DragonBox Apps Make Algebra Fun. No, Seriously!

One of the things I’m going to be doing with the new AppTudes is bringing you excerpts from the best app and service reviews I publish elsewhere. I’m not going to copy and paste my articles, I’ll just give you a brief introduction and a link so you can read them as they originally appeared. But I will use this space to add additional thoughts, images, videos and other information I could’t impart elsewhere. Most of the apps will full under the educational category since I have become an appolLearning Advisor while I was away.

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The first apps I want to share with are from a company called WeWantToKnow AS. They make two games, both called DragonBox, to teach kids -and adults – algebra. DragonBox+ Algebra is for children ages five and up and Dragonbox Algebra 12+ is, of course, for kids over 12. 

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Deceptively enjoyable, it took a good 30 minutes of testing before the educational point of the multi-award winning apps dawned on me, because in every conceivable way the apps feel like amazing puzzle games.  How do they pull it off? Click on the icons below to download the apps and click here to read my full review on appolearning.com.

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DragonBox+ Algebra
By WeWantToKnow AS
Universal – $5.99

DragonBox Algebra 12+
By WeWantToKnow AS
Universal – $9.99

I loved testing these apps, and writing about them, but some things are just easier to show than to explain, and conceptual math falls into this category. Here then are a pair of videos – one is a trailer, and the other shows the theory behind the fun.

Both Dragonbox titles are incredible – download one for your child today!

Stranded: Escape White Sands – An Interactive Adventure Story for iOS

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Stranded: Escape White Sands by CL Apps is an interactive adventure storybook about a couple on vacation who find themselves trapped on a mysterious island. The only way off the island is to solve the island’s mystery through investigation and discovering clues, which is where players coming in, helping the couple explore the oddities and puzzles spread about the island.

Players will help Tom Foxton and his fiancée Jen navigate around with simple taps on the screen, travelling through scenes, discovering clues, and most importantly, solving puzzles to find an escape. Use treasure hunting and I-spy tactics to uncover clues such as objects, messages, and numbers that will hints and even some answers. Tap on the arrows to the right and left side of the screen to save game progress.  

The game is a great, fun challenge when it comes to matching clues up with the answers to the puzzles. The graphics on my iPad 3 looked terrific in crisp HD, but this isn’t just a visual treat. An engaging narrative is essential to an adventure game, and Stranded’s various plot twists and mysterious over tones gave the game a lot of personality. It certainly kept me glued to my iPad, because I was invested in the story more than the typical point-and-click style adventure.

Sometimes the game can get frustrating, because objectives aren’t always laid out explicitly for the player. It would be nice for Tom to offer up some hints through text or audio, to help suggest and hint towards certain things gamers might miss when trying to progress through certain puzzles. It’s not a massive problem, but it will lead to some confusing segments where it’s not quite clear what to do. I also experienced some issues with the game saving at checkpoints, causing me to repeat previous scenes again after I thought I had already saved the game.

Despite these small flaws, Stranded: Escape White Sands is an epic storybook quest for users of all ages. It is an entertaining app that combines an exciting story with awesome visuals and cool puzzles – a game definitely worth a look for adventure fans. 


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A Whale Of A Tale! Review – A Dr.Seuss Learning Adventure For iOS

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A Whale of Tale! (Universal) by Ocean House Media and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, shows us that The Cat in The Hat isn’t just a babysitter. In this kid’s app, he takes Sally, Thing One, and Thing Two on an epic underwater learning adventure. This time he joins Captain McElligot aboard the cetacean station on a journey beneath the surface to discover marine mammal life.

 The latest addition to the The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, this app focuses on using Dr. Seuss’s story telling techniques and interactive features to teach and promote reading. Throughout the app, users can tap objects to learn words, tap on bold words to find out their simplified definition, and play mini games.

With the turn of a page, users gain new knowledge about different types of cetaceans, including the narwhal, blue whale, orca and more. There are two modes for users to choose from – “Read to Me” which narrates, and “Read it Myself” which does not narrate.

 I loved that the app keeps the Dr. Seuss traditional sing-song style tone with a rhyme in every line, the magic of reading super entertaining. The graphics looked great on my iPad’s retina display and the presentation of the art and visuals brought the familiar world of Dr. Seuss to life. I found the sound effects and background audio to be excellent, especially because the sounds customized to each scene. Most of all, the app teaches really cool facts I myself did not even know – such as the fact that the dolphin moms leave their young behind with a babysitter to hunt for food.

One thing that the app could improve is the placement of a short tutorial to explain what the user can do while reading. I wound up reading the entire book without even knowing I could drag objects across the screen. I only discovered that interactive feature when reading the info section on the home page afterwards. I also would have liked to see the graphics more animated because it would have brought more demonstration to the eye with illustrative movement. 

 A Whale of a Tale! is a fun book app that makes reading and learning memorable and interesting with the lovable characters of Dr. Seuss. Users of any age will enjoy being entertained while becoming educated about cetaceans. So get ready as the Cat in the Hat guides the tour, to discover whales, porpoises, dolphins – and much, much more! 


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Prismatic: Always Interesting Review – A Clean, Personalized News Reader For iPhone

Editor’s Note: AppleNApps and AppTudes are venturing into a new partnership, so both sites can bring you more of what you love. This review is written and reprinted with permission by Trevor Sheridan. 

Prismatic (iPhone/iPod touch) by Prismatic is the latest in a long list of news reader apps for iOS. Of course, the highlight of all iOS news apps is personalization, and that’s exactly what Prismatic delivers. Considering its feature set and free price, this is definitely one of the best apps of its kind.

The app tracks a user’s interests based on the stories they read, connecting to their social media accounts, current location, and any interests explicitly provided. Users can pick particular topics for your interest, or simply mark stories interesting or not interesting to improve news results, Pandora style. Within a few days, the news feed transforms from the same listings of news across the internet, into a unique, personalized experience.

The app is a lot like Zite, and that’s definitely a good thing. Prismatic takes a cue from Zite for social media, adding its own exploration flavor for a unique experience. There are so many paths to keep branching out through news to discover new topics, interests, and ultimately news stories.

The best part is that the more you explore, the more intelligent the news mix becomes to get truly interesting news stories and not just an aggregation of stories from all over the internet. It really gives the news a personalized feel, like having a digital newspaper created exclusively for your own iOS device. With the smooth interface and quick updates, it’s just too bad the app isn’t available on the iPad at this point in time.

The user interface is also worth commending due to the smooth nature, making it effortless to move through all of the content. Once a user is deep into a specific section, simple swipes across the screen left to go back one section, or swipe right to return to the main menu.

On any article, you can tap and hold to bring up the mini menu to mark an article as interesting or not as well as share that article. The entire app is extremely clean as well allowing you to focus on the news, instead of clicking around, typing in web pages in Safari and scrolling through multiple pages of news just to spend more time sifting through stories that don’t hold any personal interest.

Prismatic is a great utility to have to keep you updated on a wide variety of topics in a very streamlined way, mixing formal news feeds, social networks, and other news sources into a personalized experience.

Layover Review – Photo Creativity Tailored For iOS

Contest Closed -Editor’s Note: AppleNApps and AppTudes are venturing into a new partnership, so both sites can bring you more of what you love. This review is written and reprinted with permission by Trevor Sheridan.

Layover (universal) by Peak Systems is another photo editing app that harnesses the power of iOS devices, delivering the performance of deluxe computer software in mobile packages. The latest creation from the makers of the collage app Diptic, Layover is a lot like PicTwo,which lets users edit and blend layers.

While the two feel similar, Layover feels more refined with the ability to blend five photos together in the universal app. Users begin with a few photos, figuring out how they would go together. There’s the ability to grab an object from one photo to add to the background of another, and an image can build this out five times. Users can also blend photos with 15 different available effects including color dodge, saturation, and luminosity.

The app lets your creative juices flow by combining two popular photo editing techniques into one. People can add their pets to pictures on the beach, merge a filtered waterfall into a mountain scene, or add McKayla Maroney’s not impressed face to any scene.

 The Mask functionality is probably the biggest feature, letting users erase or draw in parts of one image into another image. blending of the images with a fingertip, a powerful feature for a touch interface. The entire interface is as smooth as can be, and the app cuts out the clutter to simply focus on the one deluxe functionality it offers.

There could be a tutorial or some explanation or examples to what you’re doing as those unfamiliar with the technique may have a tough time understanding what exactly the app is capable of. A photo app shouldn’t require a large amount of trial and error for users to figure out how to use certain features, and some might miss the app’s potential without the ability to have every feature pointed out and explained.

But for photo heads and aspiring photographers, Layover is a deluxe photo editing tool that offer a power and creative tool that is tailored for iOS.


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AppZilla 3 Review – Find Everything Important In One Place

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AppZilla 3 (iPhone/iPod touch) by Fossil Software adds 40 new apps into the mix, giving users the ability to pretty much do anything on their phone in one central place.

Whether it’s backing up contacts, finding out last night’s lottery numbers, keeping track of hours at work or playing some card games, AppZilla 3‘s brand new apps add a ton of functionality and fun into the mix. Of course, users of the previous AppZilla installment will be glad to know the old favorites are still there such as many Google apps, tons of camera apps and photo filters and the ever-popular quotes list are back.

The best addition to AppZilla 3 in my opinion has to be the new games and their Game Center support. Solitaire, Black Jack, War, Recall, Space Cows, Snake and Video Poker are not only welcome, fun additions but also come with the ability to brag about any high scores thanks to the Game Center support.

It’s not just the apps contained within AppZilla 3 that make it a success. AppZilla 3 has a redesigned look and feel to it and now requires just half the storage space that AppZilla 2 did. Apps can be broken down into eight separate categories or viewed all at once and now, every app has the ability to be dot-locked. 

Not every new app in AppZilla 3 is a winner, though. The Text Cloak and Photo Cloak apps are pointless. Text Cloak will embed text into a photo that can only be seen in the app and Photo Cloak will scramble an image which, again, can only be unscrambled in the app.

Considering AppZilla 3 contains a password protected Media Vault, these apps aren’t exactly practical. But the majority of the new apps – Salary Calculator, Google Tasks, Atmosphere, etc. – are quality apps that most folks will use at one point or another.

Purchasing independent apps for all 150 included in AppZilla 3 would cost a pretty penny and eat up a ton of storage space. With AppZilla 3, the price is right, the size is right and the content is useful, making this an app anyone with an iOS device should own.


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The Courtship Of The Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo Review – Colorful iOS Storybook

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The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò by Saturday Buffet will have children giggling in their chairs. The silly poem by Edward Lear is brought to life in this universal book showcasing colorful hand drawn graphics and lyrical narration.

Children will follow the story of Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò as he tries to charm Lady Jingly Jones on the coast of Coromandel. The graphics are fun and as silly as the poem presented in this story.

There are no options for self-reading, which allows the children to hear the ups and downs of the words as they were meant to be spoken. Page advancement is done by tapping the arrow in the top right corner of the page.

Prior to starting the story, there is an area that parents can view to get suggested activities and questions they can use during the story. As a nonsensical poem, some children may be confused. My five year old daughter enjoyed the way the poem flowed and the comical graphics of the story. She didn’t seem too confused by it, but I don’t think stopped giggling at the name of the main character to listen to the entire story.

Each page offers the reader bright and colorful graphics along with silly animations. By tapping on random objects in the image, children can hear interesting, albeit silly sounds and watch as they move across the screen. There are no hints as to what objects make sounds and move, so there is a lot of tapping to be had to find them.

The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò is an entertaining and silly book for iDevices. The focus on this book is not to increase a child’s ability to read, but to introduce them to poetry and the classics in a fun way. This book will be an great addition to any child’s digital library.


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IntoNow From Yahoo! Review – A Great Second Screen TV Companion For iPhone & iPad

Editor’s Note: AppleNApps and AppTudes are venturing into a new partnership, so both sites can bring you more of what you love. This review is written and reprinted with permission by Trevor Sheridan

IntoNow from Yahoo! (universal) by IntoNow is an app that makes a user’s mobile device  second screen while watching TV. These kinds of apps and websites have been gaining steam over the past couple years, and with Yahoo’s recent acquisition of IntoNow, a new 3.0 update that completely redefines the app.

With the 3.0 enhancements, IntoNow is a great app to enhance the TV-watching experience with just an iPad or iPhone sitting next to you. The app begins with an outstanding recognition engine that identifies what’s playing on the TV by just listening for a few seconds, like Shazam. The recognition has been vastly improved over the months, and now it identifies everything under a few seconds whether it’s live or recorded.

Once identified, you’re then given a new screen to go along with what you’re watching including cast info, episode description, friend connection, group chat discussion, and more. The massive database is powered by Yahoo’s information, so everything is detailed and accurate, full of information and trivia.

The 3.0 update also added CapIt which identifies where you are in a show, and then provides still frames of the action. You can then pick one, and add a humorous caption to share with other IntoNow users as well as social media. There’s also music sync which identifies songs used in shows you’re watching.

The features work passively, so you can look at your iOS device on your time without interrupting your TV watching. There’s also a special connection for live events including the Olympics which features upcoming event schedule, medal count, memorable moments, and other special connections. 

IntoNow has been refined and enhanced greatly with this new bundle of features, immediately becoming the best app of its kind, and a great second screen and TV companion experience.

The Great Cookie Thief Review – Cookie Monster Comes To iOS

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The Great Cookie Thief – Starring Cookie Monster (Universal) is a great new book from Calloway Digital Arts Inc.  But it’s not just any book : children don’t just follow the story, they will help the town find evil cookie thief. 

Upon opening the book, users are presented with two options; Read and Create. In read mode, the story is narrated to the child, with conversation bubbles popping up, and words being highlighted as they are spoken.

The graphics are enhanced to give it kind of a 3d feel to it on the iPad. As the reader tilts the iDevice, the objects on the screen shift around a little. My girls enjoyed viewing each of the pages at different angles. 

Towards the end of the story, the local sheriff will ask the child to help them check Cookie Monster to see if he matches the wanted poster. The great thing about this is they ask for the child to choose three things and there are more than three things that are similar. Each time the child reads this story, the ending will be slightly different.

After each page is finished with its narration, an arrow appears in the bottom right to advance to the next page. Before continuing, children can tap on characters on the screen to hear more information and see additional animations. If some of the characters talk when tapped, these words are not shown, so make sure to keep the sound turned up.

In create mode, children will be able to make their own poster. Using the camera, photo library, or stock Sesame Street characters children can paint on pictures or place stickers on them. This particular feature was a huge hit for both of my girls. Some of the stickers include glasses, hats, funny eyes, and hair. Each of the stickers can be sized to fit the image using finger gestures.

The Great Cookie Thief – Starring Cookie Monster is a fun book that young children will enjoy. The way it includes the child into the story will have them coming back for more and the giggles parents will hear as they make a silly poster is priceless.


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Solar Review – A Clean, Colorful Weather App For iPhone

Editor’s Note: AppleNApps and AppTudes are venturing into a new partnership, so both sites can bring you more of what you love. This review is written and reprinted with permission by Trevor Sheridan.

Solar (iPhone/iPod Touch) by Hollr Inc., is not just another one of the many similar types of apps for the iPhone. It takes a cue from the Clear to-do app to make a very distinct, eye-catching weather app – a welcome breath of creativity and innovation in the genre. Like Clear, Solar utilizes a high-constrast heat map style, simple UI, and outstanding gesture controls, making it both attractive to view, and easy to use.

Opening Solar fills the iPhone screen with color based on temperature on the bottom and weather on the top. The colors show the conditions wonderfully, and change accurately throughout the day. The app also provides the current temperature, conditions, time and date in the upper left hand corner.

Users can also pull down to reveal the three day forecast with just high, low, and conditions. There’s also the ability to scroll upwards to view the 24 hour forecast sliding through the time with your finger. These simple gestures add a lot of subtle functionality, without having to navigate through multiple cluttered menus filled with text boxes and links to click.

It’s very neat to see the color change while dial the clock to see weather and temperature for later in the day. The app supports multiple locations, and with a simple swipe to flip between them, or pinch or double tap to view four at a time. The interface is top notch, and it provides a great way to view the weather as quickly as possible.

SOLAR – Available Monday July 23 for iOS from HOLLR Inc. on Vimeo.

For hardcore weather fans who like their apps to come with numerous statistics, measurements, and radar apps, Solar might be a little disappointing. Part of the clean, uncluttered concept means there is a slight loss of functionality, which a less robust feature than some other more weather-dedicated apps.

Solar (iPhone/iPod Touch) isn’t the most feature-rich app, but it brilliantly blends neat design and useful touch gestures to deliver a worthwhile daily weather app. Solar is worth picking up, especially if you enjoy apps like Clear, where clean UI and crisp aesthetics are the name of the game.