ABC for Little Space Explorer ($2) from Common Extract is a new alphabet and science learning app for young children: A is for astronaut, B is for black hole, C is for crater, and so forth. Conceptually, the app is a bit odd — alphabet lessons are typically for kids aged 2-5, and the science content here is more for kids 6 and up—but parents who want their kids to learn about space might find it to be worth a peek. As tested, we didn’t always find the app’s interactive activities to be intuitive; in some cases, you’ll see 3-D cosmic maps or satellites that can be zoomed in on, while in others, the screen will flip to telescope and other views that don’t completely make sense. Even the alphabet selection screen is spread over two pages, which may confuse some kids. Our feeling is that Common Extract will benefit from polishing the app up a bunch, but the raw materials here are compelling.
Google’s standalone Hangouts has updated to version 1.3.0 with a major new feature — users can now make and receive telephone calls to land lines from an iOS device. The free app also now lets users send and receive animated GIFs, and it’s now possible to see which friends are using Hangouts, and who’s currently available.
Vector Unit’s impressive wave racer game Riptide GP2 ($3) has updated to version 1.1. A new VR Challenge mode lets players race their friends, and the Scorpion hydro jet has been added to the game. New touch screen interfaces with manual acceleration have been added, and gamers can now race as a female rider, as well. Though it’s not mentioned in the update notes, the game has also fixed its frame rate issues when running on the iPhone 5s.
Travelocity’s free Travelocity for iPad app now lets users search for flights and hotels in tandem in version 1.3.3. Other than convenience, users can also benefit from increased savings when booking both flights and hotels together. There are more than a few worthwhile travel booking apps out there, and Travelocity is on the list.