How to Create Your Own Apps

How to Create Your Own Apps

If it seems like everybody’s ten-year-old kid is making their own app these days—well, you’re right. From games to practical programs for that assist us in work and life, apps are fast becoming our primary problem-solvers. Apps can help us find directions, locate the closest retail outlet for our immediate needs, and calculate columns of numbers for those of us who are untalented in mathematics. There’s a reason why one of the iPhone’s taglines is “There’s an App for That.” But did you know that you can make your own app? It’s sinfully easy with the help of any of several programs that are designed for the task. There’s no need to understand and play with code. 

Here are five ways you can make your own app: 

App InventorFormerly known as Google’s App Inventor,  you can make apps for Android by dragging-and-dropping content via a graphical interface with this program. There’s no need to understand any programming languages. As of August 2011, Google discontinued its support of App Inventor, and the open-source code is now part of the MIT Center for Mobile Learning. It’s free to use, and the source code can be distributed freely. 

AppifierAppifier lets you turn your WordPress site into an app for free. You simply sign in with your name and a password, personalize your app as you see fit, and then publish it to the App Store via one of Appifier’s publishing packages. Appifier also offers suggestions on how you can monetize your app. 

Mobile Roadie – Mobile Roadie lets you build apps across a variety of platforms, including iOS, Android, and mobile web. There are various packages available across a wide range of pricing plans, and you can add and subtract features to customize your app (not to mention the final price tag) as necessary. It’s definitely a good choice for a business owner who needs a professional-looking option, power personal communicator or erstwhile social media celebrity.

Conduit MobileConduit Mobile emphasizes ease-of-use for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone app development. The app platform lets developers analyze, deploy, and maintain their app for free via one control panel. The Conduit Mobile website also features a line of in-depth tutorial videos. 

GameSaladAll work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. GameSalad lets you develop sophisticated iOS, Android, mobile, and tablet games with drag-and-drop technology—no coding required. GameSalad’s in-app preview player lets you bug-test your games thoroughly, and you can publish your work to mobile game stores, and/or GameSalad’s arcade. 

For more information on how to make your own apps, visit: 

How to Make Your Own App at Popular Mechanics

How to Build Your Own App for Free at CNET

Do It Yourself: Create Your Own Apps at PCMag.com

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Technology and Kids: When to Introduce High-Tech

Technology and Kids: When to Introduce High-Tech

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

The most recent report on media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds from the Kaiser Family Foundation, one of the most detailed looks at kids use of technology, shows that children are constantly using some form of device to consume media, often doing many at the same time. Whether it’s for TV watching, listening to music or playing games, tech is ingrained into the youngest generation’s  behavior – hence the reason we refer to them as Generation Tech. But although it seems obvious to many parents that different content is appropriate for different ages when they think about movies or music, many parents struggle with figuring when and how to introduce their kids to various technologies. So let’s take a high-level look at both the best new technology and kids’ high-tech habits, and when and how you can think about introducing screens into their lives.

As a holiday 2011 report revealed,  the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch were kids aged 6-12’s most-wanted gifts, just narrowly outranking computers and handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo 3DS. With more tots aged 2-5 able to play video games or downloadable apps than ride a bike or tie their shoelaces, knowing when to start your kids on different types of technology is one of the most important questions today’s digital parent must ask. Essentially, experts say, kids climb a continuum of media consumption.  It usually starts with gaming on a smartphone, which graduates to video game consoles. This leads to communicating with others, which eventually lead to iPods and then cell phones. Suddenly the whole world is at kids’ fingertips with the ability to connect to who and what they want when they want to.

That said, it’s not always easy to tell when it’s appropriate to bring technology into kids’ world. However, the following guidelines may help:

Technology and Kids: Preschoolers

While you may let your toddler fiddle with your smartphone to give yourself a bit of peace of quiet either in public or at home, there are options in terms of technology designed specifically for the pre-K set. From the V-Tech InnoTab to LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer and Oregon Scientific’s MEEP (all tablet PCs designed for tots), kid-friendly tech options start young and will often be among the first tech devices that children call their own.

While these devices have garnered many parenting and educational awards, be aware that, like video game consoles, each of these devices require you buy a specific type of cartridge, disc or app that’s designed only for the system to be able to play. And, of course, that although many will be billed as “educational” in nature, mileage may vary by system, app or cartridge. This is worth noting, as when looking for games and activities for young preschoolers to play on the computer, tablet or smart phone, we always advise looking for options that are easy-to-play and have some educational value. The best technology encourages interests in real-world subjects, and sparks interests in low-tech and outdoor complements to high-tech activity.

Remember: It’s one thing to introduce kids to tech – another entirely to encourage positive computing habits, and teach the importance of being able to pull away from the screen.

Early Elementary

As kids enter elementary school, many families will consider introducing a video game console to their household. For the past half dozen years, the Nintendo Wii has been a solid starter console, but the company’s upcoming Wii U, and popular motion controlled gaming accessories the PlayStation Move (for Sony’s PlayStation 3) and Microsoft’s Kinect (a 3D camera which makes your body the controller for Xbox 360) are all now solid choices.  No matter what a family chooses, we recommend disabling any of the online features for kids who are under 7.

Access to digital music players and toys with limited tech features (e.g. voice activated diaries or handheld educational systems) may also be introduced at this point in some households. Be careful what content you let your children consume (be sure to monitor for age appropriateness), and the manner in which they consume it. Setting time limits, off-hours and household rules governing the use of all devices is important as well, as is observing how kids interact with these devices, with whom, and to what extent.

Tweens

Before many kids make the leap to having their own phone, many have their own MP3 player or other device that can be connected to the Internet and used for texting, e-mails and music downloads, such as an iPod.  The important thing to remember here is that for devices which offer connections to the Internet, and you must stay aware of what your kids are doing, who they’re doing it with, and the way in which they choose to participate and interact in these activities.

Likewise, in terms of children who are gaming fans, by the time they enter third grade, kids will want to go online via services such as Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. Both services offer the ability to link your child’s account to an adult’s so you can manage what your children can and can’t do, as well as who they interact with. Kids may also have access to portable video game consoles like the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita at this point – all of which allow online access, the passing of virtual notes, socialization, etc.

So remember: No matter what devices they are using, kids in this age bracket are going to embrace instant messaging and chat if they can, as well as features which allow them to interact or play with other children, whether it’s via your WiFi connection or through the mobile wireless connection built into their device.  Make sure they’re always only talking to people they know, and enforce your device dark times and rules that you’ve had set and have followed as they’ve grown up.

Teens

Middle schoolers who play video games are now most likely drawn to games which don’t focus on educational aspects, but rather games that are on the cutting edge of graphics, and allow them to play against their friends on services like Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.  The ESRB even has a T for Teen rating for games that are a bit more sophisticated and deal with more serious themes, but still falls short of games that are M for Mature, which is reserved for kids 17 and up.  Talk to your kids about what games it’s okay for them to play, both at home and at their friends’ house.

Similarly, on the general consumer technology front, studies show that most kids receive their first mobile handset (read: feature phone) or smartphone between ages 12-13 (although we keep hearing stories of this age being pushed younger and younger).  What parents shouldn’t do, experts say, is buy kids a full-fledged smart phone at this point. Instead, buy them a basic cell phone with strong parental controls built-in, and set specific limits about its usage. Good options for managing consumption are MobileProtector, Firefly or Kajeet, but many kids will jump straight to an Android device or iPhone – for more tips on managing this type of tech, we recommend seeing additional guides here on-site, or downloading our free Modern Parent’s Guide high-tech parenting books.

Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans: A Buyer’s Guide

Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans: A Buyer’s Guide

Many of the best pre-paid cell phone plans come with no contracts, and are continuing to gain in popularity, with major cell phone carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T noting their first declines in contract-based plans in early 2012. Pre-paid plans are great for professionals, families and kids as they allow you to pay for the services you use and avoid for paying for extra features you don’t.  But there are hidden fees and technological limitations to many pre-paid plans, so here are several things to consider to know if prepaid is the way to go for you.

Advantages of pre-paid plans:

  • No chance of crazy overages.  You’re only on the hook for what you paid for, and after that you can’t exceed your limits.  If self-discipline is a problem for you or your kids,  pre-paid is a great way to ensure they don’t use more than they can.
  • No contracts on pre-paid plans ,make them a perfect option for short-term usage.  Whether you’re on an extended business trip, a vacation or are potentially between phones, pre-paid is the perfect solution if you only need a phone for a few weeks or months.
  • Prepaid phones also provide a good test of usage habits before locking into long term plan.  If you’re scared of making a commitment to a two-year contract because you just don’t know how much texting or calling you really want to do, prepaid can provide a nice test run as you settle on a more permanent option.

Disadvantage of pre-paid plans:

  • Hidden Fees can surprise you.  While you may think you’re getting a certain number of minutes for what you spent, carriers sometimes charge daily access fees that can quickly add up.
  • You can lose your minutes.  You paid for them, so you better hope you use them.  Without rollover solutions, you may end up paying for more minutes than you actually use.
  • Prepaid plans often only provide the most basic phones.  If you want the latest and coolest smartphones and gadgets, you’re likely out of luck if you are using prepaid plans.  Although there are some nice phones to be had that may seem a bit outdated but still powerful, they are not the top of the line versions.
  • No ability to transfer phone number after your prepaid service.  Prepaid numbers stay with the prepaid service, so if after a couple months you decide to switch to a plan with a two-year contract, you’ll likely need to get a new phone number.

If you’re interested in the different prepaid cell phone plans available, here’s an overview of some of the most popular:

Virgin Mobile – Plans start as low as $35 a month with unlimited data and messaging on all their offerings.  For more money, you can get more voice minutes. 

Cricket – Buy an inexpensive phone and pair it with their plan. Cricket also highlights their Muve Music library and includes downloads and music playback as a key feature of their service.

Metro PCS – Offering unlimited plans along with the ability to keep your number, offers plans by the minute, by the week or by the month, and can cost anywhere from around $40 to $70 per month.

Verizon Wireless – Offering $50 a month plans for basic phones and $80 a month plans for smartphones, Verizon is trying to capture pre-paid customers who are balking at two-year contracts.

US Cellular – US Cellular offers standard and prepaid plans, but is only available in certain parts of the country.  For only $10 per month, you can get a voice only plan, or upgrade to as much as $70 per month to get unlimited data and messaging.

AT&T GoPhone – With a ton of different pricing options, GoPhone lets you pay $50 for an unlimited plan, or a $2 daily rate that allows unlimited calls and texting only on the days you use it.