App Analysis of the Week – Penultimate

Penultimate

image courtesy of ipepsico.com

This week’s analysis is brought to you by guest blogger Jenni Birch.

Penultimate gives you an almost similar experience of writing on a physical paper. As a note-taking productivity tool, it eliminates the artistic aspiration of its competing apps, giving kids a simpler and more useful way of sketching and scribbling notes. Evernote made it free with a pack of “across-the-board” tweaks in terms of the user interface, new languages, sharper ink support for Retina displays, and syncing options.

According to Verizon Wireless, the ability to be used by both parents and children at the same time is what makes an app kid-friendly. With that, Penultimate is a good parent-child bonding, allowing them to scribble drawings in the tablet, substituting the experience brought by a pen and paper.

 

App Analysis For Penultimate

 

Pros

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· Finger Painting

The mobile tool allows you to organize your work through the “notebook” function, which can be accessed by swiping through the covers. Unlike a traditional notebook which comes in a single style, Penultimate allows you to create as many pages as you want. For customization, there is an in-app connection to The Paper Shop, giving you tons of paper style options. There is also a support for undo and multiple redos, giving kids the chance to correct mistakes such as spelling and thought organization.

· Broad Strokes

To achieve this, children are given ten visually-enticing pen shades, which gives different strokes depending on the tip: broad, fine, or medium tipped. Also worth noting is the Wrist Protection feature, which disregards a kid’s unnecessary remark from a resting hand.

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· Sharing Options

If kids wanted to share their masterpiece, there is an easy to toggle feature to sync it with a projector and covert drawings to PDF files. Meanwhile, children can also share their scribbles with their peers through email, whether they want to select a page or share the entire notebook.

· Faster Browsing

Penultimate makes it easier for kids to locate hand-written texts and quickly browse all pages within the app. Under a Grid View, kids can view their notebooks as a carousel, allowing them to delete, duplicate, and reorganize pages within notebooks.

 

Cons

· No Keyboard

The iPad tool doesn’t support a keyboard, which disables the tablet for typing notes. The absence of the keyboard makes it lag behind its competitors such as the Note Taker HD. Also, the tool doesn’t add support for importing files in different versions except for the propriety

· Absence of handwriting-to-text OCR

There is also the absence of handwriting-to-text OCR, which converts scanned images of printed notes into machine-encoded texts. If a kid decides to write by hand, the notes will stay the same, regardless of how good or bad his handwriting is. This limits the app’s ability only for a quick notetaking, sketching, and mind-mapping.

· Acquisition by Evernote

Earlier this year, the app was acquired by Evernote. This acquisition made all the updates centered on Evernote, including the features. The downside to this is that Evernote only offers a limited size of Penultimate notebooks which can be synced automatically.

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· Expensive upgrade

Free for download, Penultimate only offers a few features unless you upgrade it. Unfortunately, users have to pay an expensive price tag for the auto-renewing subscription. There are two subscription options: $5 for the monthly Evernote Premium and $45 for the annual Evernote Premium.

 

Conclusion

Despite its shortcomings, the Penultimate app is an easy to navigate tool, making it a valuable addition to a kid’s back to school accessories. Perfect for brainstorming sessions, it helps kids to draw an interface or a flowchart, which can be viewed by the entire classroom as long as there’s an access to Adobe Reader.

 

 

About the Author

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Jenni Birch is a freelancer with a passion for the app store, Xbox Live, alternative music and online communities. She is also a keen musician and maintains a passion for books.

 

 

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AppCertain Update – September 26, 2013

We’ve had an amazing response since launching Curfew Mode.  In the past three weeks alone we’ve more then doubled the total number of devices that are using AppCertain.  It feels great to be helping thousands of parents, but we’re getting overwhelmed.

What This Means

We will be doing far less app analysis for now, and only analyzing very popular apps.  We’re working on alternative aways to get analysis to you.  You’ll still receive updates of any new apps installed along with the analysis of that app if we have it.

The Good News

The number one requested feature for Curfew Mode is now available.  If you login to your account at:

https://my.appcertain.com

You can now schedule curfew times!  This is a premium feature, but we’re giving it to everyone for free to try.

 

Thanks for using AppCertain, and providing fantastic feedback!

=Spencer

App Analysis of the Week – Pandora Radio

This post is part of an ongoing series analyzing popular apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that are in Apple’s App Store. This is a guest post by Stephanie Kambic. 

Pandora Radio is a popular website and app that allows you to create personalized radio stations that specialize in playing the bands and songs that you like. You can start multiple stations to cater to your various music tastes, and simply skip songs that you do not enjoy.  The app is free, and the amount of available songs to listen to is seemingly endless.  Pandora Radio is updated frequently with new features such as a “sleep timer” to mute the music after you fall asleep, but also contains some in-app purchases and requires the creation of an account to use.

App Analysis For Pandora Radio

Pros:

With so many radio stations to choose from, it is easy to expand your music taste and listen to diverse genres that you would have previously never considered.

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If you like a song, you can immediately share the station or track on Facebook or Twitter, or you can purchase it through the app on iTunes

Cons:

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The app encourages you to purchase “Pandora One,” which boasts ad-free music and less commercials.  However, for this upgrade, the app charges four dollars a month.

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On almost every screen or song, there is a new pop-up ad.

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Depending on the station, there is a possibility of foul language or crude content, but it is easy to regulate which genre or bands to listen to, or to instantly skip songs that are not seen as appropriate.

Conclusion

Pandora Radio is a useful app, and is fun to listen to while doing homework, performing household tasks, or relaxing with friends. Though an account is needed to access Pandora, it takes less than a minute to create, and after, you are able to view all of your likes, followers, and bookmarks on the “Profile” tab of the app.  While listening to songs, you can even access the lyrics, read information about the artist, and learn about the features of the track.  Overall, if you are a lover of music from any genre, Pandora Radio is a great app to download.

We hope you enjoyed this app analysis.


Remotely turn the non-essential apps on your kid’s devices on or off and receive instant email updates for the apps they download with the FREE AppCertain app from the App Store! Create a username with your email but download the app on your kid’s device to activate their device.

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App Analysis of the Week – FX Photo Studio

This post is part of an ongoing series analyzing popular apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that are in Apple’s App Store. This is a guest post by Stephanie Kambic. 

FX Photo Studio is a popular app created by MacPhun LLC that allows you to edit photos with a variety of filters and color-changing effects. Boasting almost 200 filters, FX Photo Studio offers many possibilities for a child to pass lots of time happily experimenting with the different color features, while at the same time inspiring creativity and expression. Once editing is finished, it is easy to save the photo to your camera roll, or instantly post it to your choice of multiple social networks.

App Analysis For FX Photo Studio

Pros:

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As long as the setting is enabled, it is simple to import photos from your phone, Facebook, or anywhere else on the internet.

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With one click, after editing a picture, it can be shared with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email, Flickr, and more.

Cons:

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The in-app purchases in FX Photo Studio are not as obvious and easy to accidentally click as in some other apps, but they are still present at the top of the home screen.  These added purchases offer additional effects, but are not necessary as there are already plenty of filters built into the free app.

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Aside from possibly inspiring creativity in children, there are no educational benefits to FX Photo Studio.

Conclusion

FX Photo Studio is a fun app that makes it simple and exciting to edit pictures to post to Instagram, Twitter, or to send to your friends. The navigation is somewhat confusing at first, but once you play around with it for a little while, it becomes much easier to use.  FX Photo Studio offers diverse features to help create many colorful, unique photos, and once finished, it is easy to post your pictures to multiple social networking platforms to show off your creations!

We hope you enjoyed this app analysis.


If you’d like to get more reports like this for the apps your kids have installed, Download the FREE AppCertain app from the App Store

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The Twenty-First Century Curfew

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AppCertain Introduces Exclusive Curfew Mode Feature to Limit Screen Time

PITTSBURGH, PA (September 9, 2013) – As iPhones, iPads, and similar mobile devices continue to become more popular with kids and teens, parents may wonder how much time their children are spending on these devices and which applications they have downloaded. But now they no longer have to speculate thanks to AppCertain. This Pittsburgh-based mobile security company developed the free AppMonitor app to help parents understand and manage their family’s mobile device behavior. And they just launched the exclusive Curfew Mode feature that allows parents to regulate device usage as well.

A curfew is defined as a specific period of time when certain regulations apply. Parents used to set evening curfew times to get their kids into bed or require teenagers to return home by a specific time. But the proliferation of mobile devices and applications in recent years has led parents to adopt a new kind of curfew – the digital curfew – in an effort to limit their child’s screen time and reduce dependence on mobile devices. With the release of Curfew Mode, AppCertain is the first to offer parents the opportunity to establish and successfully enforce this digital curfew remotely.

“We’re really excited to have the first app that gives parents remote control of their family’s iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch,” said AppCertain’s CEO and co-founder Spencer Whitman. “Parents tell us that they need as much help as they can get raising responsible digital citizens, and we’re very happy to be making such a positive impact.”

Unlike other parental control and time limit applications, Curfew Mode allows parents to remotely shutdown all applications for a specific time period but still preserve the basic functionality of their child’s mobile device. Parents can now work to curb device dependency in addition to guarding their children from dangerous cyber situations through this monitoring service. AppCertain will continue to help parents identify the obscure details of applications – including purpose, content, functionality, and possible in-app purchases – that they may not detect by just looking at their child’s device.

“I talk with many parents who are struggling to keep up with their kids when it comes to technology. AppCertain is a great tool for keeping parents involved and informed,” says Jean Dumais, the mom behind Be Web Smart – a website that provides articles, tips, guidance and reviews for parents who want to keep their families safe and productive online. “Curfew Mode will make it an even more robust tool for helping parents manage their children’s devices.”

The time is right for an app like AppCertain because of the explosive growth in consumer use of mobile devices. Since the app was first launched in May 2013, over two thousand people have downloaded AppCertain to gain insight into and manage their family’s device usage. Referred to as “the Netnanny of apps” by TechCrunch, AppCertain can’t (yet) restrict apps based on their behavior but it does notify parents of those behaviors the moment any app is installed on their child’s device. This security service has received many positive reviews and was recently awarded the global Parent-Tested Parent-Approved Award by PTPA Media.

“In the constant fight to keep our kids safe in his always-connected, instant-access digital world, the AppMonitor app and the new Curfew Mode feature are a great way to get just a little more peace of mind,” says AppAddict blogger Brett Nolan. “AppCertain isn’t just a security service but a way to inform and empower parents. This service presents opportunities for parents to have a discussion with their children about the safe and smart use of technology.”

AppCertain is currently available for free download in the Apple iTunes Store. To start using this service, simply download the app on a child’s mobile device. The app itself can then be deleted, but the phone will still be monitored once you create a security profile and supply an e-mail address where you can receive ongoing alerts. These simple and enlightening alerts notify parents of apps that have been installed, what they do, and whether or not they are appropriate for children.

# # #

About AppCertain
At AppCertain, we are passionate about computer security and motivated to discovering what behavior apps exhibit. This monitoring service is dedicated to helping parents understand and trust their family’s mobile devices by providing a window into the behavior of mobile apps. Recent advances in the business world have given companies greater insight into their employees’ mobile devices, and AppCertain believes parents deserve a similar insight with respect to their families. For more information, visit www.appcertain.com and follow AppCertain on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

AppCertain at Camp Deer Creek

Summer is the time to encourage outdoor activity and one of the best ways to do this is by sending your child to camp. Camp Deer Creek is an old school camp where kids wade in the creek, play in the woods and romp til their hearts content. It is a nature break that is needed in our technology driven world.

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But there are some great apps that allow you to combine the best of both worlds. AppCertain recently spent a day a Camp Deer Creek where we took over the nature class. The activity we chose was a leaf identification exercise using the Leaf Snap app. It is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution. This free mobile app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.

We divided the children into small groups and sent them out to hunt for leaves. They came back with some very interesting specimens. This included artificial ivy found near the creek that was left over from super hero day. One of the camp counselors identified it as being left over from a Poison Ivy costume. A leaf with a tiny worm on it and a frog that proved to be a huge distraction.

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Over all the kids and counselors both had lots of fun and increased their knowledge about plant species and nature apps. Take the opportunity to explore the great outdoors with your own child one app at a time.

App Analysis of the Week – Pic Stitch

This post is part of an ongoing series analyzing popular apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that are in Apple’s App Store.

Happy Labor Day! Use can use our app of the week to combine pictures from you Labor Day fun this year! Pic Stitch is an app that “stitches” together several different photos into one. You can choose a layout from a large variety of different layouts and then upload or take new photos to fill in the blank spaces in the collage. The layouts have vertical, horizontal and square picture formats with anywhere from 1 to 6 photo spaces for free. (7 or more requires an upgrade to the Pro version of the app).  It has an interesting feature that lets you send photos or collages that you create in the app directly to Walgreens to be printed. You can pick up printed versions of the picture collages you created at your nearest Walgreens store.

App Analysis For Pic Stitch

Pros:

accesses_cameraroll

uses_camera

Easy to upload photos from the device photo library or take new photos right from the app.

Cons:

allows_sharing

This app makes it very easy to share your collages with through email or any of the social networking sites.

in_app_purchases

It does contain in-app purchases to upgrade to Pro version to unlock more layouts that have spaces for 7 or more photos.

no_education

Pic Collage does not contain educational attributes.

Conclusion

This is among the most popular photo collage apps because you can edit and adjust the photos from within the app and combine them into a nice collage layout.  Its great that the layouts are pre-designed so when finish a collage in Pic Stitch the final product looks very professional!  The interface makes it quick and easy to understand and use this app. It is important to understand what it means to share photos via social media and do so responsibly.

We hope you enjoyed this app analysis.  Click here to join AppCertain’s discussion of Pic Stitch and view analysis of other apps.


If you’d like to get more reports like this for the apps your kids have installed, Download the FREE AppCertain app from the App Store

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We’re experiencing some growing pains…thanks for your patience

We’ve had two pretty big mess ups in the past two weeks.  As a result a bunch of app notifications have gone out later then 24 hours, in some cases they’ve been 7 DAYS late.  I’m really sorry about that.  Our 24 hour promise is really important to me, and we can do a lot better.  The good news is we’ve been growing.  A LOT.  And that’s why we’ve had the problems over the past few days.  We’ve identified and fixed a bunch of the problems and are in the process of making sure these issues never come up again.

 

First Issue: New App Analysis System

Last week we started to introduce 12 new app analysts in addition to our awesome team of 3.  To do this we had to build a system that would make it easier for a larger number of people to analyze apps and simultaneously protect your privacy.  When we created this system it took a few days for us to realize that there were some issues preventing a large number (about 500) of apps from making it into the system.  We fixed the problem, and all of these app reports have been sent out.

 

Second Issue: More Users

Last night we realized that we’ve been having trouble getting responses from most of our users devices.  We finally tracked down the issue.  We recently passed 2,000 downloads of the AppCertain app, and as a result we hit some upper limits in the configuration of our database. From Jim our CTO:

“The problem was that as our total number of enrolled devices has been going up, the size of a particular database query has also been going up. A few days ago it hit a configuration limit, and the database started rejecting those commands. Normally we should have been emailed about those errors and known something was wrong, but the web framework we’re using made it look identical to a different, very common and innocuous error, so it got ignored.

We’ve bumped up the threshold on the database so things are working again, and adjusted our error reporting code so we shouldn’t miss if something similar happens again.”

 

Wrapping It Up

We’ve learned a lot the past two weeks, and fixed a lot of issues already.  I’m sure these won’t be the last, but I’m hoping that as a result of the failsafes we’ve put in place there won’t be any more delays like these moving forward.  Thank you for your patience and understanding while we’re experiencing these growing pains!

Great Apps for Kids: Tour the World with Museum Apps

Keeping your child entertained is always a challenge.  Every parent has encountered the repetitive lament of  “I’m bored”  to the point of frustration.  But now with museum apps there is a way to tour the great museums of the world without even having to leave home.  Why not take a tour of  Louvre before bed instead of the traditional bedtime story.  There are some wonderful free apps that give you access to the windows of the world and make educating your child a fun adventure.

 

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MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art is great place to introduce your child to modern and contemporary art.  The app contains multimedia tours and audio/video pod casts along with detailed information about the Museum’s artworks and exhibitions.After viewing this app, you may have a budding architect on your hands.

 

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Guggenheim – This museum’s app echoes the architectural style of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building itself: modern, sleek and easy to navigate with its color-coded galleries. Audio and visual tours of current exhibits, as well the museum’s permanent collection, provide users with a full view of its offerings.

 

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Canadian Museum of Civilization – This app was designed to enhance a physical visit but does almost too good of a job showing users around the human history-focused museum. Your child could easily be be entertained for an hour (the length of the audio tour) poking around totem poles, ivory carvings and other artifacts from the days of our earliest ancestors.

 

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Musée Du Louvre – Your kids would never be able to get this close to the Mona Lisa in real life; the painting is protected by a bulletproof glass case and Louvre visitors create a human barrier of their own around da Vinci’s famous piece. They can also tour Napoleon’s lavish apartment. Because much of the Louvre’s collection features mature, i.e. nude subjects, this app might be more appropriate for older children.

 

American Museum of Natural History -This app includes all the museum’s highlights from the Blue Whale to the Barosaurus. Take a quick tour yourself and develop a scavenger hunt for your child. Start off with a question such as: What year was Lucy, an early hominid skeleton exhibited at the museum, discovered by scientist?

 

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The British Museum, London - includes photos and descriptions of important works in its collection. Audio clips describe the Museum’s 10 key works such as the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Sculptures, the Mexican Mosaics and the Benin Bronzes.

 

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 The Hermitage, St. Petersburg – will give you a virtual sense of being inside the museum and looking at the art in the individual galleries.  Provides virtual and thematic tours along with educational courses. Highlights include in-depth information (both visual and text) about the artwork of da Vinci and Rembrandt.

 

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Uffizi Gallery, Florence – although it is one of the oldest and most famous museums in the world, this museum seem to run under the radar.  You don’t want to miss this mass collection of renaissance paintings and Medici collections.

 

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Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – provides detailed texts and high-resolution imagery of its classic art such as works by Vermeer and Rembrandt.  Along with the Dutch Masters, this collection includes a wide variety of traditional and spiritual Asian art.

 

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National Palace Museum, Taipei- contains high-res imagery of its impressive collection of ancient and traditional Chinese art and culture.  The app is in Chinese, so if you do not understand the language, you can at least enjoy the photographs.

 

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The Getty – from treasures of the ancient world and medieval manuscripts to Renaissance drawings, French furniture, Impressionist paintings, iconic American photographs, and much more, this app gives you access to 150 of the most beloved objects in the Getty’s collection.

 

If you do find yourself out and about, you can use iMuseum to find a place to go.  It is a web tracker that searches via GPS for the nearest museums in your immediate area. It updates museum news, exhibition info, and location data regularly.  When you are traveling, this is a handy tool to use that points out the various museums to includes addresses, directions, maps and contact info.

 

 

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App Analysis of the Week – Candy Crush Saga

This post is part of an ongoing series analyzing popular apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that are in Apple’s App Store.

Candy Crush Saga is a simple matching game similar to bejeweled except you line up matching yummy looking candies! Playing this game may actually make you crave candy. The interface is simple and the game is easy to understand, so anyone can pick it up quickly. Its a good entertaining game for kids although the music can get annoying so you may want to encourage headphones if you are an innocent bystander.

App Analysis For Candy Crush Saga

Pros:

accesses_networks

Its fun for kids to play against their friends or family.

Cons:

in_app_purchases

This app does contain in-app purchases that give you special powers and get you farther in the game which can be enticing for kids.

Conclusion

Its a simple and entertaining game that doesn’t require much strategy but can keep kids entertained. Make sure that your kids understand that if they connect the game to a social network or their contacts, they should make sure they know those friends and contacts from real life, not just online.

We hope you enjoyed this app analysis.  Click here to join AppCertain’s discussion of Candy Crush Saga and view analyses of other apps.


Download AppCertain from the App Store to get free reports for every app your kid downloads… as they download them!

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