To say there are quite a number of apps available for mobile devices is rather an understatement. Earlier this year, market-research company Statista reported that more than 3.8 million apps exist for Android phones and 2.2 million are available from Apple's App Store. The average person has about 60 to 90 apps installed on their phone. Each month, one might use 30 of those, and each day, perhaps open nine of them.
So what does that mean for parents searching for apps to make their lives easier? Well, for one, they could probably use an app just to help them sort through all the options. But the fact remains: there are apps, digital solutions and websites out there that can greatly assist in navigating the fast-paced lifestyle of modern-day parenting, and plenty of them were born right here in the UAE, created by parents for parents.
One such is Kidzapp, created in Dubai a year ago by Karim Ghassan, from Lebanon, and his Palestinian-American wife, Nora Izzat. Their motivation? Mostly that the weekend would loom large at the end of a long, tiring week, yet they would have no plans sorted for their two children, who are 9 and 7.
"Because like everyone else, we're addicted to our phones, we'd grab the phone to see what we wanted to do, what's out there, but there was no one place to go to find out what's happening in town, what's family-friendly," says Ghassan, who works in corporate media. Next thing they knew, he says, "It was 2pm on a Friday, we still hadn't left the house, we had no plans to go anywhere, and we were talking about ordering in. It was no fun for our kids."
The couple’s solution? To create an app that would become a digital guide, collating family-friendly activities, venues, play areas, restaurants and events across the UAE, complete with deals, discounts, seasonal promotions and vouchers. “Soon our kids will be all grown up and we might regret not spending the time we truly deserve with each other today,” says Izzat, a PR executive, explaining why the app has become so invaluable to parents.
The platform has exceeded their expectations when it comes to the number of downloads: 30,000 in total, with more than 1,000 users opening the app each day. "With my kids, I wanted to try new experiences and enjoy special moments that will stay with them forever. We used to do a lot of the same activities, and after a while, we were lost as to what else we could do together. Kidzapp gave us the opportunity to try new activities and venues, and explore the city we live in. I don't have to spend time searching – it's all there in one place. Best of all, it's so user-friendly, the kids actually browse the app on their own and choose what they would like to do. It's a great tool for families to have on hand."
Kidzapp hones in on your location and suggests what there is to do nearby on any given day. It can also be customised to suggest activities based on children's ages and interests, and provides information on what deals are about to expire. Soon, parents will be able to review events and venues, and provide ratings, so that recommendations are based on real experiences, Ghassan says.
The husband-and-wife team have also partnered with Careem Kids – the home-grown taxi service app – to offer immediate bookings and discounted rides when a Careem car is booked through Kidzapp. “It’s just using our current digital opportunities to simplify our lives as parents, really,” Ghassan explains.
It's the same thinking that prompted Dubai resident Jolene Nash to create her CherryPix app, which launched this month. The British Malaysian-Chinese mother of two left a marketing career to become a photographer and Pilates instructor, then used her passion for photography to create an app that allows you to make quality photobooks and prints in minutes, choosing pictures directly off your smartphone.
"I realised my sons' best moments were stored mostly on my phone," says Nash, who wanted those memories to be a part of her daily life as a mother. When she announced the launch of her app on the Real Mums of Dubai Facebook group at the end of September, 200 mothers downloaded it overnight, using it to print pictures of their children and design photobooks in minutes. Nash received hundreds of orders for her two main products: a collection of 25 prints for Dh75, and a 30-page photobook for Dh75. And although the app isn't just geared towards parents, Nash's biggest customers, she says, are those with children.
"As a busy mum, I know what it's like to sit at your laptop and try to organise hundreds of images into a photobook, or to run to the mall with a USB stick to print pictures," she says. "It can take forever, and after I had my second son, I simply didn't have the time or energy."
Nash says there's a market out there for digital tools that can help a parent save time and effort – and they don't necessarily have to be parenting apps or websites. She cites The Entertainer as a helpful example for parents dining out with children, thanks to the plethora of 2-for-1 deals. "I also use the Kibsons website like almost every parent I know," she says. "It's a fantastic timesaver and has a great range of organic groceries as well as the option to choose environmentally friendly, reusable paper bags instead of plastic bags. And Pinterest is a great app for helping the kids with creative inspiration on their school or home project ideas.
Like Kidzapp, Qidz was developed by parents – five mums, to be exact, all living in Dubai. With more than 3,000 activities listed in and around the UAE, Qidz aims to stay on top of all the best family-friendly activities and ensure boredom-free days for children and their parents. The app allows you to search by area, filter by your children's ages and interests, and share activities with friends to help plan your youngsters' social lives. It also allows parents to get involved by contributing ideas and activities or recommending venues.
And there are plenty more resources to help parents maximise the time spent with their families. “Other tools that parents today are using, include e-commerce solutions to shop for toys, books, groceries and so on,” Izzat says. “From my own experience, I rely so much on these services. I try to find shortcuts using digital solutions so I can spend more time with my kids when I’m not working.” She uses learning tools, such as the Abjadiyat app created by a team of parents in Abu Dhabi to help children learn Arabic, and the Rent-a-Crib website offering baby-equipment rentals for when friends and family with children visit Dubai.
Emilie Jacob, a French mother of two who works as a home stylist and interiors blogger, says the Amino app for on-demand personal training in Dubai soon became her favourite as a busy mother after giving birth to her second child, Teddy, in June. "I can't be as flexible in terms of attending gym classes," she says. The app allows her to book a trainer to work out with her anywhere, at any time. "It's so convenient, and I can train in my own house or back garden, while Teddy watches me suffer," she says.
Like Amino, apps and websites considered favourites by parents are often not parenting apps at all, says Dubai mother-of-three Dalia Tuqan, who has a fourth child on the way and works freelance as an app designer. "I use my Justmop app at least once a week, sometimes more, to book a cleaner to come to the house last minute, or just to book a lady who will come babysit my kids for me," she says. She also uses Qidz and the Dubai-made Play:Date app, which links parents with other nearby parents who have children of the same age.
And although none of these apps make it to the list of the top 50 favoured by people in the UAE, they are nevertheless indispensable to families, mostly because they make it "just a little bit easier to parent", as Ghassan puts it.
- All the apps mentioned above are free to download for both iOS and Android devices