Monthly Archives: September 2014

Developing Mobile App For Kids: 12 Rules Of Thumb

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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There is no dearth of mobile software companies claiming that they churn out the best Android or iPhone app for kids. Most of their offerings do not turn out to be up to the mark, however. We have here presented some basic guidelines that go a long way in ensuring that a children’s app is indeed a good one.

As per recent worldwide surveys, 4 out of every 10 children under the age of two (you read that right!) regularly use smartphones, tablets and other sophisticated mobile devices. That, in turn, explains the rapidly escalating popularity of kids’ apps – and the eagerness with which app development companies are trying to cater to the little ones’ demands. Making a perfect mobile application for children is not the simplest task though, and developers need to take a slightly different approach for such assignments. If you wish to develop successful mobile app for kids, these are the rules of thumb you need to remember:

 

  1. The app should load fast – The splash screen of a kids’ application should be visible for a maximum of 10 seconds, before the home/first page of the app appears on the screen. No matter how bright and colorful the splash screen is, you cannot expect a toddler to be patiently watching it for a longer time-span. Ideally, you should include some small animations on the splash screen. An impressive first look is an absolute must for any good kids’ app!
  2. The user-interface HAS to be engaging – Nothing interests a tech-savvy child trying out a new iPhone app for kids more than a riot of colors/characters on the mobile screen. The graphic designing themes you implement have to be lively and interesting – and the touch features have to be excellent. The UI should have a nice blend of lifelike displays, and some elements (e.g., the face of a friendly monster) that appear out-of-the-world.
  3. Do not include too many app-setting options – The more complicated your app is, the more difficult it would be for a small kid to manage. Make sure that the kids’ app you are working on do not have more than 2-3 different settings. Toggling between the settings/scenarios should be easy. There’s every chance that a toddler will incorrectly tap on the screen at any time – the entire app settings should not get altered by that.
  4. Make it interactive – There’s a world of difference between the types of apps kids and adults love. While a grown-up would find a personal mobile finance manager app or a news reading app interesting, they would seem uniformly boring to a child. Even in a mobile storytelling app for kids, you should focus on including as many interactive features (games, text-highlighting, character tapping, etc.) as possible. Watching a video or reading piles of text on a phone/tablet screen is something no kid enjoys – (s)he invariably wishes to ‘be a part’ of the app.
  5. Include an educational element – There are several purely gaming apps for children (what better example can there be than ‘Flappy Bird’?) – but in the long run, they do not deliver any value to the little user. If you are making an Android/iPhone app for preschoolers, include elements that would add to the overall knowledge pool of the little ones. For instance, in a digital story about interspace travels (and such stories are pretty common in apps), you can include planetary information. Maths puzzles, crossword challenges, and word-making games are also popular in free apps for kids.
  6. The sound of music – Ignore this factor at your (and your app’s!) peril. Remember, you are trying to keep your young audience engaged at all times – and audio effects play a vital part for that. Include a soothing, melodious background music (kids should have the option to turn it off, if they wish). There should be appropriate changes in the sounds, depending on the actions of the users. In a reading app for kids, there should be an option to listen to audio-narrations of the in-app stories. A child would prefer interacting with a virtual companion which ‘speaks’, and not a dumb app!
  7. Do not make kids mobile games too tough or too brief – This is a rather tricky aspect. A mobile game that is too easy won’t appeal to a curious, challenge-loving kid, while if the gameplay is too tough – (s)he might simply give up after a few minutes. Depending upon the age-group of children you wish to target, set customized difficulty level(s) in the games. What’s more – you need to ensure that the game does not ‘finish’. There should be plenty of levels, new modes to be unlocked, and fresh stories to read. Otherwise, your app won’t remain a kid’s favorite for long.
  8. In-app purchases and downloads – Okay, time to turn our attention to more commercial aspects. There are many mobile app companies that include direct paid download links on the screens of a kid’s app – and that is downright wrong. After all, a child of, say 3, is not supposed to understand which in-app purchases are necessary – and they might simply end up spending some of their parents’ money. Don’t go for such shady marketing tactics, and have a link to your business website on the settings page of the app instead. Parents would be able to check out your overall app portfolio, and download according to their (and their kids’) preferences.
  9. Have a reward system – Which kid doesn’t love to win prizes? Any good mobile application for children should have an in-built virtual reward system, so that the li’l darlings can get that sense of fulfillment after their app-activities. If it’s a gaming app, you can go for a points accumulation system, reward coins, or other such interesting rewards. For mobile learning apps for kids, there should be token prizes for children who manage to complete letter-writing tasks, maths exercises, and the like. Audio effects – like the sound of applause, or a voice saying ‘Well Done!’ – can add to a kids’ app’s charm too.
  10. The in-app navigation should be easy – Many iPhone and Android app developers make the folly of including too many pages/screens in a children’s app. This invariably makes the menu of the app cluttered – and kids ultimately lose their way in the maze. A toddler might be surprisingly tech-savvy, but even then (s)he would appreciate it if the navigation system in a mobile app is smooth and easy to understand. Let’s look at it this way – a kid should not have to run to his/her mom/dad to understand how an app should be operated. Presence of too many screens will make an app heavy too – and that’s another thing you don’t want.
  11. Title and app-icon – The name and icon of an app would be its first points of contact with those it is meant for – children. Choose a catchy, innovative, fun title, which would give the users (parents and children) some idea about what the app is all about. Your UI/UX designing team should create around 4-5 different app icons and logos. During the development stage, use the social media channels of your business (read: Facebook) to showcase the alternative icons, and find out which one is best-received. Use it in the final version of your app.

A small tip here: Do not ever plagiarize the title and/or icon of any existing, popular kid’s app. That way, you will simply be asking for rejection at the online stores!

12. Don’t forget the parents – An app for kids should not only be about delighting the young boys and girls who download it. Any responsible parent would like to keep track of what his/her children is doing with smartphones and tablets – and you can facilitate this by including suitable parental control features in the app. For web-enabled apps, there should be a log of sites browsed – which parents can check on a regular basis. Finally, there should be the option to ‘lock the app’ at certain times. Otherwise, kids might stay up till late to play games on your app – and parents will not approve it!

Regular upgrades are important for any app, and for a mobile application for children, they are absolutely critical. Make sure that your app has been properly tested prior to release – for a buggy app would surely lead to adverse word-of-mouth publicity. Focus on delivering surprises to the little ones via the app, make it very user-friendly, play around with colors and animation characters, and actively seek feedback and opinions from parents. There are zillions of free apps for kids out there – if yours has to stand out, you need to follow the above guidelines.

 

AppBoard Tuesday – Learn The Secret Recipe For The Perfect App!

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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Many of you are big-time KFC fans, right? Take a minute out and think – can’t you make the same crispy fried chicken at home too? Most of you would say ‘no’ – because KFC adds those ‘secret herbs and spices’, to make its chicken taste, well, ‘out-of-the-world’. Rest assured, there is no magic potion from Mars that those guys use, to give your gastronomic juices a treat – its all common stuff, and the magic happens due to the expertise of the chef. In today’s edition of AppBoard Tuesday (ABT) we will compare the role of a mobile app developer to that of a cook. The former tries to develop great apps, the latter guns for lip-smacking delicacies. There’s no rocket science involved for making a good mobile application, all that’s required is following these ‘secret’ strategies:

  1. Research, Research & Research Some More – If you have an app idea in mind, the first thing you need to do is find out whether/how many similar apps already exist in Play Store and/or iTunes. Learn how these apps have been created and designed – and use this information as a frame of reference. Of course, if your app is something totally unique, you won’t have such earlier examples to check out.
  2. Go for a ‘better’ app – Ever wondered why a perfectly good app might fail? The reason is simple: there is no dearth of such ‘good’ apps in the market – your focus should be on making ‘better’ ones. Study the functionality, speed, information, controls, overall UI designs and other features of similar applications – and find out how you can deliver more value than them. After all, you need to give your target audience valid reasons to switch over to your app!
  3. Develop an app that people will need – Let’s go back to our KFC example for a bit. You are absolutely ravenous and have ordered an 8-piece chicken bucket – and what arrives on your table is a pitiful 3-piece chicken strips. You won’t be mighty pleased, right? The same goes for mobile app development as well. You need to find out the exact types of apps that people would like to have on their smartphones (surveys, emailed questionnaires, social media interactions – all help in this regard). Your app might be an amazing piece of programming wizardry – but if there’s no demand for it, you’ll be the only one admiring it!
  4. Accept the challenge – Developing good-looking, useful, user-friendly mobile apps is not the easiest task in the world. Neither is making fantastic fried chicken, day in and day out. Have you ever heard of a chef resign because (s)he was afraid of trying to learn how to whip up new dishes? Similarly, you need to be prepared to get out of your comfort zone – while making apps. At leading cross-platform app development companies, you might be required to work on an iOS project to start off, and then be switched to an Android project. What will you do, give up?
  5. Ask the experts, always – Keep pestering them, in fact. If you are a newbie, you’ll have loads to learn from an experienced coder, graphic designer or a mobile app testing expert. While working on the project, try and learn up the nitty-gritty of the programming techniques that would have to be used from them. The same goes if you are into UI/UX designing or testing. Ditch that shyness – it never works at a workplace. The more you talk with the experts, the more you learn.
  6. Maintain milestones – Back to KFC. You must have noticed how organized the people at the counter of the outlets are. They’ll take your order, print out the bill, pass it to another person, collect your payment, make sure that your tray is properly laden, add the sauces, napkins and straws, and then, hand it over to you with a smile. In much the same way, you have to be very systematic when you make an Android/iPhone app. Maintain records of the stage of app development you are in at any time (right from the initial brainstorming phase), keep a record of the codes used (including the errors you might commit), and share the wireframes and mockups with clients. This would prove advantageous in two ways: First, you will always be in charge of the app development project; Second, collecting timely payment installments would also be easy.
  7. Don’t attach a ‘too’ high price tag – A 6-piece chicken bucket at KFC costs around Rs. 500 – and everyone believes that it is indeed ‘finger lickin’ good’. Let’s consider that the price of the same bucket is raised to Rs. 1000. Worry not – almost everyone except the hardcore KFC fanboys/girls will switch over to another shop. No matter how good your mobile app is, you must not make it an exorbitantly high-priced one. On an average, 9 out of 10 iPhone apps are free – with monetization being done via in-app advertisements or other models. Even paid apps are priced at nominal levels. Do not make people think too much as to whether it would be ‘financially worth it’ to download your app. Getting a decent enough user-base should be your first goal.
  8. Quality matters, always – Once you are served a bad piece of chicken, you won’t return to that store. Similarly, if a client gets a substandard app from your company (after paying a hefty amount), there’s precious little chance of him/her coming back to you with another project. Follow the latest, pre-tested methods for developing smartphone apps at all times. Stay updated, and implement, all the mobile industry best practices. Every aspect of the app development process should be glitch-free. Set up periodic consultations with clients, and find out whether the app is being developed according to their exact preferences. You should, of course, avoid extra expenses as much as possible – but that should not involve a compromise on the quality front.
  9. App testing should be done by specialists – If your mobile app agency does not have a separate testing department – kindly do not accept projects until you have got one. An app developer might have some knowledge about testing – but such half-hearted efforts would never be enough to ensure that all bugs/coding errors/malware are ironed out from the final build. In a app development firm, the testers are as integral as the developers and the designers. A faulty app would not have a sniff of a chance of getting approved at Apple iTunes (in particular).
  10. Live up to your promises – Again, take a leaf out of the KFC book. In all their ads, and at their stores – visitors are always promised a grand eating experience. Hardly ever (there can be odd cases here and there) do they fail to deliver what they promise. By the same token, you should stay away from making tall promises you cannot live up to. Provide free app quotes (without hidden charges), mention (and meet) the deadline by which the app will be completed, and pre-specify the amount of expenses that would be involved. People love companies that do not brag much!
  11. Make the app engaging – This is particularly important if you are making a gaming app or a mobile app for kids. The secret behind any successful mobile game is that it is (a) not too difficult, and (b) generally never-ending. Right from Angry Birds Go, to Flappy Bird – most top-rated gaming apps follow this principle. A mobile application for children needs to capture the little ones’ attention in terms of its interface designs, touch features, information content and the way in which it is presented, and ease of usage. Business, news and social networking apps need to have loads of interactive features as well. Remember just the one thing: the in-app navigation should never become too complicated.
  12. Promote the app well – Open any leading English daily, look around at the hoardings at any posh city location – and you will find large, colorful ads of products/services of both established brands – as well as of those which have not yet released. Once a mobile app project finishes, it becomes a ‘product’ – which you will have to generate a buzz about. Post first-look updates of its screens on social media, write press releases highlighting the new app’s features and functionality, and keep posting online/print ads after the app has been approved. Maximum exposure for your app maximizes the chances of initial downloads.

Keep seeking feedback on your apps from clients (just like restaurant stuff ask if the food was good) – and monitor the reviews/testimonials posted at the app stores. Do not charge additional amounts on app updates (ever heard KFC charge money for some extra ketchup or an extra fork?). Make sure that the bandwidth requirement of your app is not much. All the above factors are far from being ‘secret’ – but many developers/companies tend to overlook them, resulting in the app-recipe getting all tangled. Don’t be one of them!

 

And that is about that for this week’s edition of AppBoard Tuesday. If you have any other ‘secret’ tips to ensure an app’s success – do share them with us. ABT returns next week…till then, stay happily zapped with great apps!

 

Infowatch August – The Teks Newsletter

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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It’s the first day of a brand new month, folks – and we are back to bring you up-to-date with all that happened in the realm of technology, over the last four weeks. August had been a pretty busy month, with a series of important announcements, product launches and other interesting going-ons in the tech domain. Without much of further ado, let’s start our roundup of what made the most ripples last month – right here on Infowatch August:

iPhone 6 Finally Gets A Release Date

It’s finally here! No, not the phone yet – but at least Apple has come up with an official launch date for the heavily-anticipated iPhone 6. According to reports, the 4.7” model will hit the markets on the 9th of September, while we will have to wait at least a couple of months more for the 5.5” phablet variety. iPhone software experts and mobile app developers are all abuzz about the new Apple device.

Arrival Of Robots That Can ‘Learn-On-The-Job’

Robo Brain has raised the bar significantly, as far as creation and deployment of smart robots is concerned. Research experts from Brown, Cornell and Stanford Universities have started collaborating, to make robots that would be able to ‘learn new tasks’ – unlike the present ones with pre-programmed knowledge. There is some apprehension that such new-age robots might start learning unhealthy, undesirable stuff too, however.

Internet Service Outage Causes Furore

Renowned companies are expected to maintain their standards of service at all times – something that Time Warner Cable is having trouble doing. In the last week of August, the company suffered a three-hour long outage – across 29 states in the United States, owing to a human mistake. Coming on the back of the report that nearly 60% of Time Warner clients are not satisfied with its services, a massive outage like this is just what the company did not need.

Pinterest Focuses On India For Further Growth

After consolidating its popularity in the United States (with roughly one-third of the market share) and the United Kingdom, Pinterest is looking at India for its next attempt at expanding its reach. Founders Evan Sharp, Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra have taken a cue from how corporate houses like Yash Raj Studios and individual celebrities like masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor uses the platform, to stay connected with fans and followers. Researches have shown that Pinterest is almost equally popular among men and women in India, unlike what has been seen in the West.

Goodbye, MSN Messenger

Most people thought that MSN/Windows Live Messenger was finished last year – when Microsoft announced that users had to migrate to the Skype platform, to continue enjoying its services. However, MSN kept operating in China, and the plug will be finally pulled on it on the 31st of October. Facing intense competition from Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and (ironically) Skype itself – the fifteen year old service has finally arrived at the end of its run.

Firefox OS To Steal A March On Google Android?

It seems like Android will have to tackle a three-pronged competition to retain its leadership position (in terms of market share) in the mobile markets worldwide. In addition to arch-rival iOS, and the soon-to-release Tizen (on Samsung Z), August saw the arrival of granular applications permissions on the Firefox OS. With this feature, Mozilla has made it possible for Firefox device owners to revoke app permissions on a granular basis, whenever required. Android app developers feel that Google needs to come up with a similar functionality on its upcoming mobile platform too.

Snapchat To Get Huge Investment Boost

Snapchat had turned down a $3 billion takeover offer from Facebook, and the move seems to be paying off. On the evidence of its fast-growing popularity, Kleiner Perkins & Byer have agreed to invest an amount in excess of $10 billion – to further its growth. With this financial shot in the arm, Snapchat might soon become a worthy challenger of mobile messaging biggies like WhatsApp and Viber.

Instagram Launches Hyperlapse app

Wish to record HQ videos while moving around with your smartphone? Instagram has now made it possible! It released an all-new iPhone app – Hyperlapse – last month, and initial feedback has been extremely positive. Right from capturing sceneries, to making home videos, Hyperlapse can do it all. Our very own Timesnaps app is something like it!

A Social Network For Becoming A Good Neighbor!

Or, we can say ‘an anti-social network’ – for that’s what Nextdoor is better known as. Nextdoor made its debut way back in 2010, but it is only now that the platform is picking up popularity. Surveys have revealed that many people in the United States use it, to connect with their neighbors in a better, smarter way. The network has helped neighbors help each other, solve petty local crimes, and is fast rising the popularity charts. Facebook should better keep an eye on this one!

New Version Of C++ Gets Approved

Much to the delight of programmers and app developers across the globe, ISO has finally given its nod to the draft of C++14 – the successor of C++11. Enhanced usability of programmer-defined literals, expanded lambdas and the greater range of Contexpr (the function evaluator during compilation) are the key highlights of C++14. Recent rumors that the C-programming ecosystem was nearing its end have died down. Understandably.

Steve Ballmer Is No Longer On The Microsoft Board

Ballmer’s stint as Microsoft CEO ended in February, and in August, he formally resigned from the Board of Directors of the company (via a letter to Satya Nadella). There is quite a bit of contemplation as to whether Ballmer (who currently owns LA Clippers) stepped down for he was not in favor of Microsoft’s ‘cloud-first, mobile first’ strategy. However, the man would not be foregoing his shares, and will enjoy a quarterly earning of close to $95 million.

Google Announces ‘Project Wing’

The fight between Amazon and Google to provide the quickest and the most efficient delivery service to buyers is hotting up. In 2013, the former announced ‘Prime Air’ – a system in which drones will be trained to deliver products (to any address). Last month, Google came up with the perfect riposte – ‘Project Wing’. The Google drones will have routes pre-programmed in them, and will come with a pretty impressive wingspan. A preliminary video is already out, and first stage of delivery drone testing has commenced. No more undue delays in the arrival of products!

Connecting Your Apple iPhone To A Computer? Beware!

In a sensational discovery, it was found that Apple iPhones are not as hacker-proof as they are generally considered to be. Interestingly, the vulnerability of iOS is at its maximum when a device is connected to a computer, via USB. At a recent conference in San Diego, a practical demonstration of this security risk was given. It has been proved that the overall designs of iOS are leaving scopes for attacks, and the software does not have any frailties per se.

JPMorgan Chase Faces Serious Cyber Threat

As per early reports, Russian malware and hacking experts targeted the largest bank in the United States (along with a couple of other banks) last month. Personal account information and other such sensitive data in the bank’s database have come under a security cloud – and the issue has been serious enough to prompt a FBI investigation. Trish Wrexler, speaking on behalf of JP Morgan Chase, pointed out that large financial institutions are often the preferred target of hackers – and the data security provisions were enough to thwart the attacks.

Samsung Gear S Brings Voice Calling On Smartwatch

While Apple keeps postponing the release of iWatch (it seems unlikely that it will arrive before 2015), Samsung has upped its game in the wearable technology section. In the second half of August, the company unveiled Gear S – a smartwatch which could make calls, without having a mobile phone near it. The sales of Samsung devices had slackened a bit last quarter, and the October-release of Gear S is likely to push up revenues once again.

Alibaba Grows Financially Stronger Before IPO

The much-talked about Alibaba IPO in the United States might happen within the first week of September. The way in which the company revenues have soared during the recently concluded quarter has fueled this rumor. In particular, the mobile and software sector of the online retailing giant has witnessed a significant spurt (up from 27% to 33% of all transactions). If the trends hold, the IPO should be valued at over $200 billion.

Older Versions Of Internet Explorer Set To Be Phased Out

Clearly frustrated with the reluctance of people to upgrade to newer versions of the Internet Explorer browser, Microsoft has decided to come down hard on IE 7 and 8. The two will no longer be available on any operating system from January 2016. IE 9 will be operable only on Windows Vista, which is hardly used by anyone. IE 11 will be the only available version on Windows 7, 8. 8.1. Windows 9 is also likely to be launched in the interim.

A Bigger iPad Is Coming Soon

In a bid to shore up the progressively disappointing sales figures of the iPad (both the 7.9 inch and the 10 inch variety), Apple has announced a larger, 12.9-inch version. It should be ready for release in the first quarter of 2015, and it promises to be more user-friendly than ever. Professionals specializing in iOS app development feel that the new device would double up as a competitor of the large-screened Samsung phones too.

HP Forced To Take Back 6 Million Power Cords

Hewlett-Packard’s reputation as a supplier of the best-quality gadgets and accessories took a hit in August – when the company had to recall nearly 6 million faulty computer cables, in United States and Canada. There had been as many as 29 different complaints that the cables were getting charred, overheated or were melting. After taking back the problematic LS-15 cords (which were shipped with HP notebooks and mini-notebooks), HP issued a public apology to customers.

First Look Of Windows Threshold In December

In addition to phasing out older IE versions, Microsoft would be looking to put the disappointments of Windows 8 behind it as well. The next version of the desktop OS – codenamed ‘Windows Threshold’ – will be previewed this fall, nearly a year before its full commercial release. A faster booting system and a revamped Start button (the absence of which was instrumental for the poor reviews of Windows 8) will be the key features to look out for. ‘Windows Threshold’ would also offer greater support for virtual gadgets.

 

There was a fresh twist in the forever-ongoing Apple vs Samsung tussle last month, with the former’s ‘172 Claim’ for patent violation being rejected at a California court. Mobile app development received a bit of celebrity glitz – with Tom Hanks conceptualizing an iPad app (Hanx), which recreates the effects of old typewriters. Motorola has also entered the domain of wearable technology with its impressively stacked Moto 360 (although its chances of success in the face of fierce competition from Samsung remain suspect). Rumors about a new Microsoft tablet has also started doing the rounds, after the price of Surface 2 was slashed in August. The acquisition of Jetpac (the creator of several apps) by Google also drew the attention of tech enthusiasts.

August was an action-packed month in terms of new smartphone releases (oh well, which month isn’t these days?). Xiaomi returned with its 2nd flagship device for Indian markets – the Redmi 1s (which, interestingly, will be available again only on Flipkart). Nokia is eyeing a warm response for its Lumia 530, after the strong showing of Nokia Lumia 630. Sony Xperia C3 was an eagerly-anticipated release, as was the Oppo Find 7. Among the budget smartphones that hit the markets last month, Spice Fire One Mi-FX1 and Intex Cloud FX are the most noteworthy.

 kids tiles app

Okay, time to look back at what Teknowledge Software had been up to last month. A new mobile gaming app for kids – Kids Tiles – was launched at iTunes on August 15, and it has received encouraging reviews from all over. Two other apps, Sting and Heart Charts, are in their final stage of development – and would be released soon. It was a fantastic month for our Story Time team as well, with the 3-day Monsoon Camp 2014 event proving to be a grand success. Both the free storytelling app for children as well as the printed books are rapidly growing in popularity. Happy times!

 

With that, we come to the end of the August edition of Infowatch. The Teks monthly newsletter will be back on the 30th of September – with tidbits on all the important tech happenings this month. If you feel we have missed out on any important news from August, do mention it – and we’ll definitely consider including it. Till the next time we meet – enjoy September, everyone!