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Roundup Guide: Free Educational Apps for Toddlers

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rsz_best_apps_for_kidsTechnology is a wonderful thing, even for the toddler set! Download some games on your smartphone and you’ll keep your little one happy and entertained, not to mention the fact that you’ll encourage important developmental skills, including:

  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Number recognition
  • Color recognition
  • Letter recognition
  • How to operate a digital device – A super important skill for kids of the digital age to develop

While letting your child engage with your smartphone can offer great benefits, sifting through the countless iOS and Android apps can be a challenge. With so many options available, how do you choose the ones that your toddler will engage your toddler and ones that he will be able to successfully interact with?

Here are five of the best apps that are easy enough for 15-month to 3-year-olds to use that they will also find entertaining.

#1 – PicsArt Kids

PicsArt Kids is a drawing and doodling app that is easy for toddlers to operate. Full of tons of activities, including a coloring book mode with tons of templates, a blank canvas for doodling on and a learning mode, complete with mazes and scenes to explore, this app will keep your little one entertained and teach some valuable skills, too.

Free on Android and iOS

#2 – DipDap

Your toddler will love helping the cherry little DipDap character find his way through different scenes. This app features 16 animated scenes and a sketchpad, too. Drawings can even be saved to your camera so you can check them out later or share them with your family and friends on social media!

Available on Android and iOS

#3 – Endless Alphabet

This app was created by Originator Inc and combines education and entertainment for toddlers. Endless Alphabet introduces little ones to letters and words through a series of minigames. Words are broken up into puzzles and players piece them back together. After putting the words back together, an animation provides the definitions.

Free or $6.99 upgrade on Android and iOS

#4 – LEGO Duplo Train

Your toddler will love building, driving and transporting people and objects with the LEGO Duplo Train app. Players assume the role of the train’s engineer, selecting carts to carry and picking up people along the way. The controls are very easy to use, allowing your little one to control the speed of the train and even make its whistle blow. There are also several interactive minigames for your little one to play, like choose the right track to follow.

Free on Android and iOS

#5 – Peekaboo Barn

Your toddler will love playing peekaboo with the animated animals on this app. Friendly farm animals hid behind barn doors and happily surprise your toddler when they reveal their location. Your child will also learn the names of the animals and the sounds that they make while playing this game. Several languages are available, including English, Spanish, French and Mandarin. You can also record your own voice and have it announce the names of the animals.

Free or $1.99 upgrade on Android and iOS

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GuidesTablets

What are the Pros and Cons of Rooting Your Android Device?

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The case for (or against) rooting your Android device

android-994910_960_720Since Android is a Linux-derived OS, it was only natural for power users and tinkerers to look for ways to root the corresponding devices, in order to alter them or enhance their functionality. In the beginning, doing so was quite simple with most devices.

Several tools and apps existed that could root the majority of Android phones and tablets in just a few minutes.

However, as Android evolved, gaining root access has lost part of its shine, but also became a much more challenging task.

So, how is rooting today going to help you? Maybe the risks outweigh the benefits? And why is it so hard to root certain devices? Read on to find out.

What are the the Pros of rooting your Android device?

Acquiring root access in Android is similar to running Windows through an admin account. You have unlimited rights into accessing the system directory and altering core function of the OS itself. Part of the rooting method is the installation of a usage manager, with SuperSU being the most popular at the moment.

These tools safeguard your phone’s root access; every time an app requests access at this level, the root manager prompts for your approval.

pros_and_cons_of_rooting_android_deviceBut, what kind of rights does root access grant you? For starters, you will be able to hide or uninstall any annoying apps that are built into the system, which you would like to remove but can’t under normal circumstances.

Rooting your device enables you to run tools like Titanium Backup, through which you can completely remove or hide the said app. The same tool can also perform manual backups of application or game data, which you can then transfer to other devices.

Remote accessing your device is another task that requires root in order to become available. Another useful feature that needs rooting is ad-blocking software because it manipulates the OS’s hosts file to prohibit access to a list of known ad servers.

Finally, there is Xposed Framework, which is a category of its own. You need to root your device in order to install Xposed, but after that, it takes over without asking your approval in order to perform low-level functions, such as UI modification and system-level additions. Although getting Xposed to work on Lollipop took a while, there are now builds available that are adequately stable.

What are the the Cons of rooting your Android device?

tablet-1442900_960_720Since root access grants total control of the operating system to the user, it’s obvious that careless actions can have dire consequences. By design, Android is resilient to misuse through a normal user profile. As a SuperUser, though, it’s not hard to break things by installing suspicious apps or by altering system files.

Moreover, rooting inherently violates Android’s security model, because apps with root access have elevated governance over your system. In any case, extra caution is required when you install stuff to your device.

Since Android 5.0 Lollipop, system updates for Nexus devices can only work or completely unmodified devices, due to a change in the way the OTA file is processed by the OS.

The new method patches the whole system directory as a single task, so the presence of unexpected files or any modifications will result in a verification failure, cancelling the update.

Besides Nexus devices, almost all other Android devices that receive an OTA update will see their root wiped out, and the root method blocked from re-installation. If root is something you can’t live without, chances are that you will be stuck on older versions of the OS, with no options to update, and you’ll be forced to wait for a new rooting method to emerge, or a modified (pre-rooted) update.

Why is it so much harder to root Android devices now than before?

If you have had a fair amount of experience with Android so far, you should have noticed that it’s now way harder to root newer devices than what it used to be. A few years ago, there were tools and apps available that could universally root almost any device in a matter of minutes, but that’s a thing of the past now. Since the Towelroot exploit in 2014, there hasn’t been another universal root-granting patch.

smartphone-1283016_960_720The reason behind Google’s haste to patch such exploits in such a hurry is that, in essence, these are security risks that expose your system to malicious users and software, which can result in data theft. So, patching the system is the responsible thing to do.

Android has evolved into a more secure OS, requiring more work to circumvent that security in order to acquire root access. This exchange has resulted in root exploits of increasing complexity. Thus, rooting now may require side-loading of files over USB, extensive use of the terminal, or outright flashing of modded files.

It is so hard to discover, test and create such exploits, it’s no wonder that many popular devices are still impossible to root at the moment. That doesn’t mean that such exploits don’t exist, but they cost too much in terms of effort and time to be handed to the community for free. For instance, if you are a regular visitor of XDA, you might have noticed the so-called “bounty threads,” where users donate large amounts of money for a working root method.

Although this strategy bears fruit from time to time, nevertheless it remains too hard to claim these donations; moreover, a solid exploit of the sorts actually cost a lot more than a few thousand dollars.

It is a common secret among Android security testers and researchers that forensic and security firms are actively looking for non-public exploits. This means that a modder could make several times more money than collecting an XDA bounty, by selling an exploit to such companies. For instance, a universal rooting method like the ones used a few years ago, could well worth dozens of thousands. And most people wouldn’t pass on such an opportunity for pennies.

So should you do it?

If you’re a fan of tinker with tech toys, you should take this into consideration when you buying a phone. Don’t choose something (praying) root method will be released soon. Quite often you will be waiting for an exploit patch.

Devices that are relatively friendly to root like Nexus phones and tablets are always a sensible choice. They have boot-loaders which can be unlocked, and then rooted very quickly. They also have system images which can be downloaded very easily to restore your device if the root goes wrong. The usual warning about using care installing apps still applies.

If you’re not familiar with Android in-built tools, and how to diagnose and repair issues with it’s command line, research beforehand (better to be prepared). Rooting your devices can be a lot of fun, and really change the way your devices functions. But it can also lead to frustration, or in the worst cases financial cost, as you try to fix issues caused by modding.

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Tablets

Best Tablet Under $300 – Budget Tablet Reviews

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best tablet under $300 reviewAre you looking for a portable device which you can check email, surf the internet and has the same apps as your phone? Our guide helps you find the best tablet under $300 without getting lost in a technical Jargon. Our Tablet Buying Guide is the perfect companion to help you find the perfect model.

Competition in the affordable tablet market has made the prices dynamic, with great deals available for buyers. Stay up to date by regularly checking our list so you can take advantage of any special discount deals.

The Best Tablets Under $300

  O/SScreenStorageMicro-SDBatteryWeight
Apple iPad Mini 2apple_ipad_mini_2_me276ll-a_16gb_wi-fi_black_with_space_grayIOS2048 x 153616GB-10hrs0.73 lb
Dell Venue 8dell_venue_8_7000_android_tablet_16gbAndroid2560 x 160032GB-10hrs1.40 lb
Nexus 7google_nexus_7_tablet_pc
Android1920 x 120032GB-9hrs0.70 lb
Samsung Galaxy Tabsamsung_galaxy_tab_a_97-inch_tabletAndroid1024 x 76816GBYes8hrs15.8 oz
Microsoft Surface 2microsoft_surface_2_32_gbWindows RT1920 x 108032GBYes10hrs1.49 lbs
Fire HD 10fire_hd_10_tablet_101inch_hd_displayFire OS 51280 x 80016GBYes9hrs11.0 oz

#1 – Apple iPad Mini 2 (2013)

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The iPad Mini 2013 with Retina (Mini 2 ME276LL/A) is currently one of the top-selling small-form tablets from Apple. Improved features from the original Mini 2 such as 2048 x 1536 resolution screen, cameras and a fast A7 processor that is perfect for gaming, photo, and video editing. The Ipad Air 2 is more expensive but better equipped to handle tasks such as video editing.

It, however, lacks portability and ID fingerprint sensor which is in popular demand. A higher storage than the regular 16GB would cost more relative to the competition. Generally, the Mini 2 though a less expensive tablet than the IPad Air offers the same performance and yet retains its portability.

Pros
  • High-resolution Retina display
  • Fast processor
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • No microSD card slot

Summary

Amidst the strong competition in the Android market, the iPad mini 2 remains the best iPad. It has a good Screen, lovely design, and unwavering performance.

#2 – Dell Venue 8 7840

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So far, the iPad Mini has been the leading tablet in the market because of its design and software. However, this iPad is now beginning to have a competitor, as the Dell Venue 8 7840 Android tablet is also trying its best both in design and software to outrun the iPads.

It weighs only 303g which is lighter than the iPad Mini 3; it is 6mm thick and has a beautiful aluminum construction. Although the 2MP camera and speaker grille may initially look out of place at the bottom, you will quickly get used to it. There is an 8MP camera mounted at the rear, which shoots at 720p.

With these additional cameras, you can estimate distances or adjust the focus in a photo. The Dell Venue 8 7840 has an 8.4-inch 2560 x 1600 resolution screen with 359 pixels per inch, an AMOLED panel with deeper blacks, sweeter colors, and much better contrast than most IPS displays.

The tablet can be updated from Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat out of the box, but it can now be updated to Android 5.1 Lollipop, which improves battery life and has UI enhancements. The internal hardware includes an Intel Z3580 processor clocked at 2.33 GHz with a 533MHz PowerVR G6430, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. This is a superb device to have in handling more than just normal simple tasks.

Pros
  • Thin and light design
  • Sharp screen
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Loud Front Facing speakers
Cons
  • Low photo quality
  • Experiences slight delay at times

Summary

This tablet has strong Intel-powered performance, intuitive software and its aluminium casing is extra thin. It is Dell’s best tablet as of now.

#3 – Nexus 7 2013 7-Inch

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Nexus 7 is a cheaper Android that still gives its customers that Android experience. 2013 Nexus 7 has high performance, and its hardware and software have been updated to keep up with modern trend. It has the latest Android 4.4 Kitkat OS, and still manages to sell at an affordable price.

It has a soft-touch plastic body with a thinner seam, new Retina-class 1,920 x 1,200 res screen with a 323 PPI pixel density, which is the highest pixel density of any 7-inch tablets on the market. The screen isn’t the only enhancement; there is a Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with an Adreno 320 GPU.  2GB of RAM were introduced to increase its performance as compared to the old model.

The only problem in the new Nexus 7 is its low-quality rear camera but aside from that, it is faster than the old model, and this has been proved using gaming tests. It even surpasses the Nexus 10 in some cases. Its main competitors are the Kindle Fire HDX and the iPad Mini.

Pros
  • Fast performance
  • High-resolution display
  • Slim form factor
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • Lack of expandable storage
  • Low resolution camera

Summary

Today, the 2013 Nexus 7 can be featured as the leading 7-inch Android tablet; it can be used for travels and e-book reading.

#4 – Samsung Galaxy Tab A SM-T550NZAAX 9.7-inch

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Like most Samsung products, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A SM-T550NZAAX has the same all-plastic design but luckily enough, its back cover is matte finished, and this prevents fingerprints and also provides a firm grip.

It has a signature Samsung button arrangement with a physical home button in between two cap-active keys on the bottom while the power button and volume rocker are on the right-hand side. The microSD slot is on the left side, and the microUSB port, the 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual stereo speakers which produce great sound.

The front and back cameras have excellent quality; the Tab is 0.5mm thick and weighs just 450 grams. It has a 1024 x 768 screen resolution, which is low but has a 4:3 aspect ratio that gives readers enough space to read ebooks and view web pages.

It has attractive colors and an excellent hardware package, i.e., a Quad-Core Snapdragon 410 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. Backing up the CPU is 1.5GB of RAM, which can easily handle most Android applications.

Although there will be slowing down sometimes, you can play some tough Android games using the Adreno 306 GPU. The microSD slot allows you expand your 16GB storage space to 128GB. The 6000mAh battery can last up to 8 hours and could last longer if you reduce the screen brightness and close down some running apps.

Pros
  • Fingerprint resistant cover
  • 4:3 aspect ratio screens
  • Decent amount of memory
  • Great battery life
Cons
  • Low-resolution display
  • Expensive compared to other units

Summary

The Tab A SM-T550NZAAX is good because even though it has a low resolution, it still has a high-performance level and Samsung’s exclusive software features.

#5 – Microsoft Surface 2

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The Microsoft Surface 2 is a 2013 tablet running Windows RT; a slimmed down version of the Windows 8.1 operating system. With the Quad-Core NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor combined with 2GB of RAM, it becomes an excellent device for multitasking and running some quite tasking applications. It is very similar to the original but it is thinner and lighter to feel, it has a“VaporMg” magnesium alloy matte on its body which is lighter than aluminum and doesn’t attract fingerprints.

It has a kickstand at its back which can add 55 degrees to the tablet’s first 22 degrees angle. It has a Gorilla Glass 2 that protects the front of the tablet. Gorilla Glass 2 protects the front side of the tablet, a 16:9 aspect ratio screen that allows you to snap couple applications together.

The Surface tablet of last year had a nice 10.6-inch anti-glare IPS display, but its resolution was low. This new Surface 2 tablet has a sharper resolution,1920 x 1080 resolution panel and a better color accuracy (46% better). It has optional keyboard covers and a full Microsoft Office Suite. The speakers are on the side and are ideal for enjoying your music.

The Surface 2 tablet is a very nice portable machine.

Pros
  • Compact form
  • Sturdy kickstand
  • Long battery life
  • Clear display
Cons
  • Android alternatives are cheaper
  • Doesn’t support Windows desktop programs

Summary

The Microsoft Surface 2 is a very portable, productive machine, which can also be used to travel instead of carrying a laptop around.

#6 – Fire HD 10 10.1-inch

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The Fire HD 10 uses Amazon’s latest Fire OS 5. It is affordable and provides fast and easy access to the digital contents in the Amazon Prime subscription. It has a simple design which is similar to the glossy plastic back of a smartphone. The cover is a fingerprint magnet, and although it has a low-quality build, it is still a well-made tablet. And while the build quality isn’t something to write home about, the overall impression is that of a cheap but well-made tablet.

It only has 1280 x 800 HD displays, which is low when compared to the likes of more affordable tablets like Lenovo Tab 2 A10 and Zenpad S8, which have higher resolutions. Although the HD 10’s speakers are powerful, they still have low quality when compared to speakers on Tab 2 A10 and Zenpad S8.

Fire HD 10 packs a 1.5 GHz MediaTek Quad-Core processor and 1 GB of RAM and even though it doesn’t give the best performance, it still does a good job. S8 and Tab 2 A10’s top of mid-range Quad-Core processor with 2GB RAM makes them perform better than the HD 10. In the area of battery life, HD 10 lasts for over 9 hours which beats S8’s 5 hours battery life.

Generally, HD 10 is the phone to use if you are an Amazon user to enable you to get quick access to Amazon’s exclusive features like Mayday customer support and parental controls but if you’re an Android user, go for the Tab 2 A10.

Pros
  • Large screen size
  • Loudspeakers
  • Expandable storage
  • Parental control features
Cons
  • Display isn’t as sharp as its competitors,
  • Plastic build feels cheap

Summary

For Amazon users, the Fire HD 10 is your best affordable option.

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