Box Island, Near Street and three other apps you should check out this month
Box Island (free on iOS, with in-app purchases)
Designed to introduce kids to the basic elements of computer coding, this has you guide a cube-shaped character called Hiro around 3D adventure landscape.
It is distinguished by superb graphics, and decent gameplay. The story does enough to engage and inform. Kids apply coding basics – algorithms, pattern recognition, sequences, loops and conditionals – to move the character, which advance in terms of their programming complexity as your progress through the levels.
The design of the game – from the friendly characters, through the bright colour schemes – is intended to encourage girls to get into coding as well. It features 100 levels; the first 10 are free to try, and the full game is $7.99 (about £6).
NearSt (free on iOS)
The high street fights back! The likes of Amazon have practically killed off high street independents in recent times.
A few specialist book shops have started to reassert their buoyancy, by differentiating in store and online, often with the backing of authors and literary types.
This app promises to expand the battle front, and beat online retailers at their own game - which in the era of free-of-charge next-day deliveries is quite a commitment.
Basically, it will search the inventory of participating bookstores in your area, and beat the online retail giants on price, and also on delivery – with orders available in store in minutes, or at your door within the hour. It serves London at present, but will be Europe-wide in due course.
It’s hard to resist, really, and books are just the start. NearSt is planning to offer electronics, DIY goods, health and beauty products, sportswear, stationary and gift shop services as well.
Polaroid Swing (free on iOS)
A collaboration between Polaroid and a Silicon Valley start-up, backed by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, this app lets you create short GIF-style ‘swing’ videos you can forward and rewind by swiping your thumb over.
It works rather like the flip books of old, where you can scroll back and forth through a series of freeze-framed photos. The makers it represents a new visual medium.
For sure, these swing videos will start to appear in your social media feeds very soon; whether they remain there is another question. But it is diverting enough, and captures moments in a different way.
PRISMA (free on Android and iOS)
A hugely popular new photo app that provides a bunch of artistic filters so you can turn your ‘selfies’ into works of art using the styles of famous painters.
So, we have the popular heavyweights such as Picasso and Van Gogh, and the lesser-known painters like Isaac Levitan, as well as world famous ornamental styles and patterns.
Want to look like a Munch painting? It’s a scream! The makers claim trickery with neural networks and artificial intelligence. But the results are what matters, and it’s another fun diversion – for a while, anyway.
Tinycards (free on iOS)
From the makers of Duolingo, the most downloaded educational app in history, this takes a flashcard approach to learning.
And actually, rather than the mind-numbing study tool of old, this makes flashcards fun.
Designed to help students of any kind memorise facts, the Tinycards app can be applied to any subject – whether it’s dates in history, constellations, wine pairings, or Game of Thrones characters.
Use the pre-loaded flashcard decks, or create your own. The graphics are pleasant, and the app incorporates various game-play mechanics, such as level-ups and power-bars.