Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Interactive safari adventure book for kids comes to iPhone and iPad

icon-512x512Lions, elephants, crocodiles, ostriches and all the animals of Africa can be found in ‘The Exceptional African Adventure’. Readers can fly to Kenya or Botswana and discover all manner of creatures and environments, as they visit lakes, rivers, plains, jungles and deserts on an amazing African safari.

The Exceptional African Expedition’s interactive style engages children whilst they are reading, allowing them to touch and interact with objects and characters that provide rich visual and aural feedback to the reader, including story-driven animation. The illustration style of The Exceptional African Expedition is also particularly appealing to young children.

In The Exceptional African Expedition, the reader can get involved in the story by making decisions about which direction the story should take. This type of interaction allows the reader to feel more involved in the flow of the story.

Features:
* Explore over 10 different locations in two African countries, Kenya and Botswana.
* Discover and collect 12 African fact cards hidden throughout the pages of the book.
* A fully animated and interactive environment for kids.
* Touch and interact with different items and characters during the story.
* At certain points in the book, the reader choose the direction the story takes!
* Readers can read the book themselves, with a parent, or have it read to them.
* Designed for children ages 4 and up.

The Exceptional African Expedition, as with the other books in the MiBooks brand, allows the reader to read the book themselves, with a parent, or have it read to them with the aid of voiceover audio. This is perfect for some younger readers, who aren’t yet ready to read the book themselves but still want to enjoy the adventure and fun of The Exceptional African Expedition.

Device Requirements:
* iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini and iPod touch
* Requires iOS 4.3 or later
* 45.2 MB

Pricing and Availability:
The Exceptional African Expedition is $2.99 AUD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Books category.

 

Goal! The Unlikely Substitute strikes its way onto the App Store

As you and your family head to the stadium on the day of the football cup final, could an injury to a star player lead to an odd and unlikely new player to take to the field, with a chance of becoming a hero? Choose your team, your colours and the direction the story takes as you try to help your team achieve fame and cup glory!

The Unlikely Substitute’s interactive style engages children whilst they are reading, allowing them to touch and interact with objects and characters that provide rich visual and aural feedback to the reader, including story-driven animation. The illustration style of The Unlikely Substitute is also particularly appealing to young children.

In The Unlikely Substitute, the reader can get involved in the story by making decisions about which direction the story should take. This type of interaction allows the reader to feel more involved in the flow of the story.

The Unlikely Substitute, as with the other books in the MiBooks brand, allows the reader to read the book themselves, with a parent, or have it read to them with the aid of voiceover audio. This is perfect for some younger readers, who aren’t yet ready to read the book themselves but still want to enjoy the adventure and fun of The Unlikely Substitute.

Features:
* Explore different locations in and around the stadium
* Choose your own team name and team colours at the start of the book
* A fully animated and interactive environment for kids
* Touch and interact with different items and characters during the story
* At certain points in the book, YOU choose the direction the story takes!
* Read the book yourself, with a parent, or have it read to you
* Designed for children ages 4 and up

Device Requirements:
* iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini and iPod touch
* Requires iOS 4.3 or later
* 60 MB

Pricing and Availability:
The Unlikely Substitute is $2.99 AUD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Books category.

 

Ho ho ho! Santa and his elves come to the iPhone and iPad

It’s the night before Christmas and Santa’s head elf Simon makes a startling discovery – the pages of Santa’s christmas list have all been muddled up! Join Simon, Santa and all the elves as they fly around the world to ensure everyone gets the right presents on Christmas morning.

Santa and the Christmas List Muddle’s interactive style engages children whilst they are reading, allowing them to touch and interact with objects and characters that provide rich visual and aural feedback to the reader, including story-driven animation. The illustration style of Santa and the Christmas List Muddle is also particularly appealing to young children.

In Santa and the Christmas List Muddle, the reader can get involved in the story by making decisions about which direction the story should take. This type of interaction allows the reader to feel more involved in the flow of the story.

Santa and the Christmas List Muddle, as with the other books in the MiBooks brand, allows the reader to read the book themselves, with a parent, or have it read to them with the aid of voiceover audio. This is perfect for some younger readers, who aren’t yet ready to read the book themselves but still want to enjoy the adventure and fun of Santa and the Christmas List Muddle.

Santa and the Christmas List Muddle also features two fun mini-games during the book, allowing the reader to be immersed in the storyline and take part in helping Simon and Santa get all the people of the world the right presents.

Features:
* Explore over 10 different locations at the North Pole and around the world!
* A fully animated and interactive environment for kids
* Touch and interact with different items during the story
* Complete two mini-games to help Simon and Santa on their quest
* At certain points in the book, YOU get to choose the direction the story takes
* Read the book yourself, with a parent, or have it read to you
* Designed for children ages 4 and up

Device Requirements:
* iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini and iPod touch
* Requires iOS 4.3 or later
* 42 MB

Pricing and Availability:
Santa and the Christmas List Muddle is $2.99 AUD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Books category.

 

Position available at HDG

Junior Graphic and Data developer

This casual position offers the chance to work in the exciting field of mobile app development! Hamson Design Group is a Melbourne-based design and development company that produce interactive, illustrated children’s books for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch – through the MiBooks brand.

The role will involve the dissection and input of illustrated graphics into a pre-developed framework (in the JavaScript language). The role will suit someone with good communication skills, who is comfortable working in the Adobe Creative Suite of products, as well as having a good working knowledge of JavaScript, XML and general programming fundamentals.

Having access to, and being able to work in, the Mac OS X operating system is a requirement.

Requirements:

  • Good, working knowledge of JavaScript, XML and programming principles
  • Comfortable with the basics of, and has access to, a version of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop (CS3 and above)
  • Good knowledge of how to use, and has access to, a Mac computer (with OS X Lion 10.7.4 or above)
  • Good communication skills


Enquiries and CVs can be sent to contactus@hamson.com.au.

Content vs Interaction

One of the most common questions that we’re asked, or comes up during planning sessions for kid-based apps, is which is more important to the overall product – content or interaction. For example, in the case of a storybook app, is the story of the book itself more important than the illustrations and animations. Well, it’s actually a more complicated question than just ‘which is more important?’

In an ideal world, a kid-based app should be fulfilling both sides of the equation. That is, it should be both content and interaction-rich. But with a kid-based app that is aimed at younger children (say 2-4 years old), it would be fair to say that the illustrations and animations (the interactions) are of more importance to the child.

Let me explain – if we go back to our storybook example, with younger children the story itself is primarily there for the purposes of the parent, who is the one that sits down with the child and reads the book with them. Usually the story is simple and easy to follow, with a straightforward premise, so that the young child can follow along. The interactions and animations, however, are there to be entertaining and fulfilling for the child, and being able to touch objects on a tablet screen is something that a young child can achieve easily and receive instant feedback from. When we’ve been testing some of our own kid-based apps with younger children, it is almost always the animations and sounds that are of most interest to the child, with the story itself taking a back seat.

For older children (say 5-8 years old), the balance starts to shift. Content very much becomes more of a focus, given their more advanced minds and reading abilities, and their desire for the story to be one they can connect with, follow and understand. If the story is one that doesn’t relate to them, or is too easy or too difficult for their age-group, then they will lose interest quickly, and the quality of the interaction won’t be enough to bring them back.

Now, that’s not to say that interaction suddenly becomes less important with older children, but simply that the balance has shifted from interaction being the priority to it being in more of an equilibrium between content and interaction. So, therefore, the key with kid-based apps is to always consider the age group you are targeting – because that will give you a good starting point on whether content, interaction or a solid combination of both are of most importance to your project.

When is in-app advertising ok?

A popular sports-app provider this week (we won’t name who) released a new version of their app in readiness for the upcoming football season in Australia. In previous years, this app and its associated website have been one of the more popular among sports fans Australia-wide. However, in less than 7 days, this app has earned them a substantial amount of negative reaction and press. Why?

Well, it all comes down to the idea of advertising. The app provider in this case is charging $2.99 for the app on both the Apple App Store and Android Market, which in terms of sports apps is quite a high amount. But the sticking point is that the app, even though it is a paid app, still contains a considerable amount of advertising. Now, for free apps, it’s easy to understand why there may be advertising in the app. The fact that the app developer is taking no revenue for each sale of the app means that they have to offset that loss by making earnings from advertising revenue. And, more often than not for a free app, users are quite understanding of that, and are prepared to suffer the tradeoff of advertising for a free app.

So, how could this company have approached the idea of in-app advertising differently?

  1. Offer a free app with less features and a few ads, as well as a full feature paid/premium app with no ads, and allow the user to choose which app they want
    This is the approach that many companies take. If you offer a free app, which the user can simply download with no hassles from the App Store or Android Market, then it gives the user the opportunity to try it out first before purchasing the premium app. That way, if they like the free app, but want the fully featured app without any ads, they can simply upgrade for $2.99. The app is still earning advertising revenue from everyone who uses the free app, and you are also earning sales revenue from those who want to upgrade to the premium version.
  2. Offer the paid app for $2.99 without ads
    The idea of advertising in apps is that it is there to offset the loss you are taking by offering an app for free. If you are charging for an app, you are essentially saying that this is the amount we think is right to charge, and the amount that will allow us to be profitable from the app. The only form of advertising that should even be considered in a paid app is cross-promotional advertising for other apps by the same developer, and even then it should be unobtrusive and in no way ‘in your face’.
  3. Offer the paid app for $3.99 instead
    Instead of trying to make up a piece of the app revenue pie with advertising, just make the app slightly more expensive. Users are going to be far happier to pay the extra dollar for the app without advertising, than they would be to put up with advertising in a paid app.
  4. Offer the app for free with advertising
    The fact remains that where there are two similar apps, and one of the two is offered for free, that the free app is going to garner a substantially larger amount of downloads than the paid one. Therefore, if the developer in question is so keen on having advertising in the app, offer the app for free. Why? Because by offering the app for free it will be downloaded more, and your advertising in the app will reap more impressions, more clicks and more revenue, possibly offsetting the loss taken by offering the app for free.

As you can see, there is no point 5 to the above list. No ‘paid app plus advertising’ option to choose. And that’s why the app in question, in less than 7 days, has been rated 52 times on the App Store, with 39 of those ratings being 2 stars or below. And we won’t even start on what the feedback on the app looks like…

The importance of an ‘app’ press release

One of the most crucial stages, in our opinion, when it comes to promoting your new app or software is the writing of a press release. Commonly the job of a public relations or marketing expert, the press release is, in essence, simply a pro-forma article with details of the app, its features, a few quotes from you or your customers, some links to media files members of the press can use and contact details for you or your media officer. Typically for small businesses however, you’re not going to have a PR person or marketing specialist on staff. That’s not to say that issuing a press release is therefore out of reach – it isn’t. In fact, there are a few services and steps that app and software developers can take advantage of that make writing and issuing a press release relatively simple.

The first step is to write up your press release and issue it to a PR distribution channel. This is surprisingly the easiest step in getting your press release out there. Our first port of call when releasing our own apps is prmac.com. PrMac is a free service for app and OS X developers that will distribute your press release to over 700 media outlets free of charge. They also offer a bunch of paid services, like video releases and press release writing. PrMac work on a 3 day turnaround from submission to publication, so if you know when you’re going to be launching your app, make sure you’re on top of your press release a few days before your app is launched.

From here, your press release will begin to get distributed to those media outlets, listed on the prMac section pages and also indexed and spidered by search engines, news aggregators and the like. This means that your press release is now in the ether, and from here it’s like you’ve laid your net in the water and you’re waiting for the fish to swim inside.

Now, that isn’t to say your job is done and you can just sit back and wait. Distributing the press release through a service like prMac is fine, but you need to target it more specifically as well. For instance, if your app is aimed at kids, then send the release to local and national kids magazines, the kids section in your local newspaper, kid-specific app review website, and kids blogs. Usually, most local and national newspapers, through their website, have a press release or newswire contact that you can send your press release to. This may not result in your story being picked up, but there is no harm in trying.

If you’re releasing an app for iOS, keep in mind that for each version of the app you release you have 50 promo codes you can send out to press, bloggers and reviewers so they can download and test your app without having to pay for it. This can be a useful addendum to your press release, and may be the difference between the person you’ve sent it to to deleting the email or downloading the app and trying it out.

The other positive about writing a press release is that it makes you think about exactly what it is your app does differently or better than the competition, as well as what the most crucial and important features are. This can come in handy when answering calls or emails from interested press outlets, websites or bloggers. It can also be useful in putting together a promotional website for your app, as your screenshots and feature lists are already ‘ready to go’.

So, when you’re in the final stages of testing and distributing your app or software, make sure you remember to take the time to sit down, draft, write and publish a press release, as it is a crucial piece of the promotional jigsaw.

Can tablets be a laptop or PC ‘replacement’?

Source: blog.nothingbutsoftware.com

A few weeks back, we bemoaned the slow or non-existent pace at which tablets (such as the iPad or Galaxy Tab) were making their way into classrooms around the world. We’re big proponents of tablet use in educational settings, and as we pointed out, one tablet device for a child could replace all their textbooks, their calculator, and even the need to have a netbook (which many schools, particularly in Australia, already utilise).

But what about outside of education? In the business sector, iPads and other tablet devices are slowly making their presence felt. In an article published today by itnews.com.au, IT and business professionals in Australia are only using tablets conservatively, and persisting with the use of laptops as their primary technological tool to get them through each day. Other countries seem to be leaps and bounds ahead on this front, and rightly so, as the business potential of tablet devices is enormous. In our own office, we use our iPads to check mail, crunch visitor and app download statistics, manage our social media presence and much more. More and more each day, we’re finding that our laptops are being pushed out of the way in favour of the more portable and practical tablet option.

For many, thought, that’s simply not an option. With our programmers, they simply cannot ‘code’ using a tablet, as the screen doesn’t provide enough ‘real estate’, the keyboard is impractical for long sessions of typing, and more often than not the underlying OS of the tablet isn’t powerful enough, both in speed and processing capacity, for their requirements.

But while business may not be leaning toward full tablet integration, in the home you can see the obvious potential. In a few years, the netbook is most likely going to be a thing of the past, due to the fact that its main purpose (being a low cost tool for accessing the Internet) can easily be achieved with a more comfortable, intuitive and portable tablet. More and more, my own laptop barely gets used over a weekend or at night after work hours; I’m checking my Twitter, sharing on Facebook, viewing videos, streaming television shows, composing emails and checking sports scores all from my iPad.

So, can tablets replace the laptop? Well, yes and no. As demonstrated in Samsung’s promotional advertisement for their Galaxy Tab, the direction of tablet computing is multi faceted; useful for education, in business and in the home. Tablets can definitely replace the need for laptops or PCs at home, but the sticking point is going to be the practicality and power of the tablet in a business environment, particularly in professional or IT based businesses. For that, tablet computing is just not quite there – yet!

In-app purchasing and kids

Source: iphonegametutorials.com

One issue that seems to be cropping up all over the web is the issue of in-app purchasing (let’s call it IAP for brevity’s sake) in apps aimed and marketed at children. For those who don’t know, IAP is a system in iOS that allows a user to purchase small add-ons for an app without leaving the confines of the app itself. Those add-ons may be a bonus level in a game, a new section in a news app, or a new inventory item in an adventure game. In my case, I make use of IAP for purchasing new editions of my favourite magazines through Newsstand on my iPad.

The issue is in the way that the IAP system is setup and operates currently. At the moment, when you want to make an in-app purchase, iOS asks you for your password, you enter it in, touch the OK button, and the purchase is processed. Pretty simple, right? Well, yes, it is – and that is also it’s main drawback. It’s too simple. After you enter your password to make a purchase through the App Store or an in-app purchase, your iPhone or iPad won’t ask you to re-enter your password for any other purchases you make in the next 15 minutes. The problem here is that if you have purchased an app for your kids to use, and then handed them your device, they have 15 minutes in which to ‘go nuts’ (and it’s well documented that they will).

Now, there are ways to stop this from happening. In the General section of the Settings on your iPhone or iPad, you can setup ‘Restrictions’ so that apps can’t be downloaded, deleted and purchased by a child with ‘fast fingers’, and you can also make your device ask you for your password every time you make a purchase, bypassing the 15 minute standard. But there are drawbacks to this way of thinking:

  1. Having to go into the Settings and enabling restrictions each time your kids want to play with your phone or tablet, and then turning them back off when you finally get your device back, is a huge hassle. And who’s to say you’re going to remember to do it every time!
  2. For a large majority of iPhone and iPad users, if you told them about the ‘restriction control’ aspect of their device, they probably would have no idea how to activate it. Even Robert Scoble, a well renowned tech journalist, couldn’t easily find where these controls were!

So, what’s the solution? Well, putting aside any ethical issues of having IAP in kids apps (as explored by Comedy Central’s The Daily Show late last year), there should be a rethink on just how to restrict kids’ use of certain aspects of the iOS system. A password-controlled ‘quick change’ multi-user system would be a great step forward, where parents could set their kids up with a separate account on their device that only shows the apps they are allowed to access, and has all purchasing rights disabled unless a password is entered by the parent. This option could sit up in the Notifications drawer, making it simple and easy for parents to switch between users. The added bonus is:

  1. The parent could have a home screen on their device that isn’t cluttered up by storybook, fingerpainting and Dr Seuss apps. This would be both great for their use of the device, and make it impossible for them to forget to switch to their kids account when handing the device over to their child – as the apps the child wants to play with will only visible in their own account.
  2. Their kids would have no ability to make phone calls, send messages, delete apps, download apps, make IAPs, change settings and generally cause havoc.

So, hopefully, in the next iteration of iOS there is a rethink on the merits of the current parental controls and restrictions system. Whether Apple adopt a multi-user approach, or simply improve on the existing ‘Restrictions’ idea, something needs to happen. Because as it stands, and with more and more young children being exposed to smartphones and tablet devices, it’s far from ideal.

Update: If your smartphone is Android powered, we recommend you give the Famigo Sandbox a try. It’s a free tool that allows you to block ads, purchases, certain apps, messaging and more. Find it at www.famigo.com/sandbox/

When will education make the ‘tablet’ jump?

Image: seriousgamesmarket.blogspot.com

Tablet devices and tablet PCs, such as Apple’s iPad, Motorola’s XOOM and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, are currently at the forefront of the digital landscape. Regardless of the OS these devices run on, they can all play games, read eBooks, run apps, read the news, browse the internet and check the weather for you.

But after finishing reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs, one thought came to mind that had also struck Jobs late in his life – why is it that the education industry has been largely unaffected by the changes in the digital landscape? Jobs pointed out that in the 21st century, why is it that student’s still have to carry a backpack to and from school containing 3 or 4 heavy textbooks? Firstly, it’s not good for a young person’s back to be carrying that sort of weight around. And secondly, when we have these new tablet devices so readily available, why is it that educational materials haven’t made the seemingly obvious electronic switch?

How much simpler would it be if every student at school simply had an iPad, Galaxy Tab or XOOM that contained their text books, reading material, study novels, calculator and research materials. That way the load on student’s backs is drastically reduced, by the fact all they need to carry around is a tablet that weighs less than 1kg, and educational materials can suddenly be much more engaging and tailored to the student by taking advantage of the interactive strengths of a tablet. Plus, the cost of the text books could be drastically reduced, meaning the financial burden on parents of putting their kids through school is also reduced. Yes, there is the up-front cost of the tablet itself, but this would easily be offset inside a year by savings on text books and other learning materials or by having a loan-style arrangement between students, the schools, and the tablet manufacturers.

Having developed apps for iPad, such as the Ultimate A-League app and some of our MiBooks books, it’s easy to see from our standpoint the advantages of moving education in this direction. Personally, if I was in school today, I’d much prefer to be in an English class reading Shakespeare from an iPad or in a Maths class running through demonstrations and calculations on a XOOM, than I would be lugging around half a library on my back. With the direction technology is moving in, it makes good sense – and hopefully is just a matter of time before education and technology really meet head on.

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Email: contactus [at] hamson.com.au

Twitter: @hamsondesign

Phone: +61 4 15 338 004

Fax: +61 3 8672 0428

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