Monday, February 9, 2015

Ustyme Video Calling/Gaming/Reading App Review

The product Ustyme is an app for your iPhone or iPad. It can even be used via Chrome on your computer. This app allows you to add friends and then video call them to read books or play games together, such  as 4 in a Row (which you can purchase right from Ustyme in the app store). We were given the opportunity to review this app and, as the parent on this blog, I wanted to see how this would appeal to families (especially if one parent has to travel for work a lot or your extended family is too far for regular visits).

When I asked  my husband to download it so that we could test it out with the kids, his first question was the same  as mine: "How is this different than a FaceTime call?" Well, let me tell you what makes Ustyme different.

This is the main screen you come to when you enter the app. As you can see, there are some books already loaded in the app, as well as more games and books to purchase, including $.99 specials. 

Along the top, you see the two silhouettes; those are my "friends" in the app.  My husband and my mother are my two friends right now. I asked Boxy to download it and read bedtime stories to my kids, but she respectfully declined. ;) 

As you can see, there are several books you can purchase from within the app. So far we haven't purchased anything but I think it might be fun for the kids to add a few books. 

The way the app works is that your friends join or you can invite them via email, Facebook (if you are logged in through Facebook), or your contact list. Once you have friends in your list, you can video call them. Then, you can read the same book or play the same game together.

This is especially useful for children who have grandparents who live far away or if Mommy or Daddy is away on a business trip. They can still see the kids and the kids can see them, all while having a bedtime story read to them. 

While testing this app, we called my mom, who lives two hours away. All three kids piled on top of me to see Grandma and read with her. I liked that the kids could see her but not themselves on the video screen; it forced them to focus on her and what they were reading rather than making silly faces at themselves. We read The Three Little Pigs, alternating between Grandma reading and my 8-year-old son reading. He hates to read but loved this because he could share with Grandma! 

There were a few downsides to this app, though. It isn't very user friendly as far as getting those "friends" on that contact list. I was trying to figure out how to add them by reading the FAQs, but I just wasn't understanding. However, we did get friends added eventually, I would recommend maybe better instructions for this process. What I found was that you have to "invite" the friend via email or Facebook. Once they sign up for the app, an email is sent to you to accept the friendship. The emails took a while to arrive in my mailbox, so I was certain I messed something up.

The other down side is that, on my iPhone, the text in the books is really tiny. It is almost hard to read and there is no way to make it bigger. Grandma said it was pretty small on her iPad as well but I am thinking it may have been fine for the kids to see it if the screen was a bit bigger. This just confirms my need for an iPad. 

Overall, though, if there are faraway family members or a parent who travels a lot, this is a nice way to bring reading and family time together. 

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