April 26, 2009
What they are: Apps guaranteed to distract the young and young at heart, making those minutes and miles melt away.
How it works: For younger travelers, iToyBox holds a colorful pinwheel, sketch pad and more -- nine diversions in all -- that encourage fingers to play with the phone's display. BubbleWrap provides virtual sheets of the pop-a-licious packaging material to feed that impulse to pop. And before we get to the name of the last one, let's keep in mind that we're heading into the summer vacation season, and some of us reallllllly want to keep the kids amused, at any cost. Thus ... iFart Mobile makes your phone simulate flatulence in a way that appeals to the giggling 8-year-old in all of us.
The good: These apps provide cheap, portable ways to entertain young ones and keep them quiet on planes, in cars or on a chair in a waiting room. Afterward, there's nothing to clean up or put away, and there are no extra toys taking up precious space in a carry-on bag or suitcase.
The bad: You temporarily give up your phone, potentially missing a call or text or -- ironically -- your favorite iPhone time-waster. Battery life is drained during kids' extended play periods, and if the little ones haven't learned to share, a fight over the iPhone could ensue. No matter what, the sound effects could become mind-numbingly repetitive. At least the little darlings are occupied, right?
Cost: Free for BubbleWrap, 99 cents each for iFart Mobile and iToyBox.
Available from: iTunes Music Store, a free download for Mac and PC at apple.com/itunes.
-- Eric Gwinn