Dec 22, 2010

SmartPhones Aren't Just For Adults

My Husband and I have a disagreement about a Christmas present for our 9 year old son. I think an Nintendo DS is an appropriate gift. Or even a 2nd generation iPod Touch we have laying around the house that was never opened. I envision him listening to his own music (mostly Micheal Jackson), audio books (Magic Treehouse), YouTube videos (stop motion homemade Lego movies) and games. Yes, both are expensive gifts for a child his age, but I think it will teach him responsibility and will be a very special gift.

The Husband is set on selling the iPod Touch on Ebay. (He had won it in a contest at work, and being the Android Family we are, we never even opened it.) We came up with a comprise of sprucing up our old G1 instead and wrapping it up for him. A cool new cover (what boy doesn't love skulls) and headphones, his favorite free games and a few paid (Hello, Pocket God!), his music, links to and his favorite sites. The phone will not be enabled, so no cell phone usage yet, just wifi. He already has a gmail account that we encourage family and friends to contact the kids with (and we monitor) so he can really start using it. I suspect the Husband thinks it will spark a bigger interest in coding in the little guy too.

Whenever we are on a road trip or waiting anywhere, the kids constantly ask for our Android phones to play with. Usually they are in use for GPS Navigation, Music player or just plain old phone so they don't get it. One morning I couldn't find my Nexus One as we left the house and I asked the kids. The 6 year old pulled it out of his toy box "Oh, here it is". So I think this will solve several problems for us.

What do you think? Is that too much for a young child or do your kids already smartphone?


Dec 12, 2010

App Review: Pocket God

Pocket God on Android is the most exciting thing to happen in awhile, as far as my kids are concerned. This was their last remaining regret with the family's upgrade from iPhone to Android last Christmas. So it is the perfect gift this year.

Pocket God lets you control the lives of five cute little island Pygmies. You can be a nice caring God and supply food and bathroom breaks, or you could feed them to the volcano and sharks. It's all up to you! There is no "winning" this game, it is all discovery and experience. Tilt your phone to the side and they simply slide off their island, into the sea and awaiting shark. Tap the screen a few times and they begin a ritual dance. Swirl your finger and start a Hurricane. And the list goes on...

Adults may get bored quickly with this game, but my kids (aged 6 and 9) can play it for hours. Just about when things get old a new update will come out or they will discover a hidden mini game and respark their interest.

Pros: Most fun my kids have ever had on a smartphone. Period.

Cons: The install is really large - the largest app I have ever installed. There are also reports of it crashing on lots of different phones. But this is version 1.0 and the folks at Pocket God are good about continues updates. Check the link below to see if you version is officially supported.

Price: .99
Developer: Ngmoco via Bolt
Tested on: Nexus One

Oct 16, 2010

App Review: Robo Defense

Robo Defense is a great military style Android game. A shoot 'em up with no blood is a game a Mom can truly appreciate. Tanks, missiles, mortar, heavy cannons and artitiary are perfectly sized for smartphone fun. If you play long enough the elusive Titan will appear... my kids can't wait.

I like that even the FREE version lets you buy upgrades to your weaponry based on your score and awards, but you need to the paid version to really advance. It gives you a chance to get really familiar with the game. Robo Defense has a pretty good following and cheats advice can be found HERE. This game we splurged for and buoght a copy for each of our Android phones, and have a bit of a family competition going on.

This is definitely a game worth paying for, but FREE version gives you plenty of fun gaming! Robo Defense is a game that my whole family, aged 5 to 40, have found addictive.


Price: Free/$2.99
Phone Tested On: Nexus One

Sep 10, 2010

Google Voice Search featuring Voice Actions

Google Voice Search lets you go completely hands free on your Android for nearly a dozen functions. One of the most useful apps you could have! The app is for Android 2.2 smartphones and is launched by pressing and holding the SEARCH button. This is not just voice input, but giving commands and launching apps via voice.

Key words and which app they launch:
Go To - Web browser
Listen To - Music player, which you can customize to be a non-Google app
Navigate To - Navigation in Google Maps
Send Text - Messaging
Call - Phone
Send Email - Email
Map Of - Map
Note To Self - Email
Directions To - Navigation in Google Maps

This is just a start of what Google plans to do with Voice Actions, and expect it to be integrated into third party apps as well.
This should really be standard on all Android phones, but you need to download it from the Market Place. The naming of this app is a little strange, and frankly it's hard to find other reviews on it. For more info, go straight to the Mothership.

Price: Free
Phone Tested On: Nexus One
per: Google, Inc

App Review: Angry Birds

Apparently iPhone/iPad users are crazy for Angry Birds, but now Android fans can hurl the miffed little birds too! This is a really cute game with a story behind it. It's a little hard to explain why these birds are SO angry... so I'll let them speak for themselves.

The is a lot like Boom Blox on Wii. It is also available on Palm and Ovi smartphones.

Here is a longer review for Apple devices that gives some how-to advice.

Kids and adults alike will enjoy hurling birds at green pigs!

Price: Free (game is in Beta now, expect a pay version soon)
Developer: Rovio
Phone Tested on: Nexus One

Aug 14, 2010

Game Review: Parking Break

We have the board game version of Parking Break (called Traffic Jam) and it is a great thinking game for adults and kids a like. I am always impressed when my 5 year old son does well on this game! The object is to get clear the path for your car to get through the all traffic. Your score is determined by the number of moves and how long it takes you to rescue "Orz" the red car. You slide the other vehicles up/down and left/right to clear the path for Orz to advance to the next level. It can take a while to get in the zone and you can always start a level over again, if you've just messed it up too much!

This is a fun game that uses your deductive thinking skills!

Price: Free/$2.99
Developer: Orz
Phone Tested On: Nexus One

Aug 10, 2010

Pop Math - Educational Kids App Review

When you can combine a little fun with eduction and slap it on your smartphone, you have a winner in my opinion. My son is a math whiz, but even a math whiz needs a math app to be fun and Pop Math delivers. This is the kind of app I love to find and share with my children.

The Lite, or free, version you can only choose All Operators where all the math operators are thrown up on the screen as little bubbles. The four equations and four answers floating in different colored and sized bubbles that you must match up. The app keeps score and encourages you as you move through the levels, keeping track of errors and the time you finish each level.

In the paid version of Pop Math (for a mere .99) you can choose the operator you want to work on (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division) specifically. Or you can still choose All Operators to make it a little more difficult. This is a really great app that is a perfect challenge for elementary age kids.

Price: Free for Lite/.99
Phone Tested On: Nexus One
Developer: Laurent Denoue

Aug 5, 2010

Pkt (Pocket) Auctions Review

Ebay is a great tool to Reuse, Reduce and Recycle and smart Moms know that. Smart Mom + Smartphone = Pkt Auctions. Pocket Auctions is an Ebay app that is really professionally done and every useful.

Lots of apps out there are just the website rehashed, but Ebay's site is not easy to navigate on a phone. You an access you My Ebay page and see items you have save on your PC. The ability to scan an item and look it up on with the barcode is great! However many items are not store with that much information on them, so it isn't always useful. Books, DVDs, games are some items that the barcode *should* work well for, but didn't in my tests.

Price: Free
Phone Tested On: Nexus One
Developer: Bonfire Media

Jul 28, 2010

Reader Widget Free Review

Google Reader is how I manage my own blogs and read the blogs I regularly follow. It is a great tool to stay on top of your web reading. If you don't already use an RSS Reader, I highly recommend it. Reader Widget Free is an excellent way to use Google Reader from your Android.

By integrating a Reader with a Widget you can easily see your unread items from your Home Screen without having to launch the app. By downloading the app you can then install either a Small, Medium or Large Widget that has many options for what you can see. I recommend organizing your Google Reader blogs and setting up categories of blogs in aptly named folders on your PC so it is easier to use from your smartphone

For more information on Widgets on your Android click HERE.

Price: Free/ Pro .50 UK
Developer: Ubikapp

Jul 10, 2010

Voice Recorder Review

Ever have a brilliant idea and want to record it? Sometimes it feels like in the moment, stopping the writing something down the idea loses its heart. Voice Recorder is a simple and FREE App that lets you do just that. Maybe the idea won't be so brilliant later, but hey, at least you can remember what it was!

You can send your recording via email and it has several playback options. I found the quality to be very good, and it did exactly what I expected. The developer has several other high quality Apps available in the Android Market. By choosing the pay version of this App you can get a few more features including: convert recording to MP3 and auto email voice recordings.

Price: Free
Developer: Mamoru Tokashiki
Phone Tested On:

Jun 30, 2010

Kayak Review

Searching for flights from a smartphone is no easy task, so I was thrilled to find one of our favorite websites had a very easy to use Android App. I like that the app made it easy for me to pick the detailed information I needed and really seemed to get the smartphone experience. With a little looking I could choose flexible dates, nonstop flights, time of day and many more details you may want to control. All with almost no actual typing, which is key.

You can also search packages, hotels and rental cars. You can check the status of a specific flight, fees charged for meals, bags and pets or find contact numbers for numerous airlines. Really useful travel information, all in one app.

Price: Free
Phone Tested On: Android
Developer: Kayak

Jun 26, 2010

AK Notepad Review

Since I upgraded from my iPhone to the Nexus One I've been missing the simple Note App that came standard from Apple. I used that App quite a bit! AK Notepad does everything my old iPhone App did, plus lots more.

I am sure there are lots of Notepad Apps out there, but this is the one I will be using. I like to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and apparently so does AK Notepad. The first line of your note is the Notes title, but you can change it too. You can also share your note via email or many other Social Media Apps you also have installed. There is also a Timer to set reminders. I use this frequently when I am waiting to pick up my kids. I use for Blog ideas, ToDo lists, etc.

The developer of AK Notepad also makes 3banana Notes which syncs across iPhone, iPad, Android, and web. If you need something a little more hard working, check it out.

Price: Free
Developer: Snaptic
Phone Tested On: Nexus One

May 30, 2010

Metal Detector Review

I really didn't think this App would work, but it did and the kids had a great time going around the house finding metal objects. It was a good learning experiment about what was metal, and what was plastic painted to look like metal. Grandpa has had a knee replacement, and yep, the kids freaked him out by telling him which one it was using Metal Detector.

The Android can do this because of the compass mechanism and it doesn't work on all types of metal. Some people will have a real need for an App like this, for others it is just a great party App. My kids can't wait to take it to the beach, but that won't be happening!

Price: Free
Phone Tested On: Nexus One
Developer: Kurt Radwanski

May 29, 2010

Where's My Droid Review

I would love to tell you I've never, not even once, lost my cell phone. However, that would be a lie. I conveniently seem to lose it when the ringer has been turned off or down too. I walk around my house and car listening for the vibrating phone. Once I found my son had packed into his toy chest when he was done playing a game. Nice.

Where's My Droid to the Rescue! Seriously, this App should come shipped on all Android phones. It has a few really cool features:

1. Turns on the ringer to high volume so you can look for the phone. Text the code "Wheres my droid" to the phone.
2. If you still can't find your phone it will send the GPS corrdinates back to you.Text "GPS my droid".
3. The paid version ($1) comes with a few additional features, most notably it adds a custom Button to your home screen that allows anyone who finds your phone to find your contact info.

Of course with this app, your phone has to actually be on AND lost. I love that the developer of this app is a college student just doing what he loves. I will definitely be getting the paid version of this app! He has a few instructional videos here that will help you get started.

Price: $1 (So worth it!), Free version too
Phone Tested On: Nexus One
Developer: alienmanfc6 - Brad Degelau

Word Up! Review

Having a few good time killing games on your Android is imperative, right? Word Up! is a great choice and you get to use your brain a little bit too. It is basically an Android version of Boggle. A grid is presented with letters. Drag your fingers over the connecting letters to make words. Use the menu to ROTATE the puzzle and view the letters from a different perspective. When you are done your score is given and the present of words on the puzzle you found. You can also see a full list of words, including those you didn't discover.

This is a really well done game, and one of the better FREE word games I have seen. On the settings screen you can also change the timing and screen layout by adding a bigger word grid. It was a little difficult for my young children, but kept my husband and I busy for a bit.

Price: Free or $2.99 without ads
Phone Tested On: NexusOne
Developer: Anthrological

Garage Sale Rover Review

Garage Sale Rover is a really handy App for scoping out your weekend bargain hunting! The App takes Craigslist garage sale ads in your area (based on your location) and creates a handy visual reference guide. By clicking on the Red Garage Sale Rover balloon more information is given along with the full address details. Even the entire Craigslist add if you want. With the paid version the App give you turn by turn navigation directions to the site.

Sure you could just open the browser on your Android and navigate through the the tiny links and scroll through all the ads in your city. Or do like did, and manually search through Craigslist and add them to my Google Maps to use late when I'm driving. But Garage Sale Rover will make all that a thing of the past! This is a must have App for those who love estate and weekend sales!

Price: Free/ $2.99 (includes driving directions)
Phone Tested On: Nexus One
Developer: Navigation App

My Days Review

My Days is a great App for Women and is exclusive to Android. Trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid getting pregnant? Or just a women who wants to plan ahead? My Days is a very simple App that you will love. Once the App is installed you can enter the start day of last menstrual cycle. The App will guesstimate your fertile days and next start date based on that. Each month you enter the exact date it started and the App will figure out your regular cycle.

My Doctor always asks "Date of you last period?" and for the first time ever in my life I could answer it accurately thanks to My Days. If you are a Mother with daughters and keep track of that sort of thing, you can have multiple accounts on one phone to track them. I also like how you can add Notes to any day here. The only thing I can think that would make it better is adding a subtle note to Google Calendar!

Price: Free
Phone Tested On: Nexus One

Mar 17, 2010

Shapes Review

Shapes is a simple app that lets your kids go through 20 different flat and spherical shapes. Shapes is from Five Pumpkins which as several other childrens apps for Android phones. The main reason I like this one better than the others is that you can turn off the prompts and allow your child to guess the shape, instead of just telling them. Do this changing the options to Quiz Mode.

I would love to see an update with more shapes in the future, but this is perfect for young children.

Price: Free
Phone Tested On: Nexus One
Developer: Five Pumpkins

RingDroid Review

The Nexus One comes with some pretty cool ringtones, but they were all a little too geeky for me. That is why I love RingDroid! I remember when I got my iPhone and found out I would have to pay to turn songs I already owned into ringtones. I was not happy about that and quickly found ways around it.

RingDroid has a perfect little interface that takes all the music already on your phone and lets you set the beginning and end segments you want played. Once saved you can assign it to all calls or individual callers. You could not, however assign it as a Notification Ringtone. It is very easy to use and assign the ringtones you just made.

When my Husband calls, now I hear the intro to Joan Jett's 18. So how cool is that?

Price: Free
Phone Tested On: Nexus One

Mar 1, 2010

Doodle Kids Review

This a great little app to keep your creative kids busy. Dragging your finger across the screen leaves a trail of colorful shapes that are randomly chosen. Scroll your trackball to change the background shape and shake the phone to clear the screen. My kids kept busy seeing who could draw their favorite animal the coolest. The app is also available on iPhone.

As I researched this cute app that my 5 and 8 year old sons love, I found a truly amazing fact! The author is a 9 year old boy from Singapore named Lim Deng Wen. He claims to have written the app, for his younger sisters, in just a few days.

He even does a little demo of the product here:

Price: Free
Test On: Nexus One

Feb 21, 2010

How To: Sync to Facebook

Have tons of friends on Facebook? Well, you aren't alone! Another great feature on Android phones is the ability to Sync your contacts with your Facebook account.

How To (from the Nexus One):
1. From you Home Screen, press the Menu button
2. Choose Accounts & Sync Settings
3. Add Account from the button at the bottom
4. Choose FaceBook and enter your login information
5. Make sure that the Sync Button to the right of the Facebook account is green

I sync it once and then turn it off, so that it isn't always updating or looking for new data. When you go to contacts you should see your Facebook friends added. For contacts you already had on your phone that are also on Facebook, you should now see the Facebook Profile Photo as the Contact Photo.

Now how cool is that?

SMS Popup Review

If you are a previous iPhone user you will love SMS Popup! It makes sure you don't miss any SMS messages on your Android phone. Instead of them only showing up in your status bar, they pop up on your active screen very similar to how how they do on the iPhone. You can also reply directly from the pop up, see a photo the contact sending the message and delete the message.

The setup menu has tons of options to only you to control how the messages appear. The developer is also very interactive with users of the app on his personal blog (see below). My only issue is that is still shows up in your status bar and will have to cleared separately.

Price: Free
Phone Tested On: Nexus One

Feb 11, 2010

BabyBump App Review

If you or your partner are pregnant and have an Android phone, you need BabyBump. Its a great little app that helps you document your pregnancy and its progress. Enter in your Due Date or LMP, and you are set to go! I was a big fan of when I was pregnant, and this app reminds me of that experience. BabyBump gives you weekly updates on your baby's progress, size and what it may look like. There is input for daily journal entries, weight, stomach circumference, photos. It is a great way to document this very special time in your life!

There are also some cool features for when you get closer to your due date, such as a Kick Counter and Contraction Timer. It is also integrated with Social Media sites Twitter and Facebook, and you can email Journal Entries and Contractions to anyone you want. They have a great support site at which is unusual for an Android App. BabyBump is also available for the iPhone and PalmPre.

Price: $2.99
Phone Tested On: G1

disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this program to review

Feb 9, 2010

Google Waves Invites

Looking to get in on the latest and greatest with Google Wave? I have 15 invites to give away today. Leave me a comment or retweet this post and I'll set you up!

The makers of The Rescue of Ginger that I recently reviewed where written up on the official Google Wave blog. Read their story to find out how they use Wave to run their business from separate continents.

Feb 8, 2010

Totemo App Review

This is a great little game and while fun for adults, while being completely appropriate for children too. How rare is that? Its difficult enough you have to stop and think, but easy enough you don't give up. The free version has 12 levels and the paid version has over 60 levels.

The game has a professional feel to it, that honestly a lot of free Android apps are missing. One of the best time killer games on the Android so far! Tip: you can drag your finger along a line of dots or touch them individually.

Totemo is from the developers at Hexage, which have several other great games I recommend. Totemo is also available on the iPhone.

Price: Free/1.50GPB
Phones tested on: Nexus One

Listen App Reivew

Music and podcast management is one of the areas that Android is easily outshined by iPhone. I don't really understand why someone (Hello, Amazon! Are you listening?) hasn't stepped up and claimed the Android Music market. Manage our music and podcasts, and we will buy our music from you! It's simple. While I am still trying to decide on my music app, Listen is my podcast app.

Listen is a Google app to manage and listen to podcasts. Technically it is a Google Labs product, which basically means it is in beta... in other words it may be buggy. It also means if it isn't successful, Google may dump it.

I found it easy to use, find and subscribe to the podcasts I was looking for. Want a podcast that isn't listed? Simply choose ADD from the menu and type in the URL. You can simply listen to a podcast or Subscribe. If you pause it, Listen remembers where you left off.

My husband complains that it doesn't have the latest podcasts for Cranky Geeks. Apparently it only goes 10 or so podcasts. Others report its just plain buggy. But they told us that up front, so remember that. If you are having trouble I suggest going to Settings and tweak the setup there.

Price: Free
Phones test on: Nexus One

Feb 7, 2010

Google Maps App Review

The standard Google Maps have some great new features I thought I would demo. I was really impressed with this and think it will all come in very useful:

* Ability to press on the map and the get the exact address
* Find businesses near that location
* Bring up detailed information on business nearby, including phone number, reviews, website and more.
* Drop a STAR on the map so you can easily find the location later (OMG, the number of times I wanted to do this on my iPhone!!)

What is your favorite feature of the Maps update, I'd love to know?

Feb 5, 2010

Nexus One Multi-touch/Pinch to Zoom in Native Apps

I am so excited that I got the Nexus One OTA (Over the Air) update last night! Here a I demo Multitouch or (Pinch to Zoom) in the native browser and maps programs.

Feb 3, 2010

Seesmic App Review

There are lots of choices for twitter Apps on Android, and as an avid tweeter, this was an important choice for me. I have found Seesmic to be a professionally developed App, yet free and easy to use. There is also a desktop and Blackberry version.

You can do pretty much everything from Seesmic that you can do directly from twitter, plus more. Want to post a tweet you saw to Facebook, text or email? No problem. Upload photos and video from your Android are easy too. Downside of Seesmic? It can't handle multiple twitter accounts and it takes a few taps to get the Compose screen. But for now, it is my twitter App of choice.

Update: Seesmic has added support for multiple accounts in a new update. Now I love Seesmic unconditionally!

Price: Free
Phones tested on: Nexus One

Feb 1, 2010

Barcode Scanner App Review

The name Barcode Scanner says it all! But if you are new to the power of the smartphone, you may not realize that this is a must have App. First, you will have noticed here at the Android Mom I include the QR barcode for each App I review. Why? If you have Barcode Scanner on your Android, all you have to do is scan my review and it takes you directly to the Android Market's page for that app.

Great, right? Well, there's more. Use Barcode Scanner on any UPC, the identification barcode on most all products, and it will look it up in Google's Shopping search and give you the price at several outlets. Use it while shopping to see if your store has the best price. It isn't always right, as these codes are not always unique. It thought my box of Kleenex was a Dora the Explorer Backpack. But when it works, which is most of the time, it works really great.

Price: Free
Phone tested on: Nexus One, G1

Jan 28, 2010

Nexus One Dock

The Nexus One has its first accessory, and its a good one! The Nexus One Dock serves several purposes and I'm not even sure I've figured them all out yet.

1. Its a Phone Charger
2. It activates a Clock Application (great for travel!)
3. It has Bluetooth and an Audio input

#1 and #2 are very useful and functional... but #3 is newsworthy! Here is a quick walkthrough of my Nexus One Dock:

Jan 26, 2010

How To: Organize Icons on Your Home Screen

Another thing I love about my Nexus One? The ability to organize icons on the Home Screen! This is something I always wanted to do on the iPhone, but couldn't. Just one more reason I like my Nexus One way better then my iPhone.

Jan 22, 2010

Draw! App Review

At first I thought the Draw! app was just to simple and my kids would never be interested in it.Then I went to grab my new Nexus One off the charger and couldn't find it. I discovered it in thehands of my 5 year old, using Draw! and discovered that it is one of his favorite Android Apps, much to my surprise.

Draw! starts out as a simple black screen. Use your finger to start drawing and the black lights up at your touch. The menu button brings up options, like different sized brushes, double clicking the brushes lets you chose your colors. Somehow a 5 year old intuitively knew this, when none of it was obvious to me.
It is such a simple yet fun App, I had to include a few of the drawings we did! Just when you think this is all it can do, then you discover something else! From the Menu choose More: Import to choose photos from your Gallery to manipulate. More: Preferences lets you choose Clear with Flip n' Shake. Other options let you share your creation on Social Media sites (twitter, facebook, etc) and email them.

Price: Free with Ads/ € 1.68
Phone tested on: Nexus One