Tag Team Tech: Wrestling with Teens and Technology December 2013

The Paid Apps Teens Will Love in Winter 2013-2014

Sarah Ludwig

Teens often get iTunes gift cards at the holidays (and you might, too). According to teens, tech editors, and librarians, these are the best paid apps for teens this winter, from games to social media to education and more.

Minecraft Pocket Edition (4+; $6.99)
For the iPad or the iPhone, this app allows the Minecraft addicts in your life to continue playing wherever they are. Players do not need to have a Minecraft account. The game is less expansive than its PC or console equivalent, with fewer available resources, but all the essentials are there. Players can play on either creative or survival and can join each other’s worlds if they’re on the same WiFi network. Every single one of my sixth grade students has and loves this app.

Flow Free: Bridges (4+; $0.99)
Flow Free was introduced to me last year by two students who had become completely obsessed with it. I couldn’t understand the initial appeal, but this soothing puzzle game is addictive. Players must connect colored dots on a grid without lines overlapping. The new version allows players to jump over lines using bridges, which adds to the challenge and the appeal. You may spend money in the game as well, for hints and for unlocking themes and levels.

My Talking Pet (4+; $0.99)
This silly, fun little app was recommended to me by a teen. Users can either snap a photo or choose one from their camera roll of an animal. Then they identify the mouth, chin, and eyes of the animal, speak into the microphone, and watch the pet recite back the words. The voice can be changed from deep (a big dog voice) to high-pitched (a mouse or a kitten). These images can be shared via social media or sent as a video to anyone. You can imagine the fun that teens must have with this.

Ultimate Guitar Tabs (4+; $2.99)
For the budding guitar player, this app offers the tabs and chords for over 800,000 songs, everything from the Beatles to Miley Cyrus. In-app purchases up to $10 include a tuner, instrument tracks, and the ability to customize the look and feel of the app, print tabs, and export tabs and chords to Dropbox. The most recent version of the app also include ukulele songs. For teens who are learning to play or who simply want to increase their repertoire, this is a great app.

Fruit Ninja (4+; $0.99)
The classic game was recommended to me by several teens who still play it frequently. In it, users try to slice as many fruits as they can using a samurai sword. There are different modes of gameplay, including arcade mode, zen mode, and an online multiplayer mode. There are numerous opportunities to purchase in-app features and players can be ranked on a global leaderboard.

Impossible Road (4+; $1.99)
This “minimal arcade game” asks players to guide a cart down a twisting, turning track that’s no unlike a roller coaster. Each time you pass through a gate, your score goes up. Plus, the game actually encourages cheating. Teens can either compete with friends or try to beat their own high scores. Users who rate the game call it addictive, challenging, and “extremely fun.”

Pandora One (12+; $3.99/month or $36/year)
This in-app purchase in the free Pandora radio app allows users to listen to music ad-free and skip an unlimited amount of songs. Teens can either pay by the month or spend big bucks on the annual fee. There are benefits to upgrading on the website version, as well–users can have custom skins and a higher sound quality.

Tetris (4+; $0.99)
This classic arcade game is still a hit with my 21st-century teens. The iOS version offers three modes: marathon, rank, and galaxy. The latter is multi-level. Players can join the T-Club for $2.99 a month to get “extra benefits” when they play–things like earning more T-Coins. (T-Coins can be spent on power-ups.) In-game purchase include T-Coin bundles and T-Club memberships.

Tiny Wings (4+; $0.99)
This game, which has been around since 2011, has over 16,000 reviews in the iTunes store. It features a bird with tiny, ineffectual wings who must launch itself from rolling hills in order to “fly.” The game is extremely challenging, but players feel compelled to keep trying to beat each and every level. The graphics are charming and two game modes, Flight School and Day Trip, allow players to choose how they want to play.

Notability (4+; $2.99 on sale)
This best-selling note-taking app isn’t as fun as some of the games written about here, but it’s incredibly useful for any student who works on his or her iPad. Notability allows the user to annotate documents, create sketches, and import documents like books, PDFs, and PowerPoints. Students can also create audio recordings and record lecture notes. All of this data can be organized neatly by subject or any other taxonomy, making Notability the go-to app for teens who want to stay on top of all of their schoolwork in one powerful app.

Pimp Your Screen (4+; $1.99)
Users can completely customize the look of their iOS devices, including backgrounds, icons, and app shelves. Multiple skins are optimized for the most recent retina displays. You’ll find seasonal content; categories like cartoon, sports, and animals; and home and lock screen themes. New content is added daily, allowing teens to have completely unique-looking phones and iPads that they can change whenever they want.

Twitteriffic (4+; $2.99 on sale)
The new version of Twitteriffic is designed for iOS 7, with the ability to view multiple timelines: mentions, direct messages, and your feed. Users can customize the display theme and filter out certain content from their feed, like hashtags, users, or URLs. With numerous features that go far above and beyond the native Twitter app, Twitteriffic is powerful, lovely, and intuitive, allowing for easy sharing, searching, and communicating.


Ludwig used with permission

Sarah Ludwig is the dean of Digital & Library Services at The Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, CT. She comes to this position having managed two independent school libraries (Wilbraham & Monson and Hamden Hall Country Day), as well as multiple departments at the award-winning Darien Library. ABC-CLIO published Sarah’s book, Starting from Scratch: Building a Teen Library Program, in June 2011. In 2010, Ludwig was selected as an American Library Association Emerging Leader. She is an instructor for Simmons College’s continuing education program and speaks locally and nationally on topics such as promoting reading, digital and information literacy, and integrating library skills into the curriculum.


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