Having entered the ranks of fatherhood just this year, I’ve found that I’ve been experimenting with a number of applications that can help with parenting in general, as well as recording the most memorable moments of my baby’s development. As someone who lives in Japan, I’ve found myself using a mix of apps from abroad as well as a few homegrown applications.
I thought I’d give a quick rundown of some of the mobile apps that have served me well so far. For any new parents out there, I highly recommend them all.
1. Notabli ¶
This is perhaps by far my most enthusiastic recommendation. Notabli is a private social network for parents with kids, letting you upload photos, short videos, and even audio updates, which are visible only to the people you want to share with. For me, that means my wife, my parents, and some close friends. It also lets you mark media as a milestone (like first tooth, first steps, etc), also another indispensable feature.
There are numerous applications that I considered for photo management, but the primary reason why I chose Notabli is that it allows for full-resolution storage of photos, with the option to export them all at any time. This data-liberation feature is the most important function, letting me periodically ensure that I have local copies of moments that I really can’t afford to lose.
This is currently available for free on the App Store, although it is a service that I would happily pay for. I really can’t emphasize enough how great this app is.
2. Road Movies ¶
Videos on the afore-mentioned Notabli are restricted to 30 seconds in length, which is perhaps my only complaint about the app. But that makes Honda’s Road Movies, which I reviewed back in August, is a wondeful complementary video app.
Road Movies lets you create 24-second composite clips (the perfect length for Notabli) by combining short 1-second, 2-second, or 3-second clips that you record during your day. For me, I typically take 3 seconds of video of my baby in various situations, and then when they are assembled in Road Movies and mixed with the license-free background music, the result is amazing.
Perhaps Honda, the app’s creator, meant for it to be used in your car while on the road, but it’s great for recording moments with family too. You can pick up this made-in-Japan app over on the App Store.
3. DayOne ¶
Taking a page from Gabe Weatherhead over at MacDrifter, who says he uses this journaling app to write letters to his daughter. I’ve begun doing the same, taking pictures and adding short notes now and then whenever I think of a message that my infant kid maybe can’t yet understand.
The app lets me write in Markdown, and syncing with Dropbox and/or iCloud assures me that my data is (relatively) safe.
It’s available for both iOS and Mac, for $4.99 and $9.99 respectively – although I have only bought the former, and that works for me just beautifully.
4. BabyCenter ¶
The folks over at BabyCenter have an assortment of great mobile apps, but the one that I’ve really found the most interesting is My Baby Today. After installing, you simply input your baby’s birthdate and it will then notify you with appropriate updates about your baby’s development.
The app has a photo album function, which I haven’t used at all. But the flow of information about caring for babies is incredibly useful for first-time parents, so I encourage you to check it out. It’s available for iOS and Android. (Thanks to D. for the recommendation!)
5. Baby Soothing Sounds ¶
You’ve all probably heard about people using white noise to sooth a crying baby. Well, this made-in-Japan app is a simple solution that gives you an assortment of white noise sounds whenever you need them. You can choose from things like hair dryer, TV static, running water, and even an unusual ramen slurping sound.
There are lots of apps like this on the market, but this one is free for iOS, and works really well. Try swaddling your baby and tucking your mobile into the folds of the blanket. It works like a charm for me, but it could be because my baby is so awesome. I’m sure your baby is cool too, but your mileage may vary.
Bonus: Nohana ¶
I’m appending this app here as a bonus, since it is not available to folks who live outside Japan. But for those of you who do live in Japan, Mixi’s Nohana app is a simply awesome. We’ve written extensively about this mobile photobook printing service as it has developed, but let me sum it up briefly:
You upload photos from your smartphone, and Nohana will send you a free photobook. That’s it. Well, there’s a minor 90 yen shipping charge (about $1), but that’s a miniscule price to pay for the book they send you. Their business model appears to be based on the hopes that you will order additional books that can be shipped to grandparents (a big demographic in Japan) for the additional cost of 500 yen (about $5).
Nohana is available for free for both iOS and Android. Seriously, if you’re a parent in Japan, this is a service you should be using.
If you have any suggested additions for this list, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments!