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Apps: Caillou, Google Plus 4.3, Navigon 2.4 + Speedtest 3.0
By Phil Dzikiy | 03.26.13

Parents of young children have a love-hate affair with the Canadian kids’ cartoon Caillou, featuring a relatable four-year-old boy and his two-year-old sister Rosie. While Caillou cartoons nicely touch upon common childhood themes, including role-playing, exploration, and parent-child interactions, the title character whines and pouts frequently enough to teach impressionable kids bad behaviors. Fingerprint’s new Step-by-Story - Caillou’s Window ($1) thankfully does away with the whining, but isn’t going to win the series any new fans, either. It lets kids choose very short pre-built or built-it-yourself stories featuring Caillou characters, stringing together five or so concepts to form a complete (if not particularly compelling) “story” like this one: (1) Outside, it was fall, (2) when Daddy saw (3) Caillou skiing and (4) Sarah (5) on a shooting star. Each of these clauses adds a simple, lightly animated foreground object to a flat background image while Caillou’s theme song plays and a narrator slowly enunciates the clauses. That’s it — though the art is high-resolution, it’s flat, and there’s no additional interactivity. Kids who try the app may be interested at first, only to discover that little they do while watching the “story” has any impact on the screen. We’d suggest passing on this one.

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Google has introduced a number of new features to its Google Plus (free) social networking app. A new profile design is the first notable change users may see, along with a new notifications tray. Version 4.3.0 also includes new photo editing tools, such as filters, rotating and cropping. Users can also control the volume of posts from individual circles or communities and filter search results. There are also more community options — you can tell your friends about a community and reshare posts, along with displaying counts for unread messages and new moderation features in communities.

 

Garmin’s NAVIGON app has seen a number of recent updates in version 2.4. NAVIGON is a navigation program which features separate apps for different areas of the world, such as NAVIGON North America ($45)—the price varies based on the specific region NAVIGON maps purchased. Thanks to the update, voice driving instructions can now be broadcasted through the car’s speakers, if connected to the car via Bluetooth. Wikipedia points of interest can now be downloaded for free to turn the app into a travel guide. Additionally, it’s now easier to switch between car and pedestrian navigation, and Glympse and Foursquare functionality have also been improved.

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Ookla’s Speedtest.net (free) app for testing network download and upload speeds was recently updated to version 3.0. The update brought both a whole new interface and iPhone 5 support to the app, an option to permanently remove ads, and improved results — including easier sharing and details about a user’s testing location. An iPad-specific UI is still missing in action.

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