/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 14:05:34 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1424 Kapu Fishing

In all honesty, I’m not much a fisherman. No, not because I dislike fishing in any way, I just seem to have a hard time finding time to get on one of the fishing boats in Deadliest Catch…not to mention just going down to local streams fishing. So when I saw Kapu Fishing, an opportunity presented itself to go fishing without leaving the house while at the same time showing the kids a bit of what fishing is about.

Gameplay

There are two separate but related parts of Kapu Fishing: first, the fishing itself. In this part of the game, you take on the role of a fisherman in his little boat, ready to take on all the fish in the local lake with your lures and fishing rods. By swiping across the screen with your finger, you direct the fisherman as he casts his line into the water. Depending on the angle of your “swipe”, the lure and the line will fly an appropriate distance before disappearing into the depths.

Once in the water, you control the depth of the lure by tapping on the screen. Tapping makes the lure move towards the surface while leaving it alone will cause it to sing. The whole purpose of this portion of the game is to use the lure to capture as many fish as possible. Once the lure gets close to the boat, the fisherman will collect the fish and add them to his collection in the boat. One thing to be cautious about: if you get too many fish in your boat, your boat will sink and your fish will escape!

Kapu Fishing

Getting ready to do some fishing…

When a particular spot dries out, you can fire up the engine of your boat and go around the lake, looking for better spots.

Should you get tired of fishing, you can go to the lure designing workshop. Here, you can design your own lure by adding eyes, fins, hooks and a variety of other items. The completed product is used by your fisherman when he goes back out on the water.

Presentation

Kapu Fishing is a colorful and detailed game with a storybook feel to the graphics. In a way this is also how the game is presented, whether intentionally or not. The action essentially takes place from left to right, almost as if you were reading a story, flipping the pages from fishing spot to fishing spot. The original artwork, from the fox and his boat to the fish and other underwater animals and attention to detail throughout the game pulls everything together in a cohesive presentation.

 

The fish

The fish

Entertainment

Kapu Fishing lets you go out there, create your own lure and then go catch a variety of fish while at the same time doing your best to avoid submarines and other creatures that you usually don’t get on the hook. Zooming around with your boat can provide fun as well while you also take care not to sink your boat due to excessive number of fish.

Education

Although this game is entertainment from my perspective, any game offers areas of learning. From the perspective of everyday activities, a player will better understand what goes into fishing after playing Kapu Fishing and hopefully also the dangers of overloading your boat with fish. Creativity is covered in the part of the game where you create your own lure, whether it be pink or blue, with eyes or hats, there are tons of different combinations that can keep your little one busy for quite a while. I can also see that just playing the game will help with coordination. Depending on how you swipe on the screen, the angle and speed of your lure when you cast will vary. As a result, your range and potential catch varies.

 

Creating your own lure

Creating your own lure

Conclusion

Kapu Fishing is a cute game that your little one without a doubt will find interesting, whether it be fishing, motoring around in the boat or creating a lure. It is also a high quality app with high production values which is evident from sound, graphics and gameplay. Really, the only thing I would have any complain about is that the game is a little short. Sure, the fishing and the lures and all that are great activities. However, I would have loved to see more: having to refuel the boat, offloading/selling the fish, using different fishing poles and even different boats. That, I think, provides a bit of a limitation for this particular game.

If you would like to find out more about Kapu Fishing, take a peek at the trailer below and then head over to Google Play to buy and download.

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Explore The Farm In StoryToys’ On The Farm ~ Touch Look Listen – [New Game] http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/19/explore-the-farm-in-storytoys-on-the-farm-touch-look-listen-new-game/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/19/explore-the-farm-in-storytoys-on-the-farm-touch-look-listen-new-game/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 14:00:38 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1417 On The Farm

StoryToys has a great habit of producing great apps and games. Their Touch, Look, Listen series is specifically focused on learning and has previously focused on vehicles, articles of clothing and more. This week, another entry in this series has emerge on Google Play, this time called On The Farm – Touch Look Listen.

As you can imagine, On The Farm is about farming. In the game, you will be introduced to a large number of animals, farming objects such as tractors, hay etc. in the now familiar pop-up book format that StoryToys is known for. Add to this that ability to select a different language and On The Farm becomes about more than just learning about what you can find on a farm, your child can also be exposed to a second language in the process. All of this is presented over 14 different scenes and settings.

onthefarm-image

One of the 14 scenes of the game

If you’re a fan of StoryToys prior story books, you will feel right at home with this one as well. To learn more about On the Farm, check out the trailer below:


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Explore Space In Dr. Panda In Space – [New Game] http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/18/explore-space-in-drpanda-in-space-new-game/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/18/explore-space-in-drpanda-in-space-new-game/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 00:40:17 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1412 Dr Panda in Space

Every time Dr. Panda releases a new game, I always wonder what will be next. In face, in the past I have gone as far as offering my own suggestions as to what they should be doing next. Regardless, Dr. Panda has exceeded what I myself had considered with their latest release, Dr. Panda in Space.

Space, the “final frontier”, if you will. It’s the setting of great action and adventure and this appears to be the case with Dr. Panda in Space as well. In this game, you are the captain of your own space ship. You can customize it to your liking and then take off into space and go exploring planets, asteroids and black holes! Naturally, there are aliens to meet and interact with as well. As is common in Dr. Panda games, there are elements of taking care of the characters (and the space ship) in the game as well so expect that there will be a number of activities that will keep you (and your child) busy for a while.

As with other Dr. Panda games, Dr. Panda in Space has no in app purchases, which I think parents will appreciate, so three bucks gets you the whole experience. Find out more about Dr. Panda in Space in the trailer below:

 

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New Parental Controls In Google Play – An Overview http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/12/new-parental-controls-in-google-play-an-overview/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/12/new-parental-controls-in-google-play-an-overview/#comments Sat, 13 Jun 2015 06:35:07 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1406 family-friendly

If you are a parent, you are without a doubt familiar with the challenges of making sure that your child accesses appropriate content on whatever device they are using, whether it be your phone, a tablet or some other Android device. Up until now, Google Play has been a bit of a free-for-all, with third party walled garden type of apps functioning as a way to provide a safe app environment. If you ever wondered why Google has not done more to alleviate this issue, you are not alone.

Fortunately, Google has made an effort lately to become more family friendly. Late last month, Google launched the previously announced family-friendly section of Google Play. I think I may have posted a tweet or two about it but not much more. I wanted to let this new interface launch in earnest before I sunk my teeth into it.

So here we are, a couple of weeks later. I have finally taken a little stroll through the Google’s family friendly section of Google Play and I’d like to share an overview of what I have seen and some of my thoughts on what I have seen.

Family Friendly Everywhere

Ok so Google was not kidding when they said that it would be easier to find family friendly material in Google Play. Since the launch in May, each section of Google Play has a very specific family friendly section. If you select the Apps section, you will see apps like you did before. However, at the top, there is a family button you can click which will take you to a section that contains family friendly apps. Go to the Games section and you will see something similar: a section of games intended just for family. Movies and books work the same way. Let us take a closer look at the family friendly games section.

Once you click into the games section, you will see the typical overall categories (top paid, top free etc.) but you will also find family specific categorization. For example, there are sections for different age groups: 5 and under, ages 6-8 and ages 9 and up. If you are looking for games related to a specific character, such as Thomas & Friends, there is a link to a category that will show you everything available in Google Play related to that character, from apps and games to movies and books.

The “regular” app categories, such as action & adventure and so on, have also been modified to fit the family friendly focus. Within the family section, the game sub-categories are:

  • Action & Adventure
  • Brain games
  • Creativity
  • Education
  • Music & Video
  • Pretend Play

All of these categories then list the top paid and free etc. games.

You will also find that Google Play now also shows ratings for all apps. The family friendly apps I have looked at so far tends to be rated E for Everyone, clearly another way of showing you what kind of app you can expect should you, for example, be browsing outside of the family section. You can also look for the family friendly green star, seen to the right.

Parental Controls

A family friendly section is of course fabulous but as we parents know, kids like to explore and will if left to their own devices invariably find their way into content we as parents do not want them to explore. Fortunately for us, Google has thought of this as well (to some extent) and has setup a Parent Guide that helps us parents with some of these things.

One of the first things mentioned in this guide relate to app purchases. If you are a regular app purchaser, you already know that you can require a password every time an app is purchased. Google has expanded this a bit with in-app purchases in order to prevent these from happening when you have not given your permission:

For apps and games that are labeled for ages 0-12 on the star badge, a password is required for in-app purchases, even if you don’t usually require one.

You can also configure parental controls around content downloads. Determine what maturity level that will be allowed to be downloaded and your kids will not be able to download content that is not allowed. Basically, it goes like this:

Apps, Games, Movies, and TV: Choose the highest maturity level of content you want to allow for download or purchase.
Music and Books: Choose whether you want to restrict downloads or purchases of explicit content.

An important exception with this: if you restrict it for your kids, you also restrict the content you can download yourself. However, this restriction is not account specific, just device specific. So, you can have a tablet for your kids that is locked down using the same Google account as your phone or tablet. That way you don’t end up having to pay for apps multiple times.

Other Exceptions

There are some other exceptions to these parental controls and filters you need to be aware of.

First of all, the family friendly app listings will tell you whether there are in-app ads or not but  you can never really be sure that the ads in these apps really are appropriate.

Second, even though there are download filters that will block your child from downloading a mature app or game, search listings will still display these item across the board, from apps, games to books and movies. You just cannot download them. Again, something to be aware of.

Conclusion

This is by no means a complete review of the family friendly face of Google Play. It is merely what I have found so far. What I will say at this point is that the family friendly focus is a nice step in the right direction. Creating a place to find family friendly apps, games, books etc. is great and goes a long way towards finding appropriate content for our little ones. Being able to restrict what can be downloaded and stopping unwanted purchases of in-app content most certainly also helps. I will certainly be implementing these restrictions on several of my devices that my kids use.

What are your thoughts on the new family friendly face of Google Play? Good, bad, indifferent? Let us know!

 

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Let Room For More Create More Room On Your Phone – [App Review] http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/05/let-room-for-more-create-more-room-on-your-phone-app-review/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/05/let-room-for-more-create-more-room-on-your-phone-app-review/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2015 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1356 Throughout various iterations of the Android OS and from experimenting with various ROMs, from the experimental to the stable, the one thing that remains constant, regardless of device and OS version, is the amount of space photos take up. As the megapixels increase, so does the space each photo requires, leading us in this evil circle of better photos on better phones that have more space for more apps but in the end, not really, because the darn photos take up all the space! Ok, so, yes there are memory cards but if you are the lucky owner of a new Galaxy S6, that is not an option. Sure, Dropbox, Google+ and other service will without a doubt backup your lovely photos but they continue to occupy space on your phone unless you manually fiddle around with file managers and such and manually delete the photos. In other words, the problem of ever decreasing space remains. However, salvation may be out there. A new app, aptly called Room For More, aims to solve this problem.

Concept

The idea behind Room for More is, as so often is the case with new apps, pretty simple. Provide a way to backup your photos in the cloud while at the same time deleting the images on your device and still allowing for easy access and sharing through the app. Together with ability to retrieve your images should you want to download or simply share them with others as well as a gallery function for both images and videos, Room for More provides the basic functionality you will need to manage your photos, both those on your device and those backed up, while not taking up precious memory on your phone.

Implementation

Room for More is build around a Material design-esque layout. Within the menu of the app are the main viewing options for your photos: cloud, phone or both at the same time. This allows you to either browse just photos on your device, for example, or just the cloud (or both). You are also able to see how much memory you have left. Backups can, by the way, be limited to Wi-Fi only, which is great if you happen to have data caps on your mobile data plan.

The main screen and the menu.

The main screen and the menu.

The menu also provides access to your account balance, which shows how much of a credit your currently have on the account as well as the amount of space you are using in your cloud account (more about cloud space in a moment). In addition, there is an option that allows you to download your images and videos as a ZIP file, something that is accomplished by sharing a link when the ZIP file is available for download with your images.

Naturally, you can share images and videos on social media directly from the app as well. The one glaring omission would be some sort of web interface, something that I’ve seen in one way or another in the apps I use for photos.

Value

The Room for More cloud comes with standard free cloud storage of 1GB. For each additional GB you need to use, you pay 15 cents per month. Alternatively, you can pay an annual fee of $99 for unlimited storage.

pricing

The question is: is this good value? Let’s check it out.

15 cents per GB per month comes out to $1.80/year per GB. The annual subscription of $99 is unlimited but if it wasn’t, it would be good for 55GB of storage.

The direct competitors to Room for More are of course other established services that provide similar functionality to smartphone users. Since I use Google Plus and Dropbox on a daily basis, I will use them as examples but there are others as well.

Dropbox starts with 2GB free and you can earn up to 16GB by referring friends. I have made it to 6GB just from referrals alone. Dropbox Pro gives you 1,000GB at $9.99/month, or $120/year. Compared to Room for More’s unlimited storage for $99, Dropbox ends up being a little bit more expensive for large amounts of files. A bonus is that Dropbox also provides their own photo app (which I have not had a need to use) to make organization easier.

Google Plus Photos allows for unlimited backups as long as images are kept within a certain resolutions. Free space starts at 15GB. I currently have 17GB free, of which about half is used for my almost 8,000 smartphone photos (or rather, those that do not qualify for free storage). The first upgrade tier is $1.99/month for 100GB. Google matches Dropbox at the 1,000GB level but also goes much higher than that, to 10, 20 and even 30TB. Once again, all the other tiers are irrelevant when compared to Room for More since Room for More is unlimited at $99.

One new aspect of the value equation that has emerged since I initially started testing Room for More is the newly announced Google Photos. While before, photos of a lower resolution were free, all photos of 16MP (megapixels) or less can now be stored for free. Photos for most recent smartphones will easily fit within that limit, thereby making Google Photos a formidable competitor. In fact, many point and shoot cameras will fit within this resolution. Of course, you would still need to delete the photos from your phone every now and then.

Conclusion

What really differentiates Room for More from all the other players I have used is the freeing up of storage. For me, a multi-device user, some devices are more loaded with apps than others and invariably I come up against the warning of low storage, almost on a weekly basis. In fact, I have done so about half a dozen times just this past month alone. Sure, Google Photos allows for deleting photos from your device as well but it appears to be limited to when the app senses that space needs to be freed up. In other words, you are at the mercy of the app. If you need an extra GB right now for new apps or a movie download, Room for More will take you right there….not to mention, I pick what I actually want to move, so I have the freedom to do as I please with my photos. For me, Room for More has been a lifesaver in that sense. The nice thing for me is that since I usually don’t “move” the photos until a day or so later (except when needed right away, which has happened on several occasions), they are usually already backed up to Google Photos, meaning I get the best of both worlds.

The question is whether freeing up storage in itself is enough to set Room for More apart from the rest. Before this app, I used to manually delete photos after I was sure that Google Plus and Dropbox did their auto-backup uploads. Sure, it was a bit of a hassle but in the end, in both instances they were immediately available for social sharing or local manipulation through Dropbox syncing. The pricing structure also means that Room For More is more competitive on the extreme end of the spectrum, where the “all you can eat” packaged for $99 easily beats all the other players by offering unlimited storage, especially if you have the latest devices with high MP cameras.

If there is one thing I miss it is a proper web interface to view and share my photos, as already mentioned above. Although the app is intended for your phone, quite often I sit and look through photos on my computer and having that online photo album would be great (future feature, perhaps? ;)

As far as I am concerned, I plan on continuing to use Room for More in conjunction with Google Photos (and Dropbox to some extent) simply because the ability to delete when I want to and what I want to at a moment’s notice is extremely valuable to me.  For the rest of you, you get your first GB of storage free so I suggest you give it a shot…you’ve got nothing to lose and if you’re at all like me, you’ll love the delete on demand feature as you free up space on your device.

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Does Your Mobile Device Make You a Better Parent? – [Poll] http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/03/does-your-mobile-device-make-you-a-better-parent-poll/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/06/03/does-your-mobile-device-make-you-a-better-parent-poll/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 07:30:29 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1396 With some of my recent posts about taking a break from your mobile devices (Flipd and Quality Time), random things related to this topic seems to be catching my eye. Today, while looking for something completely different, I ran into this some interesting statistics about how we look at ourselves and our mobile use.

The part that stood out was this little nugget:

Percent who say their mobile device make them better parents: 68%

Interesting, right? Apparently, the source of this data is a study by Qualcomm pretty recently. There seems to be a prior one as an infographic over at Time as well. Of course, it comes as no surprise that a study by Qualcomm would end up being positive in regards to mobile devices and their use. The Time infograph shows this percentage at 65% so apparently our view of how beneficial our mobile devices is improving.

The question is: can this poll really be accurate?? Do we really think that our mobile devices are making us better parents or are we deluded and so in denial that we think they are? This is where I’d like to hear from you through by conducting a simple poll. Please participate below and by all means, feel free to share your thoughts as well in the comments section.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

 

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Flip Off Distractions with Flipd – [App Review] http://www.androidparent.com/2015/05/31/flip-off-distractions-with-flipd-app-review/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/05/31/flip-off-distractions-with-flipd-app-review/#comments Sun, 31 May 2015 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1351  

Over the past year, I have looked at a couple of apps intended for helping with using your and your kids’ Android devices less (QualityTime and DinnerTime Plus) and spending more time with family and friends etc. Novel concept, right? Spending time with family.

More apps that cater to the screen cutting crowd (as compared to the cord cutting crowd) have started to appear and as a result, this particular segment does deserve some attention. Just this past week, I was made aware of an app in this same category that I had not yet seen, an app that launched earlier this year for our dear Android devices. Introducing Flipd.

Concept

The concept of Flipd is simple: you can keep focused on whatever it is that you really need to do (no, that might not be Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform….I know, shocking…) by locking yourself out of your phone, essentially. As the developer says, it’s time to flip off. Flipping off your device could involve setting aside time for your kids homework to make sure they actually do it. Perhaps “freezing” your phone while you are at work so you keep working instead of being tempted to post an unflattering photo of a co-worker. Maybe just making sure you go to bed at an appropriate hour and don’t stay up all night?

Implementation

Flipd centers around flipping either yourself or others off. Flipping off yourself is as simple as tapping the “Flip OFF” button on the main screen of the app and then setting the time limit you want to impose on yourself (max 12 hours). Then you go for it.

Flip off

Before and during you flip off.

Once flipped off, there is very little you can do. Your digital life becomes refreshingly simple (or possibly frustrating, depending on how hooked you are). You can make emergency calls to a few contracts you designate as such (911 included). You can turn on auto SMS responses that are directed at those that try to contact you. You can turn sounds on and off. Finally, you can unlock yourself for 60 seconds should something urgent come up during your time off that you need to handle (no, Facebook is most likely not considered urgent).

Who you can call while flipped off and the canned auto-responses.

Who you can call while flipped off and the canned auto-responses.

To flip off others, the general idea is the same but in order to do so,  you first have to create a group and invite the others to join. When creating a group you set an expiration date as well, at which time the group will dissolve. Once your victims…err, friends have joined your group, you can at the flip of a switch lock all members of the group from using their device for the timeframe you dictate and they are left with the functionality noted above.

Once you join a group, there is no way out unless the creator of the group has mercy on you and deletes you from the group. The only option at this point, one would imagine, would be to uninstall the app but alas, since the app ties into the administrator mode of your device when the app is in group mode, you can’t even do this (I tried) once you have joined a group.

groups

All of this is tied to an app login, either Google Plus or Facebook. If you have multiple Google accounts on your phone, you can pick which one it is you want to tie to Flipd. It should be noted that deleting an account through device settings won’t log you out of the app and thereby bypassing the security features (I tried)…which does make sense. It would defeat the purpose of the app.

Flipd also takes a stab at using gamification to reward you for your flipped off time. One aspect of this is the hour counter that lets you see how well you are doing while the other is a series of offers that are shown on the screen after completing a session. Advertising, basically, but with immediate rewards.

Rewards

Rewards for flipping off? Also, the main menu.

Flipping Out?

I do have a few gripes about the implementation of all of this, primarily with how the app is associated with an account as opposed to a device. For example, I have multiple devices that I would like to try this on, for various people. Since they are all within the family, I would not want to use a separate login for each…it would defeat the point of being able to buy an app once and load on multiple devices with the same login for my kids. Currently, if I wanted to create a group for kids, I would need one login per device used.  To me, this decreases the usability of the app for my particular scenario although I can see this being less of an issue with teenagers and up.

Also, the “rewards” feel obligatory as opposed to rewarding when you look at it from the perspective of using the app just for yourself. The whole point of gamification is to feel some sort of accomplishment, to have some sort of reward, to motivate you to continue. Sure, I can stare at 345hrs of flipped off time within the app but if I can’t compare that through some online scoreboard of some sort, to me it is not much of a motivator and I can’t really tell how accomplished I am (except compared to how I used to use my phone myself). Tie it into Google’s Play Games so you can see how well you are doing against the rest of the world, then suddenly there is a whole other dimension of motivation.

The ad offers also fall a bit flat. What I have seen so far has not been worth the time to even add an email address to and is not something that would motivate me to continue using the app. Of course, that does not mean the offers are bad, it just means that they have not appealed to me personally.

Conclusion

Flipd suffers from the same problem any app like this does, including the excellent QualityTime app reviewed previously on Android Parent. On your own, it is only as good as your determination to actually put your phone down and willingly disconnect. The group feature I can see being very useful in certain contexts, whether it be study groups or work settings where people take it upon themselves to be more productive (assuming that the admin is not an evil jerk that starts flipping you off randomly). This, I feel, is really the strength of Flipd: collectively focus on getting things done, without interruptionsThe individual aspect to me needs a little bit of fine tuning.

Having said that, in a society where everyone from teens to the elderly can be glued to their devices, where texting takes the place of conversation and Facebook takes the place of calling or visiting family, I think we all need to flip off our devices every now and then. We work eight hours a day, sometimes more by taking our phones home and answering emails all night. How often do people check theirs phones on a daily basis? How many minutes are wasted? Quite a few. I see it every day. How about family time? How often do kids and parents end up sitting there, all on their devices, not interacting with each other? Trips: we could be having conversations in the car, instead we are glued to our devices. Flipd may be a bit rough around the edges but if you commit with your friends, family or co-workers to just turn your attention to what is more important, Flipd will do that for you and does it well while also making it hard to skip out on your commitments.

Now…flip off for a bit, spend time with your kids!

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Thematica Android 4-Day Game Sale http://www.androidparent.com/2015/05/30/thematica-android-4-day-game-sale/ http://www.androidparent.com/2015/05/30/thematica-android-4-day-game-sale/#comments Sat, 30 May 2015 22:51:58 +0000 http://www.androidparent.com/?p=1378 thematicasale

The Thematica suite of games has been a popular one in my household and for good reason. They are fun to play and look fantastic. Yesterday, Thematica announced a four-day sale, ending 6/1/2015.

The following games are free:

Guess the Dress – FREE

Trail The Tail – FREE

Little Red Riding Hood – FREE

 

The following games have reduced pricing:

Cars in Sandbox: Construction – $0.99

Firetrucks: 911 rescue – $0.99

Space Mission – $0.99

Ships: Full Sail! – $0.99

 

Note that many of these (if not all) are purchased through in-app purchases.

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