While the kitchen may still be the physical hub for the family, more and more families are taking advantage of the power of smartphones to help them stay on top of their family life.
According to the mobile security experts at Lookout, nearly 2/3 of parents with 5 or more in the family consider the smartphone to be the mobile command center of the family. Nearly half use it to coordinate grocery lists and entertained, as well as keep their kids entertained.
As fun as they are, Angry Birds and Words with Friends won’t get everyone to soccer practice on time, so here’s our list of five essential apps for parents to help them stay in control of their family.
Cozi – Cozi’s an app that can do a little bit of everything for your family. With calendars, shopping lists, to-do lists ad more that sync across all your family devices, there’s no excuse for anyone to say they didn’t know where they supposed to be. This means that if you add to the shopping list from your device at home, your husband will have it updated in real-time, even if he’s at the store. You can also log onto your Cozi account on the computer to update and track information from there. Cozi can also send out e-mail and text reminders for any event, if you want them.
Kik Messenger – A program like Kik Messenger or another messaging program is great for families to be able to stay in touch without worrying about racking up the texting minutes. What sets them apart from using your phone’s regular messaging capabilities is the ability to easily add other people to conversations as well as add photos directly to a dialogue. Kik Messenger also works across all different types of devices, so it’s especially handy for families in which not everyone has the same type of phone.
Find My iPhone – While ostensibly designed to help find lost smartphones or remotely erase data in case it gets stolen, Apple’s app (and an equivalent Android app such as Andriod Lost) is great for giving parents piece of mind that they can track their kids by using their phones. With these apps installed, you can make sure your kids are where they say they are by viewing their location on an app. The safety feature
A Family Matters – While it’s tempting during downtime for everyone to get lost in their own devices, the A Family Matters app makes using a smartphone a family affair, with games and activities designed for everyone to participate in. So whether you’re at a restaurant waiting for food or at the theater waiting for the movie to start, A Family Matters is an app that can actually bring your whole clan together, and for that we think it’s essential.
Lost Kidz – Heaven forbid something should happen to your kid, but if it does then the Lost Kidz app can act like an APB to everyone else in your vicinity running the app. If your kid disappears, you can send out an immediate alert to all users in the area to notify them. A second alert will go out even wider. It’s horrible to think of worst-case scenarios, but if something bad does happen, an app like Lost Kidz can help make sure you’re prepared.
According to a recent infographic from MDG advertising, more than half of 5 to 8 year olds have used a tablet, and 10% of kids have used one before their first birthday. While the majority of kids covet Apple and its products (i.e. the iPad, iPod and iPhone) as their most desired gifts every holiday season, a number of companies are designing tablets specifically made for kids that are rugged enough to deal with rougher playground or home usage and focus on educational apps and parental engagement. Here’s a look at several of the best new tablets for kids, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new technology and gadgets for children of all ages:
LeapPad 2 – Utlizing a touchscreen and stylus, the LeapPad 2 features games and software that come as either cartridges that are bought at a retail store, or apps that can be downloaded wirelessly. LeapFrog places emphasis on education, so all apps and games have high educational value. LeapPad 2 has a front and back camera, which can be used for inserting faces and pics into funny movies with built-in apps, like Cartoon Director which lets kid make their own animations. There’s also a song-creation app and an art app that come already installed. The LeapPad 2 is recommended for kids between 3 and 9.
LeapsterGS – A learning game system for ages four and up, this award-winning toy gets some welcome upgrades in the form of motion controls, a built-in camera and the ability to record videos or edit pictures on the fly. It also adds a microphone and the ability to share memories you’ve captured and created online, and boasts a sizable software library of over 300 titles, which include virtual pets, educational gaming activities and a variety of high-tech entertainment options that take advantage of the system’s touchscreen. Featured options include eBooks, games, videos, music and educational amusements that teach math, spelling, science, geography and more.
Nabi 2 – The Nabi 2 blends a durable form with the functionality that kids and parents want. Featuring an iIntegrated educational tracker called Fooz Kids University, the device also lets parents create and manage a chore List and Treasure Box to virtual and real-life activities and help kids work to earn things they want. The Nabi 2 offers more than 10,000 kid-friendly music choices as well as a $2.99 a month streaming subscription to popular kids shows from Cookie Jar entertainment (like Busytown, Strawberry Shortcake, Sonic the Hedgehog, Inspector Gadget and more). Each app available for purchase and download is also “curated,” meaning it’s approved by a person. And as an added convenience, there are no wires or cords necessary for syncing – it’s all done wirelessly.
Meep – From Oregon Scientific, the Meep was designed with the concerns of parents in mind. The focus is on allowing kids to do what they want, but in a safe environment. Parental controls are accessible from any computer, where parents can monitor activity and set time limits. Also, the Meep allows parents to easily set a virtual allowance to allow kids to buy games and apps. Meep has perhaps the most rugged protective case of all the tablets available for kids. Recommended for ages 6 and up. $150.
Tabeo – From Toys R Us, the Tabeo makes “online safety a top priority”. The device comes with 50 pre-installed apps that include many of today’s most popular games, such as Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Temple Run, Cut the Rope, Tike Golf, built-in educational apps and iStorybooks. There are also many parental control options that regulate Internet access and app access. With the backing of a Toys R Us, there’s access to a vast amount of content on Tabeo: At launch in 2012, there were already 7,000 apps to choose from in the Tabeo App store.
InnoTab 2 – From vTech, the InnoTab is focused on making education fun for kids from preschool to elementary school. The Innotab comes with a rotating camera and an eReader for interactive storybooks. Educational games and apps are available for download, or also can be played via cartridges. The Innotab provides all the basic functionality and fun of tablets, like motion control, and at a reasonable price is a good choice for a kid’s first dedicated tablet of their own.
iPad – Although we’ve looked at those designed for kids, it’s worth mentioning the unquestioned leader in tablets. However, one of the main reasons these other kid-focused devices exist is because the iPad is a bit more fragile and doesn’t provide nearly the level of parental controls or restrictions as the others. It is possible, though, that with some work, you can take steps to protect your iPad such as blocking in-App purchases, restricting access to content rated by age and even installing apps like Mobicip that block access to websites or chat programs.
Interested in a few more tablet options for kids? You may also want to check out:
Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
If you’re an entrepreneur, especially for a small, independent business, then you’re going to have to learn a few things. First, you need to learn how to thrive on peanut butter sandwiches (at least until you start seeing some financial success). Second, you need to know about the best apps and programs for helping an entrepreneur get his or her business off the ground.
You need programs and/or apps for communication, organization, and managing your finances. Luckily, it’s all out there, and whenever it’s not free, at least it’s affordable. Here are the five best programs and applications for any entrepreneur who’s scrambling to find his or her footing in a frenzied time.
Evernote – Evernote is a free-to-download program that lets you save ideas, pictures, and sounds. It’s available across multiple smartphones, tablets, and computers, including PC, Mac, iOS, Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone. Evernote’s search function lets you find what you’re looking for without a hassle. Never forget a prospective client’s name ever again—unless you really want to, for whatever reason.
FlightTrack Pro – Available for iOS or Android, FlightTrack Pro is a must-have application for anyone who spends a considerable amount of time in the air. With the touch of a few buttons, you can look up your detailed flight information, including possible delays and gate numbers. FlightTrack Pro even informs you of cancellations and suggests alternative flights. If your flying experience turns into a scheduling nightmare, you’re going to want FlightTrack Pro by your side.
Skype – Free Skype-to-Skype phone calls with clients or other workers can save you a bundle in phone bills. More importantly, whenever you travel out of the country, Skype-to-Skype calls via smartphone apps will prevent you from having to give up your first born child in roaming fees.
Dimewise – Dimewise helps you manage your budget as simply as possible. You can record and categorize your purchases, then take a look at your spending habits with the aid of a handy pie-chart. Dimewise is web-based, so you can access it anywhere you can find a browser.
Trillian – Many companies conduct a great deal of business via IM (instant messaging) chats. Problem is, everyone has their favorite, and they’re often not cross-compatible. Fear not. Trillian lets you log into several of your favorite chat clients at once, saving you the agony of having to juggle multiple programs. Trillian supports AIM, Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, IRC, Google Chat, Facebook Chat, and much more. It can be downloaded as a desktop program, or as an app for iOS, Android, or Blackberry.
For more great suggestions on programs that every entrepreneur should have, visit:
Top 25 Apps to Grow Your Business at AvivaDirectory
10 Best Digital Tools for Entrepreneurs at Forbes
10 Must-Have Business Apps for 2011 at Entrepreneur.com