“SpeakaZoo” (iPhone/iPad only) lets children talk to cartoon animals, and they talk back. The free app has built-in speech recognition that works pretty well. It understood questions like “What’s your name?” and simple answers like yes or no. When we said “I like you,” the elephant said “I like you too Zookeeper.” Most of the animals are wistful. We hope the next version has happier creatures. Could be the zoo environment.
– In the next version of the Gmail app for phones, you can send an receive mail from Yahoo and Outlook as easily as you do Gmail; just tap on the icon for the other account. — ComiXchat is a free app for turning ordinary text messages into comic strips. Some have found it difficult to use. — Influenster is an iPhone/iPad app and website for consumer product reviews. It includes a barcode scanner so you can get an instant review when you scan a product on the shelves. Always be skeptical about any reviews; it’s difficult to know their origin.
“Trace & Draw” is a free app from Crayola for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Place a piece of paper over your screen and a drawing underneath shines through, allowing you to trace it. The opening screen tells you to buy a $20 Crayola clip to hold your paper, but that’s unnecessary. Besides this app, you can get lots of images to trace for free from Images.Google.com. Search on “black and white clip art.” Ordinary paper works fine if you turn up the brightness setting on your tablet.
Story Bug lets you share an ebook with a child from afar, while video chatting together on an iPad or iPhone. It’s free for the first two books, then $5 a month. Of course you could do this in Skype for free, but it’s kind of neat to be able to look down at a story page and in a corner of the screen there’s a small video chat window. The books are aimed at babies and on up to age 6. Nice illustrations.