Endless Alphabet: An App in Review

Endless Alphabet (by Originator) was released in 2013 and won Apple’s App Store Best of 2013 award. It is intended for ages 3+ and aims to help kids learn their alphabet and increase their vocabulary (Originator, 2013).  It is available for Kindle Fire, iOS and Android devices.

Gameplay:

Endless Alphabet features cute and silly monsters which give the game a whimsical feel. To play Endless Alphabet, users will select a word from the visual list or select a specific letter to jump to a specific group of words (like “J words) in the list (See figure 1).

endless-alphabet-1

Fig. 1: Users select a word from the visual list and can locate desired words more easily by touching the letter of the alphabet desired from the list on the monster’s mouth.

When a word is selected it will fill the screen and a line of monsters will run across knocking the letters off the background. In their place, outlines of the letters used to make up the word are left behind (See figure 2).

Users touch and drag the letters into the correct outlined shape. When a letter is touched, it becomes animated like a monster and the sound of the letter will play until the letter is released (See Figure 3). When a letter is correctly placed, it will stick to the outline and a narrator will read the name of the letter. When a letter is incorrectly placed, the letter will not stick to the outline and the monsters will make a “nuh-uh” or “whomp-whomp” sound.  When the word is complete, the monsters will return to act out the definition of the word. Then a narrator will give the definition of the word. From there, a user can choose to replay the animation or narration, or go to the next word.

endless-alphabet-2

Fig. 2:  Monsters have knocked all the letters off of the background. It is up to the user to drag the letters to their appropriate outline to complete the word.

What does the app do well?

This game has no time limit, or points gained – the user is free to work at their own pace and follow their whim.

It is extremely easy to use. The only interactions are through touching or dragging items.

The animated definitions clearly show the meaning of the word in a whimsical and memorable way. These animation, accompanied by the narrated definitions, will help some children increase their vocabulary – though I wish they’d included a sentence using the word in context.

endless-alphabet-3

Fig. 3: Here, the “S” has been animated like a monster. Letters become animated like monsters when a user touches them.

Drawbacks:

The app costs the steep price of $8.99, but users are given a free trial of the game so they can test it before they purchase it. The trail is untimed, but is limited to only 5 words. An earlier iteration of the app gave the entire game for free, but it was accompanied with ads which would go away if the user paid. However, this feature was apparently bugged and ads wouldn’t appear even if the user never made the in-app purchase (Mathis, 2013). Aside from the price of the app and being a part of a larger series of Endless titles, there are no commercial interests built into the app.

Another complaint is that the sounds of the letters aren’t very good. While some are spot on, others sound kind of garbled and/or extended so they only approximate the letter’s true sound.

I question whether the app is a great way to learn the alphabet (though matching the letters to their outline may be a good way to increase letter shape recognition). Amanda Bindle from Commonsensemedia.org seems to agree with me on that point. Bindle writes “The only problem with Endless Alphabet is that it may be misnamed. This is more of a vocabulary app than a way to merely learn the alphabet” (Bindle, 2013).

Final Thoughts:

Though the free app is limited to so few words, I recommend any parent interested in the app to examine the trial before making the purchase.

-K. Baker

References

Bindle, A. (2013). Endless alphabet. Commonsensemedia.org. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews/endless-alphabet

Mathis, J. (2013, May 27). Review: Your kids will love learning with Endless Alphabet for iOS. MacWorld. Retrieved from http://www.macworld.com/article/2039763/review-your-kids-will-love-learning-with-endless-alphabet-for-ios.html

Originator. (2013). Endless alphabet. Retrieved from http://www.originatorkids.com/?p=564

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