With well over 500,000 apps in the App Store, finding top quality apps is like finding a needle in a haystack. Free and paid apps with similar functionalities are competing for your download, but just how do you know that the app is any good? $0.99 may not sound like a lot but those ninety-nine cent apps add up fast. Prices on educational and HD (iPad) apps can go even higher.
So what should you look for before buying an app, educational or otherwise?
For learning apps, look for:
Multiple Levels of Difficulty
Educational apps that contains various levels are an excellent value. Families with multiple children can appreciate each child playing at their own level. These apps have high replay value as the app grows with the kids. Try: Jungle Time
Rewards & Achievements
Children love being rewarded for a job well done. Learning apps should let the kids have some fun along the way and unlock special levels/rewards when they’ve mastered a level. Try: Math Bingo
Look for apps that track and detail your child’s progression and achievements. This way, you can further work on areas that require improvement and celebrate successes together. Try: i Learn With Boing: Ice Land Adventures! HD
Apps like Smurfs’ Village were getting a bad rap as kids were buying up smurfberries by the loadful unbeknownst to their parents. High quality learning apps should not contain in-app purchases that interferes with the game. This should only be an option only accessible to parents through the settings and not be seen by the kids. Read the app description carefully to see whether there are in-app purchases.
For learning and other apps, also look for:
Date of Last Update
Frequent updates means the developer is hard at work and committed to making the app better and fixing bugs along the way. Believe it or not, I’ve seen apps where the last update was in 2009 (a long time in the tech world).
Conduct a search and see what bloggers and tech enthusiasts are saying. Read what others wrote in the review section of the app page but as with all reviews, be wary that some may be biased (good or bad).
Check the app ratings, but tread lightly. This is a numbers game. An app showing 5 stars from 3 ratings won’t sell me as fast as one with 4.0+ stars from over 50,000 ratings (Plants vs Zombies case in point).
Each week, Apple and Google publish their list of the top selling apps. This is often a good starting point.
Developers may have promo videos on YouTube that serves as an intro to the app. Video app reviews are also helpful as the reviewer walks through the app, screen by screen. This gives you a good idea what to expect.
This is like going to Costco on a Saturday. Try the freebies and if you like it, you’ll probably buy it. Lite versions are free to download but only have limited levels. Great way to test drive an app before purchasing.
These apps are compatible with the iPad only and are considerably more expensive than their universal (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) counterpart but as much as I complain about the price, the resolution is fantastic and the app often contains additional content. The universal verion can expand to the full size screen when you press the x2 button, but you end up looking at a double pixelated screen which just can’t be that good on the eyes.
Don’t judge an app by price alone. Free apps are often supported by pop up ads, some of which may not be appropriate for children. Frustration also sets in when kids keep getting interrupted with ads when all they want to do is play. Check if a premium (ad-free) version is available.
Word of Mouth
Ask around. Find out from other parents what apps their kids enjoy playing.