Last week, Amazon announced brand new additions to its popular cloud computing and storage branch, Amazon Web Services, expanding Amazon into mobile analytics, app data synchronization, and user security. Their existing services are used by thousands of developers to store information or perform calculations to help make their apps run faster. Amazon’s global infrastructure and pay-as-you-go pricing have made them a popular choice, though Google has been trying to give them a run for their money.
These new services will be accessible through a SDK that will work across iOS and Android OS, so developers don’t have to reinvent solutions every time they move to a new platform. The services will also be pay-as-you-go, with no up-front investment, and the pricing is fairly cheap, consistent with their existing price structure. In a preview webinar before the launch, Amazon was happy to point out that they had frequently lowered their prices, though some analysts say this was in response to pressure from the wider market.
Amazon Cognito is a completely new service that helps developers cope with user identity and data synchronization in a variety of ways. First, it allows app users to securely sign into existing Facebook, Google+, and Amazon accounts as a way to establish an app account, potentially cutting out some uses of the Facebook SDK. Furthermore, these sign-ins are encrypted by Amazon and provide an extra layer of security for users. Second, it gives each user a unique ID, so their account syncs across devices and operating systems. This could potentially save developers a lot of time; with Amazon Cognito, they don’t have to write their own structure for cross-platform synchronization.
Finally, each user is assigned a unique and random ID. For most, this will correspond to their Facebook, Google+, or Amazon account, but for those users that prefer not to link their app account to a social media account; this unique ID will serve as an account, meaning they can use the app as normal and set their own preferences. If at a later point that user wants to set up an account, the user will experience no hiccups, but a smooth transition, with their preferences intact. This is an excellent, pre-built solution for the large number of users who do not want to share social information with apps – or who do not have a social media profile.
Amazon Mobile Analytics will provide many of the same analytics that other existing SDKs do. Amazon Web Services also emphasized the ease of use of the SDK; they claim that with one line of code, the developer can track active users, sticky factor, daily sessions, and various revenue tracking. With a few more lines, developers can track custom events personalized to the app. Amazon Web Services say their analytics can scale to billions of events per day from millions of users, without any back-end work for the developer.
However, with heavyweights like Flurry and Google Mobile Analytics leading the slew of analytics available to developers, the jury is still out on whether the benefits of Amazon Mobile Analytics outweigh the (admittedly small) costs. It is interesting to see Amazon premier this service around the same time as Apple rolls out new, more in-depth mobile analytics in iTunes Connect 3. One important differentiator may be that the data gathered by Amazon Mobile Analytics belongs to the developer who uses it, not to Amazon, meaning it will never be shared, aggregated, or reused.
Amazon SNS Mobile Push is an existing service that has will be getting new features. Developers will be able to send push notifications to their users in a timely manner, with expiry dates if desired, and the whole service will run much faster and will be easier to use. Amazon’s service specifically works with a wide number of push notification systems (Apple APNS, Google GCM, Baidu CP, and Amazon ADM), and the messages will be sent across the world with no problems because of Amazon’s global storage. Amazon did premier support for Baidu Cloud Push, Microsoft Push Notification Service, and Windows Push Notification Service in June, but it’s still noteworthy today, especially in tangent with the new user identity software from Amazon Cognito. There are a wide number of SDKs already available to developers to help segment users and manage contacts accordingly, including Appboy, which sees 30 percent click- through in their app’s newsfeed.
More information about the release is available from Amazon here.
Sara Kewin is an account manager at Appency who is waiting for the day when Amazon’s web services have server centers on the moon and Mars.
There’s no denying how much we love apps, but we especially love apps for kids that are not only fun, but also educational. Apps claim to make learning fun, develop important skills, and give kids a head start on learning, but are they actually helpful to your child’s learning? In short — yes! A recent study commissioned by developer Motion Math suggests that significant learning can occur with the right apps. They can improve test scores as well as change a child’s attitude toward a subject. According to researcher Dr. Kate Highfield, quality apps can enhance learning incredibly, specifically when dealing with practicing specific skills or encouraging the child to create their own ideas and communicate in new ways. Quality apps can be like digital blank piece of paper, leaving room for the child to make or do anything with them. When used correctly and in combination with traditional mediums like books, apps do have a place in your little ones growth and development and are much more than a simple distraction device. Check out a few quality apps we love listed below.
1. Fun with Colors
Recommended for kids 2 to 5
$2.99, no in-app purchases
We love the adorable animations and interactions this app offers to its young users. It’s refreshing to see a new approach to experiencing the world of colors. What truly makes this app special is it’s teaching through storytelling that’s easy to follow. This app encourages creativity by allowing the user to create their own images, and this is what makes it such a quality app. Rather than limiting what a child can do on the app, it gives them the freedom to create their very own masterpieces. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here, or for Android here.
2. Freefall Spelling
Recommended for kids 4 and up
$1.99, no in-app purchases
We enjoy the many different options the user can choose from when practicing their spelling, and it’s definitely encouraging to see that Freefall Spelling won a Parents’ Choice Award. What makes this app amazing is the option to enter your child’s own spelling list from school. We love when our little ones stay motivated, so what better way than by the apps use of the reward system. For spelling a correct word, a fish is rewarded for their virtual tank. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here.
3. Marble Math Junior
Recommended for kids 6 to 8
$2.99, no in-app purchases
We applaud this app for challenging its little users to solve math problems and recognize numbers in a fun way! Their little hands will be able to guide their marble through fun mazes that will make learning enjoyable. Being based on the Common Core Curriculum makes this app worth checking out. Marble Math Junior has been widely recognized, winning the 2013 Parents’ Choice Award and Common Sense Media 2013 ON for Learning Award. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here.
4. BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week
Recommended for kids 6 to 8
Free, no in-app purchases
We love that this great app gives kids lots to think about —some of its video content may be challenging, but it’s definitely interesting and explained in a manner your youngsters will understand. They’ll learn something new each week with a different animated video. You can even test what they’ve seen though related quizzes and educational activities. The gentle, humorous, and relatable characters serve as guides through each topic, empowering your child to form their own ideas. Plus, the app has no in-app purchases, which protects your own wallet while your kids use the app. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here, or for Android here.
5. Britannica Kids: U.S. Presidents
Recommended for kids 6 and up
$1.99, no in-app purchases
We appreciate how this app makes it easy for kids to learn about America’s history, with concise information and fun facts provided for each president. It makes learning about each president much more interesting and entertaining. It truly brings the Oval Office into your living room and makes it enjoyable for not just your child, but also the whole family to learn something new about their favorite president, or quiz each other. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here.
Jessica Egan is a music, social media, and Disneyland enthusiast who currently attends UC Davis and looks forward to a career in either public relations and marketing.