Mothercare App Review: Mobile Mums

Parenting is literally as old as humanity so it’s tempting to think we’ve got it right by now. However, the magic of technology means you can always always make something a little bit better and that’s what Mothercare have done with their new smartphone app. You might think that linking childbirth with smartphones is absurd but conception is already linked to the rise of text-flirting so it’s good to involve smartphones 9 months later as well.

Mothercare-App

Interestingly (according of course to research by Mothercare) women with children under 10 and expectant mothers now own more smartphones than any other demographic group at 81% and spend more than an hour a day reading parenting websites and blogs.

The app gives mums and mums-to-be all the Mothercare they could want. There’s an online store element where you can shop for baby gear, browse customer images and there’s even a barcode scanner so you can get more info about that thingy you’re holding in the store. It’s easy to make checklists and wish lists of things you

But where is the store? The app is location-aware and will point you in the direction of your nearest Mothercare. It would be great if the app were a little less “on message” in the this regard and was location-aware for a range of baby stuff – good walks, baby-friendly restaurants, kiddie activities etc but I can see their rationale.

The app isn’t just a mobile Mothercare storefront (although if you’re expecting that’s pretty handy) but also has a Baby Tunes section with a collection of rhymes, lullabies, classical and white noise sounds to soothe you and your little one. The app also keeps you plugged into the latest goings on with posts from the mothercare blog and advice videos from Mothercare TV.

The way mums use mobile has changed dramatically in the last five years with Smartphones now being used as an important parenting companion, not just for on-the-go shopping, but for seeking out parenting tips and advice.

Simon Calver CEO Mothercare

The Mothercare app is free and out now from iTunes.

Great Christmas Related Apps

Are you sitting comfortably? Now, I’m going to say this quietly and I don’t want you to panic. But as I write this there are only 51 days until Christmas (click here for an up-to-date countdown).

Stop running round the room waving your hands in the air – there is no need to panic because lots of clever people have compiled apps to help take some the pain out of buying all those gifts.So, pour yourself a cup of something soothing and read on to find out how your mobile device can be your friend as you enter the frantic festive foraging season.

indulge-me

One of our worst fears when shopping (apart from descending into the bowels of the M&S on Oxford Street and never being seen again) is that we’ll buy something that will become – whisper it – an unwanted present. Nobody wants to buy a gift that ends up being a prize at the next fete tombola or sent to the charity shop in a black bag. That’s why there’s an app called indulgeme.

It’s been designed to take the anxiety out of shopping for – and receiving – presents. The idea is that people create detailed wishlists of gifts, with pictures and barcode scans, the location of the shop and so on for events such as Christmas – as well as birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers or whatever. They can then share the item or list with family and friends via email / facebook / the app immediately or a number of days before the event, to give them enough time to make the right purchase for the occasion.

Get all your friends and family to download the app and you’ll be able to see their lists and tick of any pressies you’re planning to buy. If they don’t have an iPhone or iPad – maybe they should put it on their list – then they can access lists at www.indulgemeapp.com.

Indulgeme costs 59p.

If queues are the thing you most despite about Christmas shopping, you’ll need Qmatic. It’s free for iPhone and Android users (and a bespoke solution for retailers, costing around £2,500). It works by using GPS to help you find the nearest location or store and then lets you ‘virtually’ join a queue, so that you can be routed to a specialist service advisor before you arrive. It’s rather like getting a number from a ticket dispenser, but in this case your number is an electronic one, and you don’t have to wait around for it to be called. You can have a wander round the store, get a coffee or do some other shopping while you’re waiting. More on Qmatic can be found at www.qmatic.com/uk

We all like a bargain, and never are they more important than at Christmas time when you’ve got lots of people to buy gifts for.

hkud

Deal hunting community HotUKDeals is just about to launch a new app in time for you to get the best deals on your Christmas shopping.

If you’re not familiar with HotUKDeals, bargain hunters around the country identify and share good deals – there are 590,000 members at the moment, identifying up to 500 new deals a week.

If you want to share a deal while you’re out and about, simply grab the info on your camera phone and include a few details before sharing it with like-minded bargain hunters.

To find a deal you can search by location, categories and other filters. You can also set up push notification deals on your smartphone so you never miss out on the latest info.

The HotDealsUK app will be free on iOS and Android devices. We’ll let you know as soon as it goes live.

xmas-apps

If you’re a fashionista or are searching for that special something for someone who is, the iPhone app Snap Fashion could help you out of your sartorial dilemma.

Take a photo or post a link of the fashion items – whether it’s a dress, top or shoes to die for – then Snap Fashion searches for matches among its list of affiliate retailers. The list includes high street giants including Gap, Jigsaw, Jaeger, Uniqlo, Warehouse, Topshop, LK Bennett, French Connection, Reiss, Monsoon, and Kurt Geiger, in addition to etailers Net A Porter, Mywardrobe.com, Stylebop.com and Farfetch.com and a host of department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty, House of Fraser, and US fashion emporium, Bloomingdales.

You can even upload pictures of people you see on the street, images from magazines and snaps of celebs on the TV – and Snap Fashion can search for outfits based on colour, cut and styles.

The results can be browsed, favourites saved to buy later, or you can go straight through to a retailer’s website to buy straight away.

If you don’t have an iPhone, the search can be conducted via www.snapfashion.co.uk

That’s the Christmas shopping made easy then – now I just need to find some ‘make a load of money between now and Christmas’ apps to pay for it all…

Basket Buddy: Helping you get more bang for your buck

In a world gripped by Groupon and similar deal websites, we can’t deny that we love a good bargain. There are, however, only so many pedicures and tennis lessons we actually need, before the novelty appeal starts to wear thin. New app Basket Buddy puts an unconventional spin on the traditional discount and voucher apps, helping you save more on items you actually want.

HUKD

Created by money-saving website Hot UK Deals (HUKD), Basket Buddy uses crowd sourcing to scout out mis-priced items in supermarkets and chain stores, including ASDA, Boots, Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Members of the HUKD community share impromptu “deals”, which bargain-hunters can access through the Basket Buddy app. Community users can also rate deals, and let others know when they’ve expired.

When shoppers find a bargain, they can upload details to the app by scanning the item’s barcode and uploading a photo, as well as extra details about the deal, such as whether its a local or national deal. App users can then search for deals closest to them using the app’s GPS feature, so they can make the most of the bargain while it’s still live.

The app has already garnered attention from the national press, after one savvy user shared details of a Tesco’s price glitch that led to the supermarket chain selling iPad 3s for just £49.

Websites like HUKD have increased in popularity in an effort to offset the rising cost of living over the past few years. With just under 530,000 existing HUKD community members, this app provides a way for users to find out about the latest deals while on the go.

While in beta testing, the app hosted over 4,000 deals and 44,000 comments from users, a number that will no doubt grow with its public release through the iTunes Store.
Paul Nikkel, founder of HUKD, said: “We see Basket Buddy as a real deal hunting game-changer; a vital weapon in the professional shoppers’ armoury. We’re taking the community into the palm of our members’ hands, allowing them to find and share deals with the HUKD community when they’re out and about.”

ebay Christmas Boutique: Trading bar codes for QR codes

Since it was founded in 1995, Ebay quickly became one of the most outstanding success stories of the dot-com revolution. Unlike many entrepreneurial ventures that often demise as speedily as they rise, especially in the constantly evolving world of the internet, Ebay has maintained its spot as the number one internet consumer-to-consumer corporation. In fact so successful has the multi-billion dollar business become that, next month, it is opening its first high street store in the UK, forming a unique unification between high street shopping and the internet.

eBay

If you love in-store browsing but dread the inevitable Christmas queues that go hand-in-hand with high street Christmas shopping, then those entrepreneurial folk at Ebay seem to have come up with answer, well they didn’t become billionaires for no reason, did they?  From Thursday 1st December to Monday 5th December 2011, the eBay Christmas Boutique will be taking place on Dean Street in London’s West End. Shoppers will be able to browse through a selection of gifts and deals in the pop-up boutique, make their selections, but instead of taking their purchases and joining a ghastly 30ft-long queue, using mobile technology shoppers can simply scan the Quick Response (QR) code with their smartphone and make their purchase online in a matter of clicks.

This innovative shopping experience will be the UK’s first ever QR code shopping emporium, and in typical intuitive fashion, Ebay is opening its Christmas Boutique store during what is anticipated to be the busiest online shopping weekend of the year, with sales forecast to peak at over 30 gift items being bought every second.

So they sure have their timing right and their location, London’s West End has to be equally as intuitive as launching the Ebay Christmas Boutique on ‘Super Sunday, whereby  5.8 million shoppers are expected to log on to Ebay.co.uk to pick up a bargain Christmas gift, but are there any flaws in the American company’s latest consumer venture? Well, being only available to smartphone users could be one and considering that only 31% of the British population browse the internet on their phones – A phenomenal amount if you own Apple or Blackberry, but alienating a 69% of the British public from exploiting the unique consumer experience Ebay’s Christmas Boutique provides, is surely an all too hefty proportion of shoppers? Although Ebay does seem to have this area covered ensuring us that whether you own a smartphone or not, anyone can come along and try out QR code experience, browse the Christmas deals and enter a prize draw to win great Christmas prizes.

It sure sounds inquisitively entertaining, although I am still wondering, from an Ebay seller’s point of view, how you manage to get your items to be displayed in the Ebay Christmas Boutique.

My Daily Deals iPhone app

There’s been a huge increase in the number of group deal websites recently, brining with them more money-saving methods than ever before. The problem, however, is that it’s annoying to keep up-to-date with Groupon, KGB Deals and the other million companies vying for your attention. Luckily, My Daily Deal is an iPhone app ready to bring masses of deals to… the masses.

My-Daily-Deals

The lightweight app aggregates offers from the top deals websites into a single stream. Users need only scroll up and down the list to browse the latest offers for an array of providers, including:

Groupon
Wahanda
Dealtastic
KGB Deals
CrowdBoo
HuddleBuy

Deals are presented with their provider (i.e. Groupon), the cost, discount level and an enticing picture to get users interested.

Tapping the picture brings up more information, a detailed description of the deal and – importantly with these things – the terms and conditions.

If you’re completely sold, click “Buy Deal” and you’ll head straight to the provider’s website, where you can complete the deal using an account with the site.

If you’re unsure, or want to share a deal, click “Save it” and you’ll be able to email the details to friend. Strangely, you can’t actually save it into some kind of “hot deals” list, you have to e-mail it to yourself for storage – or cancel the e-mail and save it as draft.

As well as aggregation, the app is also pretty coherent at splitting deals into categories. Don’t care about beauty and wellness? Hate being made to feel unhealthy by fitness deals? You can turn off the categories from appearing in your stream, giving you a more concise look at deals relevant to you.

We’d recommend consumers turn off the “services” category: it only crowds the stream with seemingly near-constant deals from HuddleBuy, which are only good for small businesses.
You can also filter by city (and choose whether or not to include national deals), further eliminating irrelevant offers.

All in all, for £1.49, even one purchase will justify the app’s price. If you feel deal-overwhelmed normally, this might be the app for you.

Out on iTunes

TWIG: i-Screen-Wipe, Picsel Smart Office and last delivery dates from Savoo.co.uk

The Week in Gadgets

Pinch punch first day of the month. December is upon us and the onslaught of Christmas shopping related articles is inevitable. If you do a lot of online shopping you might like to check out this online calendar from Savoo.co.uk, which has the last order of delivery dates for a host of online shops (some of which say 11am on the 24 December for those who like it truly last minute). Have a look

i-screen-wipe

One one the most desirable gifts out there, according to the PR emails I get constantly, is the Apple iPad. However, if forking out the full whack for an iPad seems a little extreme in terms of a gift you can hope that someone else buys them an iPad and get a useful accessory. Apart from a case, and possibly a bluetooth keyboard, one of the most useful things you can add to an iPad is a screenwipe. The glossy screen is a magnet for greasy fingerprints – go to an Apple store and take a look at just how filthy the in store iPad’s screens are. The i-Screen-Wipe is a Microfibre cloth (made of 80% polyamide and 20% polyester if you were wondering) that absorbs grease from your screen. Even better (or at least just as good) is the clever design that fits the screenwipe to your case – so it’s always there when you need it – i.e. when someone else has touched your iPad. It can be bought from www.i-Screen-Wipe.com and costs £9.99 including P&P.


Just because Christmas is looming doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games and work carries on. And thanks to Picsel Smart Office work can follow you home too. Hooray. Picsel Smart Office is a pretty cool looking document viewer and editor available on the Apple App Store, Android Market and Samsung App (an interesting sign of the times).Dull as mobile document editing may sound, it is pretty vital (this column wouldn’t exist without it) and Picsel Smart Office brings a few new tricks to the table. There’s eyecandy in the form Page Flow – which is a little similar to Cover Flow on OS X, and the Visual Scrap Book, which allows users to easily copy blocks of text and graphics, drag and drop into the Scrapbook, and then paste into the page wherever they want. You can also present documents in 3D – a feature I’ll have to test before delivering a verdict on. Picsel Smart Office is available for download on the Apple App Store, Android Market and Samsung Apps for £5.99.

TWIG: Tesco barcode scanner, easyroommate iPhone app, thinksound TS02

The week in gadgets.

The almost ubiquitous iPhone, has an almost ubiquitous tag line. “there’s an app for that.” Any the burgeoning App store means that there an app for almost everything – even the truly ridiculous.

Tesco-Barcode-Scanner

Another watchword for ubiquity, in the UK at least is Tesco and the two have joined forces to launch a barcode reader for the iPhone. The barcode reader, which is now part of the Tesco iPhone app, is as easy as it sounds. Just swipe the barcode of an item and it’s added to you online basket, so you can re-up on biscuits whenever you’ve eaten all of your flatmate’s hob-nobs.

If you’re looking for a new flatmate however (preferably one who doesn’t eat all your hob-nobs) then there is also an app for you. Easyroommate.co.uk has launched an free iPhone app that shows details of all available flatshares in the local areas, with relevant filters and allows you to contact the advertisers all from your handset – helpful if you have difficulty getting access to a PC or are between houses. According to the people behind easyroomamate.co.uk, one in six flatshares are snapped up in 24 hours, so having the flatshare app can be a real boon if you are on the prowl for a new place to live. Those lacking in iPhone love can also head to the sites mobile version, which should work on most other handsets. Check it out.

thinksound

Advance MP3 players have launched a range of environmentally friendly earphones. The thinksound TS02 (which features the mic, there is a TS01 sans mic) has lovely high-definition drivers. But most strikingly, they come encased in hand-crafted wood, which adds a little to the sound quality and a lot to the look of the TS02s. The packaging is recycled materials and the wood is from renewable sources, so the thinksound set is very environmentally friendly choice and a £49, it’s a pretty budget friendly option as well.

Auto Trader iPhone app: Number plate recognition in your pocket

Auto Trader seems to understand the point of having an iPhone app. The easy way out would have just been to make an app that let you browse their current listings in a fancy touch shell, no different to a website, but that’s not what these guys did. Instead, we’ve got a clever app that makes the most of the hardware available.

Auto-Trader-iPhone-App

Available free from the iTunes store, the famous car seller’s app first greets you with a little home screen that helpfully points out what the four menu items at the bottom of the page do. You’ve got Garage, Snap, Search and Settings to choose from.

Garage is essentially a favourites page, where you store the results of previous searches so you can easily find new cars for sale. Snap lets you take photos of licence plates, which the recognition software then reads and finds the make and model of the car. The Search screen follows on from Snap, or you can go straight there, and lets you specify which car you want to look for, where you want to find it and how much you’re willing to pay. Finally, Settings lets you tweak the app, including putting a default postcode in so you can quickly search for cars near you.

I downloaded the app and immediately started stalking random cars. You’ve got to be quite careful with the photos you take. Too far away, and it won’t be sharp enough when you resize it for the character recognition box. Fail to hold the phone steady and you’ll get the blurry picture we’re all used to from the slow shutter speeds on phones, which also won’t work. And iPhone 3GS owners will need to be careful of getting the focus right.

But! Get a decent picture and you’ll soon be bringing up pictures of the car in front of you, but more useful is the listing of sellers near you. Well, ish. When I used the GPS locator, it found me sure enough, but failed to limit the radius of results properly. Reading is not zero miles from Bath, I feel confident in saying. However, if I used my default postcode instead of the GPS it all worked properly.

Despite some slight foibles, I was pretty impressed by Auto Trader’s app. It certainly beats a website and makes great use of the hardware and software available — or, at least, tries to.