Sunday 28 December 2014

Top 50 best apps for families

Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30

Top 50: apps for families
Tripadvisor (iPhone, iPad; free)
Spotify (iPhone, iPad,
Android; free with ads or €10 per month)
Sky Go (iPhone, iPad,, Android; free)
Plants versus Zombies (iPhone, iPad, Android; price varies by device)
Pinterest (iPhone, iPad, Android; free)
Petting Zoo (iPad, Android; €3)
Peppa Pig's Holiday (iPhone, iPad,
Android; €4.50)
Netflix (iPhone, iPad, Android; €7.99 per month)
Kindle (iPhone, Android; free)
Halftone (iPhone, iPad; 90c)
Flickr (iPhone, iPad,, Android; free)
Draw 
Something (iPhone, iPad,
Android; free)
Cut The Rope 2 (€2.70 on iPhone and iPad; free on Android)
Toy Story Theatre (iPhone, iPad, Android; €1.80)
App lock (Android, free)

As August rolls in, the summer camps start to finish up and families get ready for an extended break together. For many, the tablet, phone or iPod is the tool of choice for entertainment and boredom-prevention.

But which apps will kids actually enjoy? Which are useful to parents? And which ones can the whole family use productively? Here are 50 must-download apps for Irish parents and children this August.

25 APPS FOR PARENTS

1. FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

Netflix

netflix.png 

(iPhone, iPad, Android; €7.99 per month)

This is the daddy of movie-streaming services. New choices are limited, but there's plenty in reserve. From a phone or tablet, you can stream it onto any HD telly using a separate €40 Chromecast gadget.

Audiobooks From Audible

(iPhone, iPad; free with in-app
purchases)

Long car journeys can be smoothed over with a good audiobook. This has the latest bestsellers and is connected to Audible, which has about 85,000 audiobooks available.

Sky Go

sky go app.png

(iPhone, iPad,, Android; free)

If you're already a Sky subscriber, this allows you to watch almost anything on Sky (that you're already signed up to) on your mobile device. This includes the sports and movie channels.

2. PHOTOS/MEMORIES

Flickr

flickr.jpg

(iPhone, iPad; free)

If you are a snaphappy parent and running out of space on your smartphone, Flickr gives a whopping 1,000GB of photo-storage space for free. You can also access it from a PC, which is handy if you're using a hotel computer.

Conns Photolab

(iPhone, iPad; free)

If you want decent prints from your iPhone photos, Conns Photolab is a good Irish app. You can upload photos to be printed in the company's Dublin facility, choosing size and other effects.

Snapseed

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; free)

Snapseed is arguably the best free photo editing app out there. It allows you to adjust advanced basics such as brightness, contrast, colour, straightness and cropping with a high degree of accuracy.

Magisto

(Android; free)

This is a video-editing app that makes short home movie creation on your phone or tablet quite easy.

Pinterest

pinterest.png

(iPhone, iPad, Android; free)

Pinterest is very handy as a scrap-booking platform for family activity ideas. It looks great on a tablet - the bigger screen lends itself to clipping, cutting and saving.

3. ON HOLIDAYS

Just-Eat.ie

(iPhone; free)

If you're on an Irish self-catering holiday and have run out of cooking steam, this app lets you identify your area and choose from a number of takeaways. You can pay online or with cash at the door.

Google Translate

(iPhone, Android; free)

In a translation emergency, this translates words and phrases from one language into another. Including Irish, 69 languages are supported. Of these, about 20 can be 'spoken'.

Airbnb

(iPhone, Android; free)

If you're looking for a nice cottage somewhere in the country or beside a beach, Airbnb is the place to start.

Word Lens

(iPhone, Android; free)

A clever app that translates most modern languages simply by pointing your phone's camera at a sign, sentence or document. Particularly handy for menus.

4. KIDS-FREE TIME

Spotify

spotify.png

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; free with ads or €10 per month)

The biggest music-streaming service lets you listen on the go and gives you an offline listening option too. It costs €10 per month for mobile access.

The Room

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; €1.80)

This is a really well-crafted puzzle game, one of the best for parents and kids.

Kindle

Kindle.png

(iPhone, Android; free)

You don't need a physical Kindle to read Kindle ebooks. The Kindle app works on almost any smartphone or tablet. It allows you to 
download books you've bought on another device (to the one you're holding).

Words With Friends

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; free)

If you like Scrabble, you'll like Words With Friends. Part of its attraction is you can play using Facebook.

Runkeeper

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; free)

For parents who want to keep fit on holidays, the Runkeeper app semi-nags you into doing it. It tracks your runs by GPS.

Ikea

(Android; free)

At some point over August, you may be suckered into a 'family trip' to Ikea. You can save yourself a lot of 'browsing' time by looking at the stuff on this app, first.

5. PARENTAL PIECE OF MIND

Metacert

(iOS, Android, free)

One of the main concerns for kids and mobile devices is coming across pornography.

Irish-made Metacert is probably the best solution out there to protect.

Applock

applock.png

(Android, free)

This app lets you restrict via password protection - key functions of your child's Android phone, such as incoming calls, the ability to download or the ability to uninstall.

WebMD

(iPhone, iPad, Android; free)

Self-diagnosis on the internet is a double-edged sword. That said, WebMD is probably the best single 
resource for quickly checking symptoms.

6. OUT AND ABOUT

Yelp

(iPhone, Android; free)

The location-service is worth it because you can search for the nearest toilet (using the search term

'bathroom'), invaluable when with kids.

Trip Advisor

trip advisor app.png

(iPhone, iPad; free)

When on location and trying to suss out a decent family restaurant or tourist attraction, this is one of the most useful travel review resources around.

World Tides 2014

(iPhone, iPad; €1.80)

This is handy, both for telling you when the best tidal time for the beach is and also when you might go fishing. Also, it doesn't need an internet connection.

Real Time Ireland

(iPhone, Android; free)

If the family is going to rely on public transport at any point, this app shows you live bus, train and Luas schedules. It's basic but usable.

25 APPS FOR KIDS

Ages 3-5

ColAR Mix

(iPhone, Android, free)

Innovative app that lets your child print out pages, colour them in, and bring them to life using augmented reality. Great fun.

Kids Doodle

(Android; free)

For drawing, Kids Doodle includes some attractive colours and allows kids to creative by importing photos and other effects.

World Of Goo

(iPad; €4.50)

This is a remarkably creative, fun game that challenges you to shift and shape things from goo balls as you tackle various puzzles. As enjoyable for adults as is it kids.

Peppa Pig's Holiday

peppa hollers.jpg

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; €4.50)

Very nicely done app featuring a number of Peppa Pig stories, games and songs. No in-app purchases.

Ages 6-8

Toca Hair Salon 2

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; €2.70)

Curl, straighten and snip your way around several hair models here.

Petting Zoo

petting zoo.png

(iPad, Android; €3)

A gorgeous app for small kids, this features animations of 21 zoo animals who react in different ways when you swipe to tap them.

Classic Winnie The Pooh

(iPad; €4.50)

This is a nicely done storytelling app, with lovely illustrations and narration. The first book is free with others purchasable within.

Toontastic

(iPad; free with in-app purchases)

A superb iPad app that allows kids to record their own voices while animating short cartoons.

Angry Birds Star Wars II

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; free)

The latest version of the classic smartphone game is as addictive as ever, though watch out for the in-app purchases.

Cut The Rope 2

(€2.70 on iPhone and iPad; free on Android)

cut the rope.png

This addictive physics-based game is very well done. Cut dangling ropes to gather sweets for your hero, Om Nom.

Temple Run 2

(iPhone, iPad, Android; free)

This Indiana-Jones style app is one of the most popular games downloaded by kids. There are some in-app purchases, but you can do a lot for free.

Action Movie FX / FX Guru: Movie FX Director

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; free)

These two apps - one for iOS and the other for Android - are great fun. They superimpose special effects such as explosions, fires 
or aliens onto your own filmed clips.

Ages 9-12

Minecraft

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; €5.50)

If there is a 'good' game that can be considered constructive, this is it. The emphasis in Minecraft is on building worlds, with an emphasis on pop-engineering. It's the video game equivalent of Lego.

Halftone

(iPhone, iPad; 90c)

halftne app.png

This allows you to turn a series of photographs into a photo-comic, with speech bubbles, exclamation marks and other effects.

Starwalk for iPad

(iPad, €2.70)

This is a gorgeous, stimulating app that identifies constellations by pointing the tablet at the sky to reveal lots of information on planets, stars and other astro-physical phenomena.

Marvel Comics

(iPhone, iPad, Android; free with per-comic purchases)

This app gives access to thousands of comics in the Marvel fold, including Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. It's also relatively age-appropriate (rival apps such as 'Comics' have plenty of adult material).

Meme Me

(Android; free)

This lets kids use their own photos to create and share humorous 'memes'. You can adjust the font styles, too.

Atlas By Collins

(iPad; €6)

Poring over maps is a lost bonding exercise among families these days. This is a great app because it doesn't require access to the web. It is a huge download at 620 megabytes, but is well worth the time and effort to take up this lost pastime.

Sketchbook Pro for Tablets

(Android; €3.76)

For the budding artist, Sketchbook Pro has a full palette of drawing, painting and editing tools to make new pictures or modify existing ones. You can import files such as photos, too.

MapMaster

(Android; €1.75)

This is a fun educational game that tests your knowledge on hundreds of world capitals, mountains and other places of note. It does this mainly using a pin that can be tagged around the globe.

Plants versus Zombies

(iPhone, iPad, Android; price varies by device)

plantsvszs.jpg

This is one of the most addictive games ever made for smartphones and tablets. 
Plant a range of seeds to repel bungling zombies from coming into your cottage and eating your brains.

Scrabble

(iPhone, iPad; free)

The traditional board game is playable on an iPhone or iPod Touch but looks great on an iPad. 
A single player mode is also available.

Draw 
Something

(iPhone, iPad,
Android; free)

draw something app.png

This simple game lets you draw something and challenge friends to guess what it is. And vice versa.

Khan Academy

(iPhone, iPad, Android; free)

For kids attending academic summer schools (sorry, kids), this is an invaluable aide with thousands of short video 
tutorials on disparate 
educational subjects. Incredibly, it's all free.

Toy Story Theatre

(iPhone, iPad, Android; €1.80)

buzz.jpg

This is a (rare) non-cheesy movie companion app that lets kids choose their own Toy Story characters to create a story with their own recorded voices. Very well executed.

Three questions every parent asks

1. How do I control in-app purchases?

You can turn off an iPhone or iPad's ability for in-app purchases in the device's settings. It uses a separate passcode that you do not need to share with the child. On Androids, you can set a password for all purchases in the 'settings' area of the Play (app) Store.

2. How do I stop adult content getting on to my child's device?

In the 'settings' area of your child's Android or iOS device, you can restrict access to the web browser. Alternatively, you can download an app such as Metacert to prevent adult content (specifically) from entering your child's device.

3. Are Android phones and tablets as good as iPhones or iPads?

In terms of choice, yes. There are now very few mainstream apps that are not available for both ecosystems. The only thing to watch out for with an Android device is that there is a slightly higher chance of coming across 'rogue' apps (which have bugs or unsuitable content for kids).

Irish Independent

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