Apps: Endless Alphabet, Facebook 5.4, Snow Queen, Temple Run 2 + Vine
Currently being given away as a limited time promotion, Callaway Digital Arts’ Endless Alphabet (Free) is one of the best letter and spelling apps we’ve seen for iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Kids are presented with an alphabetized list of vocabulary words—ones that are arguably a little more advanced than might be expected for the mass of children that will instantly understand the interface—and then rearrange charmingly animated “monster” letters to form the words. Additional words and monsters will be added each week, says Callaway. From the music and fun animations to the theme and interface, Endless Alphabet is most definitely worth grabbing for any young child.
Despite its ubiquity and ever-growing collection of features, Facebook’s universal iOS app Facebook (Free) continues to rack up middling App Store rankings—this time due as much to crashes as still-missing desktop site functionality. The just-released version 5.4 claims to build upon the recent addition of voice messaging and VoIP calling with new video recording and sharing features, but apart from iPhone/iPod UI tweaks borrowed from Facebook Messenger, the differences don’t appear to be major. Improvements to the Nearby/Places Nearby feature, now including an interactive map with icons leading directly to business pages, are for now more intriguing.
Solely for iPads, Timecode’s Snow Queen ($5) is based on the Hans Christian Andersen winter story, with impressive detailed but only lightly animated illustrations, coupled with a user interface young kids will likely find a bit confusing. Long, scrolling text pages are optionally read aloud if you press a button, then interrupted by largely static images that can be tapped and swiped on; should a child be able to read help pages or get lucky enough to experiment with small on-screen objects, they might find other things to do, as well—mini-games are hidden, arguably too well for the “4 and up” target audience, in the book. Beautiful in still images, extra UI polish could make this app a lot more compelling.
Imangi Studios’ Temple Run 2 (Free) is sort of a gimme—a universal iOS sequel to a 170-million-downloaded endless running game, being given away in the hopes that players will spend real-world cash to stretch out their run times. And some people might: after a brief tutorial in swiping and tilting, enabling you to jump, crouch, shift left or right, the Retina-optimized Temple Run 2 feels a lot like last year’s Pitfall!, minus the dramatic camera swings but plus mine cart rides and plenty of upgrades to purchase with slowly collected or quickly purchased in-game currency. Even if you don’t spend a dime on it, Temple Run 2 is fun and a nice enough demonstration of your iOS device’s capabilities, though not particularly flashy or mind-blowing.
Though it has faced early criticism due to an unexpected influx of adult content, Twitter-owned Vine Labs’ new iPhone/iPod-formatted Vine - Make a Scene (Free, currently version 1.0.4) is a legitimately compelling addition to Twitter’s text-dominated service—a tool to easily create shareable six-second videos using your iOS device’s integrated camera. Yes, the videos aren’t terribly different from classical animated GIFs, but Vine’s trick is making them easy for anyone to generate: merely hold your finger on the screen to record, release to pause recording, then put your finger down again to resume. Sharing to Vine, Twitter, and Facebook is similarly easy, as is browsing other users’ posted images. Early controversy aside, we expect Vine videos to become more popular over time, and the app is certainly worth seeing.
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