Category Archives Phone Apps

Making Music on Android Devices

Music is a big part of our world. We will often have music playing in the house and in the car when we travel near and far. NHL is now in his third year of band at school where he plays percussion instruments. It has been an amazing process to watch his knowledge of music grow thanks to classes in school and his phenomenal band teacher. JSL is six and really wants to play an instrument, but a few things have stopped us at this point. I am not sure he knows what he really want to try and trying/renting/buying instruments is not exactly cheap.

Android apps to play music

Over winter break, JSL saw a keyboard in a store. He quickly became fixated on getting on and learning to play the piano. We are mean parents because we refused to buy it. Quite honestly, I didn’t want a toy and thought we should investigate things a bit more. Try explaining that to a stubborn six year old. While we got him out of that store, we have heard about his NEED for a keyboard to almost every single day since. I have asked multiple people for recommendations, but need to investigate before we invest money into this. Sunday afternoon we were in the house and while NHL was practicing drums, the little kid started pouting about the keyboard again. I decided to look for something to pacify the situation. Enter Learn Piano by rubycell for Android devices.

Learn Piano app by rubycell

Within a few minutes TechyDad had installed this app onto JSL’s Galaxy Tab 2. Then I heard something else playing. Why yes, TechyDad installed it onto his Android smartphone and was playing Katy Perry’s Roar. JSL wanted to check it out right away. The Song Book on this app is fantastic. There are songs that I grew up with, items for the kids, and family favorites like Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Frozen.

Screen of Learn Piano for Android devices

As you can see there are ads on the free version, but it really did not seem to bother the kids. You can pay $1.99 to remove the ads and this also allows you to load midi files. For $2.99 you can get the previous items, as well as all instruments and song packages via the Diamond Package. We will see how the kids continue to use this over the next week or so. Why yes, once NHL was done with band practice he wanted to use it on his Galaxy Tab 2. At one point, I was listening to JSL play In Summer, NHL play For the First Time in Forever, and TechyDad playing The Imperial March. Curious what it looks like when you play? Here’s the screen when I put it on my Droid Mini and tried the song Pure Imagination.

Playing a song on Learn Piano app

While this is not a substitute for music lessons and a real keyboard, it is keeping my little guy happy. I am watching to see how his patience are with trying to follow along and it is keeping him actively engaged. Want to see the app in action? Here’s an Instagram video that I made of TechyDad playing a song.

I have to admit I am curious, what song would you look for first when trying out this app?

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I received one of our Galaxy Tab 2 and the Motorola Droid Mini to test out and share ways that I use them with my family. There was no other compensation. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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DIY Stop Animation with Vine #VZWBuzz

I have a confession, I have been slacking when it comes to using the Vine app. For one reason or another, I keep forgetting it is there and have not used it much since the summer months. This is going to change over winter break because I really enjoy it and wish that more people would use it for the community that could be there. In addition to that, I have a project that I want to try with the boys. I want to teach my six and ten year old boys how to use Vine to make some fun stop animation videos. We can tell a new part of the story each day and plan it out and then make it come to life.

Are you new to Vine? If you are and want to join in the fun, here are some basics on how to make a Vine stop animation video.

Step 1 – Make sure you have the Vine app on your smartphone. You can get this from or from the app store on your phone. Please note the official Vine app is now available for Windows Phone users, along with people on Team Android and iPhones. Once Vine is installed on your smartphone, take some time to link it up to your Twitter and Facebook accounts  for easy sharing.

Setting up the Vine App

Step 2 – Grab some toys from around the house that you think would make a fun animation. I know when my boys test this out, we will likely have Disney characters, LEGO items,  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Angry Birds telling some kind of tale. A tip, use items that are smaller and easier to move around that are able to stand on their own. (I learned this the hard way in some of my first Vines.)

Toys to make a Vine Stop Animation Video

Step 3 – Stop animation means simply filming with your smartphone may not work. You need a very steady video capture. You can make your own with a business card holder that will keep the phone steadied and a box to get an overhead view of the scene. More specific DIY instructions for making your own tripod are out there, just search online and on Pinterest to see what others with your Smartphone may have made. TechyDad heard about my project and actually purchased a small smartphone tripod for us to use that cost well under twenty dollars.

Tripod for Vine Stop Animation Video making

Step 4 – Now it is time to make your stop animation video using Vine. Once you launch the app, gently tap the screen on your phone to take a single frame. When using Vine, it is important to remember that the longer you hold your finger on the screen, the longer it records. The green progress bar at the top of the Vine app will help you to keep track of how much time you have left. Vine limits you to six seconds to create your animation.

Using Vine for Stop Animation Video Fun

Step 5 – If you have ever seen stop animation cartoons, you are probably aware of the time spent making them. The process is made by slightly moving objects frame by frame. Every time you move the objects, you simply tap your smartphone screen and repeat. Vine helps to combine all of the frames into a short animation.

Stop animation production on Vine

Step 6 – The best part about making a Vine and trying your hand at stop animation will be sharing it with your family and family. Vine makes it easy to email or post the finished video to places like Twitter and Facebook. The best part will be watching your child see what they helped to create.

Share your stop animation on Vine and beyond

Here is a stop animation Vine that was made by Monica Vila, aka The Online Mom while visiting the new Verizon Wireless Store at the Mall of America.

Here is another stop animation that Robyn from Robyn’s Online World made at the same event as Monica.

So will you be joining me on my stop animation adventure with your children? I would love to have you try it out with me. I will be posting more about this in the future when we have some videos to share. For now, let me know what you think you will use for your first stop animation attempt.

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I received different items to test out and share ways that I use them in my life. There was no other compensation. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

If you are looking for a single image to use on Pinterest, here it is below. Happy filming and sharing.

DIY Stop Animation Video with Vine

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Photo Fun with the Nokia Lumia 928

My smartphone camera plays a big role in my world. As a blogger, social media influencer, and parent, I use my phone for on the go photos. Of course, I rarely post them as is. Most of the time I crop them, edit a bit, make a collage, and always watermark them. When I moved over to using the Nokia Lumia 928 as part of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I worried about finding the right apps for what I need. Being a realist, I knew that many of the apps I was used to on the Android platform are not currently available for the Windows OS. Thanks to blogging friends like Robyn at Robyn’s Online World and Amy at Selfish Mom, I knew work around solutions could be found. This is the current view of tiles when I open my phone.

My Lumia 928 Screen

During a great webinar with the folks at Nokia, I learned about some great features in my phone. I will share some of those along the way. Most of the #VZWBuzz people were very curious about apps. There was some talk about Instance which is a work around app for Instagram (that should be Windows OS by the end of the year). It can not do Vine at this point, but it allows me to post to Instagram and share on Twitter and Facebook at the same time.

When looking at the Windows Store for apps, I immediately recognized PhotoGrid. It is a great tool to make collages across platforms, but that is all that it will allow me to do. If I want to add text to the collage or a watermark, I needed something else. Since I was in a pinch, I quickly located Picture Perfect.

PhotoGrid and Picture Perfect for Windows OS

Picture Perfect had more photo editing capabilities, many that I have not explored completely. In addition to this, I could add text that would allow me to write While the combination worked out nicely together, it still was not quite what I was looking for, especially with the watermarking.

Collage made with Lumia 928

Just as I was settling into these options, SelfishMom came to the rescue. She asked me if I had tried Phototastic. I had not tried it and immediately checked it out. Color me impressed. Not only were there amazing collage options, but I could use many different fun fonts and change the color and opacity for watermarking on the fly. Yes, this one app pretty much had everything that I was looking for all in one. Although it was already really late, I had to try one out. Once it was finished, I shared it as a thank you to Amy.

Disney collage on Phototasmic

I have to admit that I am in love with this app and am curious about the full version of Phototastic. Just look at some of the items that I made for fun while sharing on Instagram.

Fun using the Phototasmic App for Windows

While I am still learning the quirks to the Lumia 928’s camera (every phone has them), I now know more ways to creatively share them when I am out and about. Plus, I can even use them here on my blog if/when I need to.

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive different devices to check out in my life. There is no other compensation. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 for Children

Recently, TechyDad and I realized that both of the boys had a lot of gift card money that they had never used from birthdays and Chanukah. While our oldest quickly declared that he wanted a Nintendo 3DS, our little guy did not. Rather than get more toys that he did not need to clutter the house, we started to investigate tablets. We quickly came to the conclusion that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 would be perfect.

While we were doing our research about the device, Verizon Wireless reached out to me about sharing our experience with the device. As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, we were sent a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 that has 4G capabilities on the Verizon network.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 from Verizon

So you may be asking why a tablet and more specifically why the Galaxy Tab 2? Well, for starters, JSL likes to use the apps on my phone more than he likes traditional gaming devices. The tablet also offers him the ability to use items from our family of mostly Android devices. As an Android user, I already know a lot of educational apps that are good for my little guy. In addition to this, we can load the tablet with the Kindle app for book reading and OverDrive Media app for book listening. When TechyDad and I started to do research on Android tablets, the reviews for the Galaxy Tab 2 were amazing. When we went to visit with them in stores, the beautiful screen clarity and easy motions made us know that it would be kid friendly. Another big factor is the price point of the Samsung. It is available in two different sizes (7 and 10 inch) and you can also purchase a non-4G version with Wi-Fi only.

When the Galaxy Tab 2 arrived, TechyDad spent a lot of time getting it ready for JSL. More about that process coming soon. Once it was ready and charged, JSL quickly learned to show us how everything should be used. (He also named it: Stupendous.) He loves the time he is allowed to use it and because of the size it packs up easily for long car rides (see the photo below)

Getting to know the Galaxy Tab 2

In the upcoming weeks, I plan to share more of the ways we use the Galaxy Tab 2 for educational purposes and more. Oh and in case you were wondering, NHL no longer wants the Nintendo 3DS. With his birthday coming up later this month, he wants to get another Galaxy Tab 2. I believe we have a family of tech geeks in training.

So my question to you this week:

Do your children use a Tablet and what do they typically use it for? If you happen to have an Android tablet, I would love more suggestions on apps that we may want to add to our device.

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I received a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 to test out and share ways that I use this in my life. There was no other compensation. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this Friday fun. These days, Pamela at A Renaissance Woman is reviving the fun Friday Meme. Head over there to link up and join in the fun.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #249

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Cell Phone Security for Children

My children are growing up before my eyes. It seems like yesterday they were both toddling around the house. Now I have an almost tween who will be a middle school student in a year. While I hope he is ready for the big change, I am not sure I am. I fear that before I know it NHL will be asking me for his own cell phone.

Questioning cell phones for middle school

I have mixed feelings about an eleven year old child having a cell phone and have much I need to consider over the next year. Here are some items that I am thinking about in generic terms.

1. Rules need to be clearly established. – Even before the cell phone is purchased, these need to be written, read, and explained so that everyone understands the expectations of use. Think about when, where, and how the phone may be used. Is texting allowed, data use, and who may they call on their phones. Be sure to set up rules about not using at school during classes, and protocol once out of school and homework needs to be tackled. Think ahead and write down consequences for not following the rules. If these are done ahead of time, emotions are less likely to get in the way.

2. Does a middle schooler really need a cell phone?  – This is a tough one. I think each family has to go over their rationale for a purchase. Looking ahead, my reason for possibly getting my son a phone has to do with safety. IF he needs to get to me in an emergency he can grab that phone and get to me, TechyDad, or another family member. Of course, setting up what an emergency means (see number 1 above) will be crucial.

3.  Cell phones are a big responsibility, is a child ready for this? – While it is possible to get some regular cell phones, most children have smartphones because there are more options. Smartphones are pricey items. While you may be able to get a decent deal on it with your activation, a replacement will not be the same cost. Children need to be aware of the monetary values associated with the phone. They should have a safe holder for the phone to protect it and a location to store it during the school day where it will not be a distraction.

4. Knowledge of your plan is a powerful tool. – Along with being aware of the value of their phone, children should hear about your cell phone plan coverage. Share your bill with them. Allow them to see the cost of data use and what your carrier allows within your current plan. While they may not understand everything, it will be an eye opening experience that will help with the responsibility.

5. Set up safeguards to protect your child. – There are a lot of ways to monitor your child’s cell phone use. Rather than be sneaky, be upfront. Let your child know that you have items on their phone to let you know about their usage. This will encourage open communication, trust, and let them know you are helping them to make good online and offline decisions.

Verizon FamilyBase

Verizon Wireless just launched FamilyBase to assist families with this. For $5 a month on your plan (the first month is currently free), parents can see how kids are using their phone, set controls and/or limits on data, calling, and text usage. There is a lot more that you can learn about on the Verizon Wireless page about FamilyBase.

Do your children have cell phones? If they do I would love to know how you have worked out use with them. If your children are too young, what do you think you will do as they get older?

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive different devices to check out in my life. There is no other compensation. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own. I was not asked to blog about FamilyBase, but wanted to share this new feature with my readers since I am currently researching what we may need to do with our children as they enter middle school.

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