Tag Archives: kids

Maddie Bear: Free iOS Apps

The iOS versions of Maddie Bear in Space, Maddie Bear’s Jetpack and Maddie Bear Snack Time are now free forever. Go check them out and all the other Maddie Bear goodies at www.MaddieBearBooks.com.

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Amazon Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition Review

One of my clients, who I’m developing an app version of their children’s book for, sent me a Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition for device testing. I’m going to give a brief overview and review of the device from a consumer, developer, and parent point of view.

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Opening the Box: Inside the box is the Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition, MicroUSB charging cable, wall plug, and rubber case. I was pleasantly surprised to see a MicroUSB cable in there, as my first-generation Kindle Fire didn’t come with one and I’ve had to use one from a Palm Pre for development. I’m pretty sure this is just Amazon’s Fire HD 6″ tablet with a rubber case, an extra 1 year warranty tacked on, and FreeTime pre-installed at an extra $50-$90, depending on their current sales.

Interface: The interface has improved since the first-generation Kindle Fire, which is nice. The graphics are a lot more crisp and the speed is much faster. Just the speed upgrade alone might be worth it if your only other Kindle Fire device is a first-generation like mine.

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Size Comparison: In relation to the first-generation Kindle, the kid’s version is lighter, but also has a smaller screen size. Once you insert it into the rubber case that helps protect it from kids dropping it, it actually ends up a little wider than the first Kindle.

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Software: The main difference between the Kid’s Edition and regular Kindle Fires is FreeTime. This provides your child unlimited access to pre-approved books, games, and TV shows on the device. However, it does feel like the added FreeTime, parental controls, and profiles bog it down a bit. The device often freezes or has issues, which requires a reboot.

Developer Review: In comparison to the first generation Kindle Fire, you need special software to transfer .apk files to this device. Whereas my old Kindle Fire would instantly appear on my MacBook for me to drag and drop files, the Kid’s Edition requires Android software. However, with the Kid’s Edition, you can just close the software and unhook the device from your computer, you no longer have to eject the media. I’m not sure how you get your apps on Amazon’s Pre-Approved FreeTime listings, they may have to contact you if they deem it worthy. I was unable to find any of my children’s books and apps while logged into my daughter’s FreeTime account. Like every device after the first-generation, this one doesn’t have the 20 pixel tall menu bar hardcoded onto the screen, so that’s something to consider when developing apps for it.

Consumer Review: At the time, the Kid’s Edition was $150 USD, but now I see it’s gone up to about $190, which seems pretty steep. As I said, it’s really just a $100 Fire HD with a rubber case, FreeTime, and an extra 1 year added to the warranty. You can get FreeTime on your Fire TV, a rubber case for $3 on eBay, and just try not to break a $100 Fire HD after a year, and essentially save yourself quite a bit of money. Also, the bloatware of having FreeTime slows down the device and causes freezing. It’s much nicer than the first-generation Kindle Fire, but at this day and age, those random $40 Android tablets found in bargain bins are faster than the first Kindle Fires.

Parent Review: My daughter loves the Kid’s Edition Kindle. At only 2 years old, she immediately knew how to navigate the interface, download books and games, watch TV shows, and switch between apps without me showing how to do it. The rubber case makes it easy for her to hold and protects it against drops. The limited access makes it easy for me to hand to her and not have to worry about her downloading or buying something she shouldn’t be. However, while using the device in the car, I tried to switch from my account to my daughter’s and it wouldn’t let me without a wi-fi connection to verify my password. This is a terrible feature that Amazon needs to address.

Overall: At $150 or less, the Kid’s Edition is a great deal for parents. At $190, you’re probably better off with something else or just buying a cheaper tablet and getting a rubber case for it. The software can bog down and the fact that I couldn’t switch accounts without wi-fi is pretty bad. That being said, it’s still a nice device for younger kids and knowing it can be replaced for 2 years if it breaks is nice.

OSMO: iPad Learning For Kids

I just discovered a new accessory for the iPad called OSMO. It’s pretty much a mirror and stand that you attach to your iPad that allows your kids to interact with the device using real-world objects, such as Scrabble-style letters, wooden shapes, and paper/markers.

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The kit comes with the OSMO kit (stand/mirror sensor), wooden letters, and wooden triangles that can be used with their free apps on the App Store. To play the Newton game, your child just needs a sheet of paper and a marker to interact with the app.

The games will challenge your kids to guess what an image is by placing the corresponding letters in front of the iPad, or to replicate a shape shown on screen by using the wooden triangles provided, or to draw shapes on a piece of paper that the game will interact with.

It’s available to pre-order now until June 22nd, and you’ll get a 50% discount. It definitely seems like a great way for kids to use that iPad that is more engaging than simply tapping on the screen. I’ve pre-ordered one for my daughter, I’ll write a full review when I receive it in the mail.

For more information, check out OSMO’s site here.

Maddie Bear’s Birthday: On Amazon!

I’m very happy to officially announce that the first installment of my new children’s book series is available on Amazon.com!

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I’m also offering autographed copies through www.MaddieBearBooks.com. Each autographed copy comes with (3) 3″x3″ Maddie Bear Stickers and a small, hand-drawn character sketch. I’m not sure how long I’ll be offering the autographed copies, it depends how long I can keep up with the demand of drawing and coloring the sketches. I’m hoping to get the first batch mailed out by early February depending on Amazon’s production time.

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Please note that if you’re purchasing the autographed copy, there’s a section to enter to whom the autograph should be addressed. It’s pretty small on the PayPal site, so it’s very easy to overlook.

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After you’re done reading it, I’d really appreciate if you could write a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Thank you to everyone for your support and for everyone who has bought a copy and spread the word.

Now onto the iPad and Kindle Fire app versions…

Mobile Apps & Social Media

I recently decided that I would start working on my next mobile app, a children’s eBook series. I wanted to base the story off of my daughter and two of my friends’ daughters using anthropomorphic animals. However, if you’ve been following the trend of mobile apps these days, you know that you need to spend just as much time marketing your apps as you have developing them. Before I have even finished writing the storyline to my new app series, I spent some time pre-marketing it.

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I did a web search to make sure there weren’t similar products with similar names already coming up on Google. Then I purchased a domain name and made a temporary website placeholder (www.MaddieBearBooks.com) as well as started a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MaddieBearBooks). I figured the last account I would need would be a Twitter account (www.twitter.com/MaddieBearBooks) and then I’d have all the major bases covered. However, after hearing Noah Malewicz say he also did Instagram to promote his app “City Birds” during the Corona Geek Hangout, I figured I should hit that market as well.

The thing was, I didn’t want to create an Instagram account just to have one. After perusing other Instagram users’ images, it seemed like there were way too many “selfies”, food pictures, and the like, so I decided to try something a little bit more creative for Maddie Bear’s page.

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Maddie Bear jumps off the Adobe Flash stage onto the timeline.
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Maddie Bear takes drawing her story on the Wacom Cintiq into her own hands.
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Maddie Bear takes my Sharpie pen to write her name on paper.

I thought doing some illusions and tricks might be a little more visually enticing to look at versus pictures of me drawing the artwork. Whether if all of this social media marketing will pay off or not is yet to be seen, I should probably finish the app first…

App Review: Scouting Thomas

As a father of a 13-month old, I’m always looking for new children’s apps that she’ll be interested in now and ones that she might have interest in years from now. It’s actually the reason I wrote, illustrated, and programmed the Colin Turtle children’s book series. I recently stumbled across a new app called “Scouting Thomas” through social media and I was instantly interested by the great artwork style.

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Opening the app, I was immediately impressed by the well-animated intro sequence of Thomas and Buddy roasting marshmallows.  I tapped on the animation, and Buddy’s marshmallow burst into flames and Thomas quickly put out the flames using a fire extinguisher. It was cute, funny, and being an animator and app developer myself, I was impressed that there was such fluid animation on a splash screen of an app.

The next screen I visited was the Jokes & Game page. Here you can tap on Buddy and watch him tell kid-friendly jokes to Thomas. The jokes are a bit corny and might be slightly too sophisticated for very young children, but I think kids in the demographic that Flying Monkey Pie Productions are aiming for, will enjoy the humor. The games screen offers a crossword, Scrabble-like game where users can solve questions by jumbling supplied letters. Here I was impressed that the app offered a game, a joke screen and an introduction animation without making the app running the least bit slowly on my iPad. The only qualms I had thus far were that the kids didn’t speak, you have to read everything yourself, and the controls to the game were a bit clunky. While moving letters around to solve a puzzle, you had to make sure that there wasn’t a letter in the space to where you wanted to move it, otherwise the letters would overlap in the same space. I would have liked to see the letters shift down one space to make puzzle-solving quicker and easier.

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One part I did enjoy was that after reading all of Buddy’s jokes, you get rewarded with a scout badge. Throughout the app, you can earn different badges for completing various tasks. I think kids would enjoy being rewarded for going through each part of the application and performing different actions.

Scouting Thomas Badges

Next, I visited the how-to section. This section is an interactive portion that shows you how to make a contraption that shoots out marshmallows. You drag the parts on the screen connecting them, and when you’re done, you know how to make your own marshmallow shooter. You also earn another scout badge for completing the contraption in the app. I didn’t have the parts needed, so I did not get to test out actually making the marshmallow shooter. Could be a fun weekend project when my daughter is loder though.

There is also a theater section where you can watch a short animated film. I was really impressed by this because the animation is fluid and the frame-rate never dropped. I was probably more impressed by the theater than most people would be that purchase the app, but it’s probably because I know how difficult it can be to make a great animation and also have it play well on a mobile device.

There is a comic book section as well, where you can tap on each panel of a comic strip and have the speech balloons appear. This is where I would have really liked to hear the kids actually speaking, but I’m well-aware of the costs of professional voice actors, so I wasn’t terribly surprised by the lack of kids’ voices. Still, I think it’s what could have taken this app from being great to being a fantastic experience.

Overall, I am still amazed by how much the creators were able to fit into a single mobile app and not only that, to keep the quality of the work so high. Kids will love this app because of all of the different activities, and adults will be surprised by the high level of quality that the app displays. Pick this app up if you’ve got little ones and want to keep them entertained.

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