Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back To School Apps

It's the most wonderful time of the year if you believe the Staples commercials - time to send those kids back to school!

Hi, it's Sheila. Did you know that more people than ever before are doing their research on their smartphones before they head out to the stores? We all love a bargain, and school shopping can be expensive. Laura Merritt of Verizon Wireless put together a list of helpful back to school apps, and I want to pass them along to you. These apps can help moms and dads with everything from buying new school shoes, to homework aids, to keeping track of your busy schedules. By the way, I didn't just take Verizon's word for it. I searched around on the web for the word from experts on some of these applications. (Best of all - MOST of them are free!)

Back-to-School Shopping
· Red Laser: This price comparison app allows the user to scan a barcode, or search by voice or image, and then compare prices between thousands of online and offline retailers. It shares prices from stores right down the road. Bonus: it can list out possible food allergens (peanuts, egg, gluten) if purchasing food for the classroom. Money Magazine calls it an essential app: "Before you even think about buying … RedLaser spits out the best prices available both online and in shops nearby."

· Amazon Price Check: This price comparison app allows the user to scan a barcode, snap a picture, or type or say an item name to check prices instantly on millions of Amazon products. Users can buy it directly from the app. Bonus: it lists out product reviews so you can see what others are saying before you commit to the purchase. experts gave Amazon's app a thumbs up for allowing you to SAY IT, SNAP IT, or SCAN IT into your smartphone.

Back-to-School Scheduling
· Cozi Family Organizer: This family organization tool allows a family to sync everyone's busy schedules into one. Users can keep calendars, shopping lists and to-do lists all in one place. Bonus: the app even lists family-friendly dinner ideas and allows you to store recipes. Rick Broida at CNET (which is a great site for product information) says he can't stop recommending this one. He likes that Cozi provides a to-do list, a shopping list, and even a family journal that can include both text and photos (a great way to chronicle a family vacation).

· Glympse: This location-sharing app allows users to share where they are traveling with a specific person for a specific length of time. For example, a parent can send a Glympse to his/her teenager who is waiting to be picked up after football practice. The child can follow his parent's location on his smartphone. Bonus: Anyone with an Internet-enabled phone or computer can receive a Glympse. I checked CNET again for this one, and it calls Glympse clean and refreshingly simple, but included a warning too : "One thing users should know is that Glympse eats battery life voraciously. But considering it continuously transmits real-time information."

Back-to-School Homework Apps and Phone Management
· Quizard Flashcard: This one costs $2.99. It's a flashcard simulator app which allows users to create their own flashcards or download them from Quizlet, Study Stack or Flashcard Exchange online. Bonus: For those who don't want to spend $3, the developer offers a free version called Quizard Flashcard Lite. In reading some of the user reviews, I noticed that most felt it was worth it to pay the 3 bucks to be able to do more with the app.

I also found a boatload of homework help apps when I searched on Common Sense Media's website. Kids can travel the world on Google Earth with a touch of the finger, look up information like we adults used to in our encyclopedias with the Britannica Kids app, and even get help studying the Bard with the Shakespeare in Bits app. Find an app to fit your kid at

· Verizon also sells a Usage Controls app for $4.99, and most wireless carriers offer similar services. It's something to think about as your kids head back to school and need to get to sleep at reasonable hour. Usage control services allow parents to limit cell phone use during school hours or set a curfew on late-night texting. Verizon's boasts that it also allows you to identify numbers your family members can always contact in case of an emergency, regardless of any restrictions you've set up. Bonus: it allows you to set a monthly dollar limit on your family member's purchases for content downloads like ringtones, ringback tones and music. You can check with your individual carrier for similar services.

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