Sunday, 04 January 2015 13:08
|Source: Kindle Fire HDX 7" Tablet on Amazon
Another bargain from Amazon made it to our paradise island. This time I went on the hunt for tablet for our children. Even though I already use a variety of tablets - both iOS- and Android-based - for professional reasons I was looking for a more secure solution for children than what is possible with the default systems. Whether you are using an iPad or a stock Android or a Samsung enhanced UI tablet they somehow always fall short in terms of profile management for multiple users, there is lack of safety measures for children, and it surely leaves a gut feeling with the adults when the kids are using "their" device.
Some months back I ran into the unpleasant situation that one of our children did an unwanted purchase on the Play Store. Fortunately for me, Google changed their refund policies recently and I was granted a refund. Grateful, it happened only once and just a minor amount. Due to this incident I did a research on several "child-friendly parachutes" for Android. None of them really convinced and so I put it aside...
Then came Amazon and only by chance while browsing some products in their Kindle department I came across their special offers for the Kindle Fire HDX tablet(s). Reading through the family features on the device combined with the additional cloud options it became obvious that the Kindle Fire would be wonderful solution.
Here are some of the key factors - taken from Amazon product page - that mattered most for us:
Profiles so you can share your tablet
Kindle Fire HDX (OS 4) lets each family member create their own profile, including individual home screens, email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, bookmarks, and game levels—making it easy for a family to share a tablet and give everyone a personalized experience, rather than buying multiple devices.
Set Screen Limits
Many parents choose to limit their kids' screen time, but doing so without the proper tools is difficult. With Kindle FreeTime, parents can set daily limits for tablet use, or restrict certain categories—like games and video—while leaving unlimited time for reading.
Perfect for Parents...
Kindle FreeTime is built from the ground up to help give parents peace of mind when it comes to tablet use. Parents can create a profile for each of their children and choose what books, apps, games, and videos they want to give their kids access to. Kindle FreeTime is free on every new Kindle Fire.
...And Perfect for Kids
When kids use Kindle FreeTime, it's like they have their very own personalized tablet. The background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design, they only see the titles that they have access to see, the home screen carousel shows their recently viewed titles, and they can even navigate visually to content based on characters or topics—for example "Cinderella," "Dinosaurs," or "Puppies."
Just the combination that we were looking for.
Profile creation and protection
The Fire OS 4 used in the Kindle Fire HDX allows to setup a family with 2 adults and up to 4 children. Being used to the Amazon Store App on my other devices and already owning a small library of Android apps as well as a collection of (children) books the Kindle Fire would be the right selection for our household. Actually, our toughest decision was whether we should take a rugged version or stick to the Origami cover...
Tough decision between the Fire HD Kids Edition (left) and the Fire HDX with Origami Cover (right)...
In general, I would suggest that someone might opt for the Fire HD Kids Edition depending on the age your child(ren) of course. But honestly I have to admit that the technical geek in me won the decision battle and we purchased the regular HDX with higher display resolution. Although the offer with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee sounds amazing.
Well, personal preference...
This is pretty much a standard procedure. Our device(s) came almost fully charged and therefore it was about the first log in with the credentials of an adult Amazon account holder. Following the various steps took me less than 10 minutes and the device was operational. Of course, first things first... Check for updates! And yes there is a newer minor version of Fire OS available. Some bugfixes but also some new and enhanced features compared to the currently installed version.
Next, it's about going into the Settings menu and there you get access to Profiles & Family Library. That's the place to go to... I quickly added two child profiles and made my choices regarding allowed content for their particular age. It's easy to provide different books, apps, games, videos and settings for each individual profile. And more interesting you are able to set daily goals but also set time limits and usage constraints. Optionally you can give profile passwords or even hide profiles completely on the device - nice feature to keep the kids restricted to a) their profile and b) their device.
Overall I have to say that Amazon's Fire OS experience is more complete and polished than any children-safety app that I have tested since now.
Content and battery lifetime
The children got their tablets as present from Santa Claus... And of course, he is very gentle person he already pre-loaded a good number of apps from the Amazon App Store. I'm not quite sure but it seems that each app is downloaded for each profile. Leading to duplicate downloads and higher storage requirements. But I'm not sure about that yet. The Kindle Fire HDX is completely isolated within the Amazon realm, and you don't have access to Google's Play Store or any other sources - which might be good or might be bad depending on how you would like to see it. Personally, I don't miss the access to the Play Store and again it gives me more peace of mind knowing that the kids cannot download and install any inappropriate software.
Regarding battery lifetime it seems that the tablet has enough "juice" for their daily allowance without the need to charge it in-between. Well, I have to admit that I didn't load any movies yet on the device. But up till now, the kids are happy with their playtime using games, drawing apps, reading children books or listening to music.
The Kindle Fire HDX is "only" equipped with a front-facing 720p HD camera. Which is perfect for Skype conversations among each other, or family members, or friends outside our immediate vicinity. And of course "selfies"... Hm, our little artists discovered this drawback during the first evening and were not quite happy about that. As we didn't comment on this they found a solution on their own: Turn the tablet and hold in front of the belly to shoot photos. Simply but effective.
Even after this short period of less than two weeks I'd say that we made the right decision with the purchase of the Kindle Fire HDX and the Origami cover. The children are pleased with their toys, and we as parents can relax - they don't ask anymore for our devices and we feel secure that they won't do any unwanted purchases.
Feel free to leave me a note (or two) in the comment section below. Thanks!
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 20:09
Handing over your Droid to one of your children might be an option to entertain them but be aware that one of the highest revenue is generated by advertisement, app and in-app purchases. Sometimes, this might be kind of surprising for you to discover that your credit card has been charged. You should keep an eye on the payment settings on your device, too.
Lately, we were joking about this on some social media network, and we heard about some expensive adventures from our friends...
Check your credit card statements regularly
If you don't... Well, eventually you might find some "unknown" transactions on your credit card statement. I already had this pleasure thanks to my little engineers (read: cutie monsters). Yesterday night I went to check the balance and transactions of last month and was kind of surprised to see this:
Check your credit card statements regularly for unknown transactions. Specifically those ones prefixed by "Google *". It might be surprising...
Yup, clearly a transaction I'm 100% sure that it wasn't done by myself.
Let's do a quick root cause analysis
Finding the source of this issue was quite easy. I started with a search on Google using the keyword presented on the account statement: 7Druids. Skimming the results brought me directly into the Play Store, and I was presented with quite a number of apps for children and some for grown-ups, too.
7Druids GmbH has a selection of apps for children and adults.
Following the breadcrumbs I found out which app might have been the root cause. Turns out someone likes to paint on Android...
Well, children usually like Kids Play Puzzle Paint. The app seems to be available for free but in-app purchases not.
But at least in our house-hold one question remained open: One which device did it happen?
Even though the app has been installed already, you can still again on the Installed button and you will be presented with a drop-down selection of compatible devices. But most interestingly, you will also get the information on which smartphone or tablet the app has been installed already.
Finding out on which device the app has been installed is visible in the drop down selection.
Aha, there we go... Not my one! I guess, I have to have a word with my BWE. Anyway, let's see how we can avoid this kind of unattended in-app purchase.
How to prevent accidental purchases?
Actually, it's very simple to improve the situation on your device. In case that you have multiple devices running on the same Google account, you have to go through the steps on every smartphone or tablet in order to maximise protection.
- Go into the Settings of the Play Store app,
- Check the User Controls section, and
- Adjust the setting of Require password for purchase.
By default it's configured as Never.
Change it to one of the other available options, confirm the change with your Google account password and you're done.
BTW, this is official procedure from the Help section of the Google Play Store: Use password protection for purchases
Yes, there are additional options you might take into consideration, like not providing any credit card at all in Google Wallet. In my case, I'm actually using a dedicated credit card which I more or less use for online expenses exclusively. Furthermore, the credit limit on that particular card is very low. In case of the inevitable event the damage won't be too high after all.
Did you already have this kind of experience?
Do you have any additional tipps and tricks dealing with this kind of situation?
Leave a comment...
Google sent out a mandatory email service announcement regarding improved services:
Dear Google Play customer,
We strive to provide you with the best experience possible across all of our products and services. We take pride in giving you the tools to use Google Play the way you want, including the ability to control how you authorize the purchases on your account.
We understand some parents might have been charged for in-app purchases made by young children who did not have permission to make those purchases. As a result, we’ve added tools to help parents avoid unauthorized in-app purchases by their young children. We are also offering refunds in certain cases in line with our agreement with the FTC.
Our records show that your account was previously charged for in-app purchases. If any of those charges were the result of unauthorized purchases by a minor between March 1, 2011, and November 18, 2014, and you haven’t already received a refund for those charges, you might be eligible for a refund.
In order to make the refund process as easy and quick as possible, we encourage you to use the link below.
To submit a refund request:
- Use this link to sign into your Google account and review your in-app purchase history.
- Select any in-app purchases that were unauthorized purchases made by a minor and click "Refund."
- Provide the requested information for any in-app purchases selected and click "Submit."
Google will review your request and contact you via email about your refund status or if we have any additional questions. All refund requests must be submitted no later than December 2, 2015.
If you have any questions or need further assistance with your refund request, please refer to this FAQ.
You can learn more about in-app purchases and parental controls in Google Play on our Help Center.
The Google Play Team
Request of refunds for unauthorised in-app purchases
As written by Google the link to request for refunds will navigate you to an overview in the Play Store. Unsurprisingly, the above analysed scenario is listed on top of my potential refunds.
This page can be used to request refunds for unauthorised in-app purchases in compliance with Google's agreement with the FTC.
Next, you have to provide your name and contact details in case that Google has to issue a cheque if a refund to the original payment option is not possible anymore.
Enter your legal name and the postal address where refund cheques should be sent in the event that we cannot credit your original form of payment.
Of course, I requested a refund for this purchase... Let's see what's going to happen. I'm going to update this article accordingly.
Saturday, 16 August 2014 22:39
Once again, it was a tweet that caught my attention... and the official description on the Play Store sounds good, too.
"In Monument Valley you will manipulate impossible architecture and guide a silent princess through a stunningly beautiful world. Monument Valley is a surreal exploration through fantastical architecture and impossible geometry. Guide the silent princess Ida through mysterious monuments, uncovering hidden paths, unfolding optical illusions and outsmarting the enigmatic Crow People."
So, let's check it out.
What an interesting puzzle game
Once again, I left some review on the Play Store:
"Beautiful but short distraction
Woohoo, what a great story behind the game. Using optical illusions and impossible geometries in this fantastic adventure of the silent princess just puts all the pieces perfectly together.
Walking the amazing paths in the various levels and solving the riddles gives some decent hours of distraction but in the end you might have the urge to do more..."
I can't remember exactly when and who tweeted about the game but honestly it caught my attention based on the simplicity of the design and the aspect that it seems to be an isometric design. The game relies heavily on optical illusions in order to guide to the silent princess Ida through her illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness.
The game is set like a clockwork and you are turning, flipping and switching elements on the paths between the doors. Unfortunately, there aren't many levels and the game play lasted only some hours. Maybe there are more astonishing looking realms and interesting gimmicks in future versions.
Play Store: Monument Valley
Also, check out the latest game updates on the official web site of ustwo
BTW, the game is also available on the Apple App Store and on Amazon Store for the Kindle Fire.
Tuesday, 08 April 2014 14:16
Luckily I came across this title at a very early stage. If I remember correctly, I took notice of God of Light on Twitter right on the weekend it has been published on the Play Store.
"Sit back and become immersed into the world of God of Light, the game that rethinks the physics puzzle genre with its unique environment exploration gameplay, amazing graphics and exclusive soundtrack created by electronic music icon UNKLE.
Join cute game mascot, Shiny, on his way to saving the universe from the impending darkness. Play through a variety of exciting game worlds and dozens of levels with mind-blowing puzzles. Your goal is to explore game levels, seek for game objects that reflect, split, combine, paint, bend and teleport rays of light energy to activate the Sources of Life and bring light back to the universe."
Mastering the various reflection items in God of Light is very easy to learn and new elements are introduced during the game.
Amazing puzzle game
Here's the initial review I posted on the Play Store:
"Great change in puzzles
Fantastic and refreshing concept of puzzle solving. The effects and the music match very well, putting the player in the right mood to game. Get enlightened and grow your skills until you are a true God of Light."
And it remains true, even after completing the first realm completely. Similar to Quell it took me only a couple of hours during the evening to complete all levels in the available three realms, unfortunately. God of Light currently consists of 75 levels, well it's 25 in each realm to be precise, and the challenges are increasing. Compared to the iOS version from the AppStore, God of Light is available for free on Android - at least the first realm (25 levels). Unlocking the other two remaining realms is done through an in-app purchase.
The visual appearance, the sound effects and the background music provided by UNKLE makes God of Light a superb package for any puzzle gamer. Whether it is simply reflecting light over multiple mirrors, or later on bending the rays of light with black holes, or using prisms to either split, enforce, or colourise your beam, God of Light is great fun and offers a good amount of joy. Check out the following screenshots for some impressions.
God of Light: Astonishing graphics and visual appeal throughout the game
God of Light - Introduction to the game during the first levels. New light items are introduced at each stage during the game play
God of Light: Increasing complexity and puzzle fun
Hopefully, Playmous is going to provide more astonishing looking realms and interesting gimmicks in future versions.
Play Store: God of Light
Also, check out the latest game updates on the official web site of Playmous
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:32
Finally, someone was able to realize one of 'my' ideas for an app. Since I'm here on the island I was always kind of annoyed by the simple fact that you could only read the articles about events that had happened already. Any kind of advertisement or pre-event information was and still is hardly available for quite a number of good events here in Mauritius.
Event calendar and details in Mauritius
Luckily, the development team at Knowledge Seven in Quatre Bornes took care of this issue and they recently published their Android app "Mauritius Vibrations" on the Play Store.
Mauritius Vibrations: Overview of events
Mauritius Vibrations: Event details
The app is available in two editions:
As soon as I saw the public posting over on Google+ I went to their official announcement on the Knowledge Seven blog to get some more background details. So, shut up and take my money ;-)
Here's my current app review I posted on the Play Store:
Good start, needs some polishing
Well done, and highly appreciated events information. After a quick look I would like to see more views, like 'This week' or 'This month'. Some entries, like movies at the cinema seem to be in the wrong category, ie. child-friendly. Furthermore, I wonder whether events can be classified by multiple categories? It's a solid start but the app needs more polishing and a couple of improvements on the UI.
Of course, it will take a couple of iterations to get the app running smoothly and to the likes of the users, but it's already a great start and I like the UI and handling. I'll be glad to update my app review soon... And looking forward to see an iOS, a Windows Phone 8, as well as a Windows 8 app.
Keep the good work up and deploy fast and often!
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