App Review: Carlos the Cat
Publisher: kane digital media
Price: $1.99 with free trial (Windows Marketplace)
Languages: English and German
This is an audio book for children. It tells of Carlos the Cat and his trip to the countryside. There is a trial mode, which only shows you the first 3 pages, and that’s all I looked at, along with my 7-year-old son. He’s a little older than the recommended age, and I agree that it wouldn’t hold his attention for long. We looked at it on my 1st gen WP7 HTC Surround, but it is also available for the iPad (see the end of this post).
First, the screen. There is a nicely unobtrusive direction arrow at the top that you can touch to slide down or up to show or hide the text. The pictures are very lovely – reminiscent of watercolor paintings. They are simple, but very clear and nice. At the bottom of the screen are the options: Language (German or English buttons pop up very nicely), Content (jump to a page), Help (takes you to a How to/About/Email us screen), and AutoPlay On/Off. Son declared the pictures to be very pretty.
The screen does rotate for portrait and landscape modes, and you’ll even see more of the pictures in the longer direction that in the other, which may be fun for smaller kids.
Of course, what delighted Son was that you can touch some of the items on the screen and they’ll make sounds. For example, touch Carlos and he either meows or purrs; touch the parrot and she squawks; touch the window and you hear city sounds.
Second, the story. Remembering that I only looked at the first 3 pages, the story seems to be as simple as a cat’s trip to the countryside, which is just fine for the suggested 3-5 year old crowd. There’s a page about a cow, and meeting another cat, and the story ends up on a rooftop, the image of Carlos and another cat looking at the sunset. (You can see the page titles in the Content section, even in the trial. But if you try to jump to them, it will ask you to buy the app for access. Which is fine.)
Third, the audio. The English is read by a female and the German is read by a male. They are both clear and understandable. The text also switches, and is small, but easily read. The voices are also nicely paced, and a child should be able to follow along.
But here’s my only jarring note: You can touch the text to start and stop it, or you can use the AutoPlay. But if you have AutoPlay on, then touch the text to stop it, the AutoPlay button gets confused: the “play” triangle now stops the reading, and pressing the “pause” bars restarts it. That’s a little confusing if you’re used to the convention (as an adult would be), but it’s really, really a niggling complaint.
Oh! And when I just double-checked that behavior, by exiting and re-entering the app, it remembered where I was previously and restarted there. That was kind of nice to see.
And that’s really it. Carlos the Cat (or Carlos der Kater), is a very simple and beautiful story for very small children. If you have 2-5 year olds, I’d certainly give this one a try. They’ll enjoy the story, the reading, and discovering all the sounds.
Carlos can be found in the Marketplace here
Carlos can also be found in the Apple App Store for iPad (not iPhone) in English here and in German, here. (The price in the Apple App Store is $3.99 or 2.99Euro.)