Kytephone: Child Friendly UI With Big Plans For The Future

Kytephone is out of beta, hitting the Google Play Store yesterday. The free application creates an alternative user interface which is designed to keep children safe from some of the less suitable things found on modern smartphones.  The child’s phone usage can then be monitored by a parent or guardian, who moderates what can be done on the phone through an online dashboard.

The app is very simple to use. A parent signs up online or through the app itself with an email and password. Once signed up, you are logged into the new user interface which is completely impossible for a child to exit. Seriously, I have tried everything to get out of it. I’ve turned the phone off and have even taken the battery out, only to be greeted with Kytephone when the phone boots back up. It even blocks the Ice Cream Sandwich multitasking screen.

The idea behind the application isn’t completely new. We have seen child friendly tablets and phones created in the past, such as the LeapFrog tablet which is a complete tablet dedicated to children. However, these products are very limiting, offering their own apps which often lack the fun or quality of apps available to download for Android. Part of what makes Kytephone so unique is that it allows any application from the Google Play Store, provided the parent allows it.

How child-friendly the app is completely depends on how the parent decides to customize it. Controlled through an online dashboard, an adult can see just about everything the child does on the phone, and moderate everything that happens. For example, an adult can choose which contacts the child can call. There is no phone dial to call numbers which aren’t on the contact list which means there is no way that a child can call a number that hasn’t already been approved by his/her parent. The same rule applies for applications, as I mentioned above, a parent can allow absolutely any application to be on their child’s phone if they choose so.

The online dashboard is an online hub for parents to monitor their child’s phone activity, and it’s extremely impressive. You can see how long their son/daughter has been playing an application, see who they have called and even see their location on a very precise map. The parent can even see photos taken by the child almost the second they are taken, which can then be saved or deleted directly from the browser.

I contacted Martin Drashkov, a Co-Founder of Kytephone to discuss the app. If that name rings a bell, it’s the same Martin Drashkov who created the 23″ MegaPad last summer.

“The response has been great so far because Kytephone offers a well-executed solution to a real problem a lot of parents face.”

“We like to call it “Kid’s first smart phone” since once app takes over, it’s hard to tell that it’s running Android underneath.”

I asked about the future of Kytephone, it seems like a great start but there is still quite a lot missing. Luckily, Martin was on the same page as me on what could be added in the future.

“There’s many features we’ll be adding in the future, both on the phone app to make the experience better for kids and on the dashboard side to make the experience better for parents.  On the app side we’ll be adding SMS messaging along with the same parental controls as making phone calls, while for parents we’d like to introduce more advance parental controls, such as time limits on games. So parents could say “only 1 hour of games per day” or “no gaming during school hours” or both.”

We also discussed the fact that, while it’s currently great for small children, the theme is very limited and older children may want to change the design to make it look less childish.

“Our aim is to have a phone with all the usual features found on regular adult-phones (phone calls, photos, sms, web browsing), but each feature having parental controls.” “For older kids we’d like to be able to provide a version of Kytephone without the child-friendly UI, but with the same controls available to parents.”

“Kytephone today is great for young children, but older kids would resent having to use a kid’s product. At the same time, a number of parents have expressed interest in having the same parental controls, but for teenagers, so there’s definitely a need there. It would be the same app, except parents can easily customize it from the dashboard to make it appropriate for different ages.”

Unfortunately, there are currently no plans to bring the app to iOS or WP7, here’s what Martin had to say.

“No, we don’t have a plans for other platforms. Apple for example would not allow an app like Kytephone that takes over the UI on the App Store. But we think that with Android’s popularity and the number of affordable devices, it’s the best platform out there.”

There is a chance that in the future, Kytephone may come to Android tablets.

“Well, it’s something we’ve looked at and we can do it, but for now we’re concentrating on making a really great kid’s smart phone.” 

Kytephone is available for free from the Google Play Store. Despite being accidentally listed as ‘beta’, the version currently on the store is the full version.

This Amazing Android UI Needs Your Help!

Say hello to Chameleon, a user interface proposal for Android tablets which hopes to change the way you interact with the Android operating system.

The aim of Chameleon is to optimize the tablet’s screen so that you can get the most out of the large screen. This means throwing more information and multimedia towards you than ever possible before. When I say that, you probably think I am talking about what widgets do so well, but i’m not. While you can get some widgets that are amazing at what they do, there aren’t many which match each other. The twitter widget might look great, but it doesn’t match the Facebook or clock widget, meaning it makes your homescreen look very messy.

This is what Chameleon hopes to change. The entire user interface is built up of a number of different widgets which work together to make a tidy and easy to customize homescreen. The entire project is based around the ability to do things faster, easier and make things more enjoyable. I’d say by the looks of the early glimpse we have, they are set to do this.

The good news is that Chameleon isn’t out of your reach, it’s not a crazy concept! While the developers were in talks with manufacturers to make tablets running the OS, talks seem to have failed. But that’s good, as the company have decided that they will released the entire operating system as an application available from the Google Play Store.

In order to do this, they will need help. A Kickstarter page has been set up to raise $50,000 in the next 28 days. So far the project has raised around $6000 in just a couple of days and is rapidly approaching it’s goal. However any additional contributions would help the application’s development to be smoother and fund later updates.

Snapstagram, An Instagram Printing Service

A recently funded Kickstarter project aims to make printing your Instagram snaps an easy experience.

‘Snapstagram’ is a web service which logs into your Instagram account and displays your photos ready for selection. You then select a roll of photos you wish to see in reality, which is then printed off as high quality 4″ x 4″ prints.

A roll of photos is 12 images, which costs just $6 with free packaging and postage.

Part of what draws me to this service is that if feels like a very friendly and welcoming service. It’s not a corporate giant or new owners Facebook who are offering the service, it’s a few guys from Ohio, who have an excellent vision, and an eye when it comes to packaging.

It’s already been funded, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contribute to make the service even better. Head over to the Kickstarter funding page to pledge your donation.