Mellow Mummy : Taking life as it comes...

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Furby Connect Review

I shall let you into a little secret - I've wanted a Furby ever since I first knew about their existence. I am certain that I was the most excited person in my family when we found out that a new Furby Connect was going to be coming to live with us. The Furby Connect from Hasbro is billed as one of this year's must-have Christmas toys, an interactive pet with their own virtual world.  Our Furby Connect has been a fun addition to the family but I'm not sure I'd describe it as a must-have.

Let me start with the impressive bits:-
  • Furby is an interactive fluffy pet with all sorts of different phrases, movements and expressions that really encourage interactive play.  I think of our Furby as another pet in our family and quite often find myself chatting to it while I'm busy doing a job and reaching over to stroke it as I would the cat!
  • We looooove the fluff. Who can resist the brightly coloured fur?
  • Furby is funny. Lara particularly enjoys looking out for all the different faces that Furby makes with his animated LED eyes which are really expressive.  Holly is most won over by the sneaky fart noises that he makes when you pull his tale. Fart humour - you can't beat it.  Lots of Furby's phrases are funny but some of the sayings don't mean a lot to Lara and Holly. I can't help but think that some of the humour may be lost on small people (but they do make grown ups snigger).
  • I'm actually quite impressed with the number of phrases and the number of different movements that Furby makes. You can throw him, pat him, tickle him and he'll respond in different ways. When he wakes he talks you through his dreams and there are lots of different ways you can chat and sing with him.  Furby's language is fun to try and interpret - its closely modelled on patterns of English but with made-up Furbish words that feel familiar and make you giggle.
  • You can send Furby to sleep. Now, from what I've heard from owners of older Furby models, this is life-changing! Using the supplied sleep mask you can effectively turn Furby off by sending him to sleep so that you aren't woken up by him.
  • Furby knows the date and time. During night hours he tends to be hard to convince to do more than say hello (Furby, very much like our cat, likes to mostly eat and sleep). Furby knows when it is Christmas and Easter and will respond accordingly.
  • Furby is a surprisingly good singer and whistler! We've tried getting him to sing with us when Strictly is on!  Press his light-up antennae and he will become all musical!

On the whole, we've found the Furby Connect to be good fun but there are a few things that mean I don't think it is worth the price tag of around £99.99 (though you can find them from £59.99 on Amazon).

One of the unique selling points of the Furby Connect is the fact that you can unlock loads more functionality and personalisation using the Furby Connect World app which is available in the iTunes store and Google Play.  This sounds fantastic but actually we were largely disappointed. Firstly, the app works with Furby through bluetooth and apple have had Bluetooth problems since iOS 9 (not a Furby problem, a known iOS problem that prevents lots of things working over Bluetooth on iOS) - for this reason we were unable to synchronise our Furby with the app and so we've only been able to use the app in the standalone mode.  The game is playable without a Furby.

The app is quite big (around 250MB); I had to remove several apps from the iPad to find space for it.  The app also takes quite a while to load up; longer than Holly (4yo) is prepared to wait, and so she always closes it before it has even completed loading.  Lara and I both have more patience but honestly, Lara's interest in the app lasted no more than 2 minutes; I don't think we had even really finished the set up at this point.  I persevered, navigated around a bit and started our Furby viewing content in the virtual cinema (this is where your connected Furby can learn new songs to sing).  I know Lara and Holly are missing out on some rich content for their Furby Connect such as hatching Furbling babies, feeding your Furby different foods, or finding out what happens when they go to the toilet!! I can't quite put my finger on why Lara and Holly are so disinterested in the app but I am sure it has a lot to do with the fact that we haven't managed to connect it to the real Furby.  I'd like to see a web-based version of the game so that you can use it even if you haven't got access to a tablet or smart phone.

In terms of playability, I'm still struggling with the Furby Connect. I quite like having him there in the room pootling on about nothing much but Lara and Holly lost interest within a couple of days.  I've racked my brains to try and work out what would need to be different in order to keep them engaged and I'm sure that it is the gamification; there's no goal to aim for, no need to return to Furby other than for company.  He;s too big to take with you when you go out, but not big or shapely enough to be part of their pretend play (I can't picture Furby being invited into the Barbie house, or the dollies pram).  Unless I can get the app to connect via Bluetooth, I'm almost certain that Furby will stay with us, sitting on the dressing table being woken up about once a week for a few minutes of play before being abruptly sent back to sleep again.

And poor old Furby...every time he wakes up he is ravenously hungry and yet it isn't entirely clear how you satisfy him. You place your finger in its mouth and he slurps enthusiastically but then keeps on complaining about being hungry.  Maybe the app helps here?

Furby Connect is available in Pink, Blue, Purple and Teal. Its eyes are animated and its ears and body move as it interacts with you. If you have more than one, they even interact with each other. Don't get me wrong, Furby is fun, but it hasn't quite hit the mark with us.


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Obi Worldphone MV1 Review

I'd been putting off buying a new phone. My old one dies a sorry death in a plastic bag with an open bottle of water and so I'd been using a very old brick of a phone as a temporary measure. Of course, there's always my work phone but social media is somewhat frowned on, and personal texts are a bit of a risk. Anyway, Obi Worldphone thought that, as a working Mum, I was a good person to try out their brand new MV1 handset because it is a dual-sim phone at an a great value price. I think they might be right!

obi worldphone mv1 back

Obi Worldphone is a new name on the scene and the MV1 is their first phone in the UK market. It is designed to plug the gap between the functional smartphone and the top-of-the-range high fashion smartphones.  As a guide, the MV1 handset is currently available on Amazon for just £99 which makes it affordable as a sim-free option for anyone wanting to upgrade to something pretty smart without the big price tag, or the long contract. I've been using mine for a good few weeks now and yes, I would certainly be happy to pay that price for the MV1.

obi worldphone handset

The Obi MV1 has a Cyanogen operating system which is based on Android so you can access apps and music etc through Google Play store and the navigation feels familiar. I found the look and feel of the screen to be stylish, simple, modern and intuitive and I was totally settled with it, and the keyboard within minutes; it helps that all of your most used things such as browser, messaging, email and camera are all there on the front screen. The web browser didn't wow me much and I quickly replaced it with Chrome but other than that, I'm a happy bunny.

screen of the obi worldphone mv1

The Cyanogen OS offers a couple of things of top of your Android defaults that give it a nice touch - I'm particularly happy with the PIN scramble option which is a better way of securing your phone so that people can't guess your PIN from the finger prints on your screen! Obi Worldphone make a big thing about the material on the screen being particularly good at avoiding finger-print smudges. I'd say that it certainly feels like a slight improvement but doesn't totally rid the world of finger-marks, especially those from small prying hands!

Obi Worldphone were right, the dual sim capability should be great for me, as a working mum because it is immensely frustrating having to carry around two different phones during the day just in case school ring me at work! However, strict security settings at work mean I can't use my own device so the dual-sim thing hasn't worked out for me but I can see places such as the "how much data have I used?" screen that would work really well for monitoring usage of two different mobile accounts.

The MV1 comes with 16GB of storage but I've increased mine a bit with the addition of a microSD card so that I can store more photos and music. When it comes to photos, I've been really impressed with the quality of the 8 mega-pixel camera on board; I don't often use the more advanced photo capabilities of my smartphone but it does me just fine for when we are travelling and I used it to snap a few photos of Lara this week at her first ever cross-country race.

Taken on the Obi Worldphone MV1
Taken on the Obi Worldphone MV1
To me, the thing that makes the Obi MVI stand out is its styling. It looks smart. At work it has made people take notice. Smooth rounded corners at one end, brushed metal-style straight edges at the other.  The matt cover and the bright, modern screen themes have got my friends interested. It doesn't look like a £99 handset and it feels gooooood!

Disclosure: I was sent an Obi Worldphone MV1 to review but all opinions are my own.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A Spooky Visit to Tesco

For the past few year's we've attended the school "fright night" disco as a Halloween night out but Lara finds it a bit overwhelming and Holly runs riot so this year we are planning a quiet family Halloween party in our own home where the girls can choose to be as spooky or silly as they want to be.  As well as the Halloween arts and crafts that I shared last week, we've been stocking up on treats, decorations and costumes for our Halloween party with a spooky visit to our local Tesco.

In our local Tesco there is now a bright orange welcome - vast containers of pumpkins!  Holly nearly dived in!  We've bought a couple of pumpkins for carving, and a couple to practice on.  Large pumpkins like this probably aren't the tastiest but I'm hoping we can use the pieces that we've scraped out when carving to use in our party recipes - pumpkin cookies and an autumnal soup.

We visited the Halloween aisle in Tesco to stock up on trick or treat prizes and everything we need for a spooktacular Halloween party.  A tablecloth and paper plates as basics and then some sweets and treats including chocolate-coated apples!  We also bought a few decorations such as a projector torch and a pumpkin lantern to light our party and create a spooky atmosphere.

The aisle was packed with bumper packs of sweets. We tend to get a lot of trick-or-treat visitors on the night so we've bought a big bucket of Halloween sweets to offer and for the girls to hunt around the house as part of our spooky party games.

Of course, no Halloween event is complete without a scary outfit. We saw outfits for newborns right through to grown-ups! Holly couldn't resist a sparkly witches outfit and Lara opted for a ghoulish bride - she seems to have totally nailed the "living dead" look!  On the night we will finish it off with some white face-paint and a tube of fake blood. Terrifying.  We're very happy with the outfits; I don't expect them to last more than a few occasions but you never know (Holly is very talented at finding occasions for random fancy dress outfits all through the year!)

Look out for spooky Halloween craft ideas and recipes on the Tesco Halloween website.

Disclosure: Tesco sent us a voucher to contribute towards the cost of our Halloween party.
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