Man I was so excited to get my son the LeapFrog LeapPad and then…I decided to skip it. It’s advertised as an iPad for your kid and with a 5” screen, camera and accelerometer I thought it had that type of potential. Then I saw this hands on video from Engadget:

What happened there? Watch the clock and see how long it takes from hitting the camera icon to launching the camera app, and that just gets you to the camera launching app and there’s another press to get to the actual camera. For those who want the answer, it’s 12 seconds to go from home screen to the camera/picture app and 6 additional seconds after hitting the camera icon and it to open. Now my son isn’t as impatient as me but it made me dig deeper to explain the huge lag and the answer is seemingly simple. The things running a 400mhz CPU. And that 5” display is resistive, meaning that it takes pressure to react. That’s great to use with a pen but less sensitive to touch and may be frustrating for kids. And I’m not sure what the camera quality is, but in the images it looks like it’s floating somewhere around 2005. And remember that this package comes with AA batteries. So, what was the alternative?

I fired up the old Craigslist and within a few hours I had an iPod Touch 4th generation (8gb) for $150 in hand. I know, that’s $150 (used) compared to $100 (new). But the titles for the LeapPad were $7.50 a pop and that includes LeapFrog videos and some of the games on their site look like straight ports of their older games without increased resolution. It looked like Atari. By going iPod I can get games that range from free to $3 or so and there are well over the 100 titles the LeapPad has (apparently it has 700 toddler apps) and I can move my movies right onto it from my PC to the iPod. I figured doing straight math with 10 titles I’d be ahead of the game with a $150 iPod. Add to that the niceties of WiFi and that works wonders with Netflix. Of course the camera on the iPod is great and it has a front and rear facing camera and I can take images and email them off the iPod over Wifi. The screen is a retina display. The one downside is the size. I’d prefer a 5” screen but it’s super sharp, fits well in my son’s hands and yes, I have a capacitive pen on order from Amazon for $10 so he’ll be able to practice writing on it. We all know the battery life is great on it and it can do a million things that he’ll never need to. 

So yes, that means I have an iDevice in my house but by getting it second hand at least I didn’t put money right into Steve’s pocket. Overall though I think it’s the right call. Oh and the LeapPad is still almost two months off on top of everything.

Anyway, the worst part about it is that iTunes is not great for finding the best apps. Too much clutter and no trials and it’s sort of hit or miss. So anyone have any great recommendations for iOS toddler games for a 3 year old that is really into reading and counting and dinos? So far I have about a dozen games loaded – they’re all educational and my son thinks he’s playing games while he enjoys himself learning. It’s downright devious…


  1. *an* idevice? Come clean man. Come clean.

    Both of my daughters have iPod touches. They absolutely love them. The oldest will be getting my wife’s 1st gen iPad when the iPad 3 comes out and I hand my iPad 2 over to my wife. The number one reason to give your kids iPods and iPads? “it just works”. Simplicity is the number one reason.

  2. I’ve been considering the i … Thing for Son as well. Unfortunately, with me no longer working, even $150 is out of the question at the time. I’m also still concerned about in-app purchases.

  3. @MartiM: The in app purchases can’t be performed without a password now. So if you install a game, hand over the ipod to your son and he trys to make an in-app purchase buy accident, it will immediately ask for a password. The old way was to allow all purchases within about 10-15 minutes of a password entry regardless of if they were in the appstore or in-app. I have my daughters’ ipods locked down so they can’t access the appstore, itunes, safari, and a few other things.

  4. yeah in-app isn’t a problem except that all apps rely on it:) That’s effectively the ‘trial’ solution for iOS. Free app that requires an in-app purchase.
    The thing is dead simple and in using it myself – really not meant for me. Perfect for a three year old but it is what it is:)

  5. I’ve been testing my HTC Surround as a ipod touch-like device. I only get 4 hours of continuous video play and I need to test the high intensity apps for battery life. I figured it’d be a good way to resale used devices seeing as the marketplace keeps growing and more games are added. The relatively small price for apps is attractive. I used my nephews and nices (ages 7-10) as guinea pigs and they loved the slideout speaker for a little better volume. They liked the games especially Fruit Ninja and Need For Speed. Man, I really wish HTC would’ve found a way to bring a larger battery to the Surround ala the iphone 4/ipod touch 4G. A long battery life would make the Surround a great alternative to the ipod touch.

  6. @Chris Oh good, nice to know. I hadn’t heard that’d been dealt with satisfactorily.
    I’ve been thinking about seeing if I could lock the old Fuze down and give it to the 6-yr old. :)

  7. the htc can not beging to compare to any apple product!!!! i’ve had the ipod touch, and now have my 2nd ipad 2! they are beyond the best tablet!!! the only downfall, is if a toddler gets ahold of it :( my 1st got dropped by my 7 yr old and after having it replaced, my 2 yr old threw something and my ipad happened to be laying where the jar landed. but toys r us will be launching the nabi tablet that is powered by android and is made especially for small children! my 2 yr old is getting one and you can put in a password and it goes into mommy mode :)

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  9. The nabi tablet is an excellent value when it comes to android tablets. I have a similar device for children except my product costs less with very similar specs!

  10. I devices just work? bullshit on that. One good thing about the leappad, it’ll survive a tumble down the stairs. Can’t say the same for the i devices. Only reason people say i devices work is that they remove all options so you can’t do anything without paying Apple.

    Either way, my 3 yr old gets to play with an ipad and leappad, and I’m much more at ease with him with the leappad, plus games are designed to teach, not to distract them like the i apps.

  11. @ Blake

    Yes, iDevices ‘just work’. Just because they’re made of aluminum and glass and are a bit more fragile than something made from plastic doesn’t mean they’re not easy to use. And if you need more functionality out of a device than what Apple gives you (or is available via an app), then it’s clearly not for you.

    My kids each have leapsters, Diji, iPods, 3DS, and an iPad that they share. The iPad and iPods have more useful and engaging software than the leapsters, diji and 3DS units combined. Given the choice of just one device for them, I’d go with the iPad everytime.

  12. Had to ween our child off the iPad this January as he was getting addicted to the games and he could navigate the screens so moving them into folders didn’t help.

    Have just decided to get a LeapPad 2 for him now he’s 3 and 5 months, he loves it. Speed is a little up on the LeapPad 1 (shown above) and the touch screen is resistive but that’s besides the point, he doesn’t really care about it. He cares that it works and ALL the games installed are advert free and educationally aimed at him. He even grabs the stylus and practices writing without any prompting which is amazing as I can never get him to sit down and write.

    Didn’t get him an iPad or Android tablet because I wasn’t wowed by the technical specs., and neither would many 3-4 year olds be. The software was (and should be) the driving factor. LeapPad (and InnoTab) wins here, sure the software costs more but you get to be selective and you don’t buy the entire library! Buy them in cartridge form wherever possible and resell at a later date – something you can’t easily do with apps. No internet is also a bonus, I want to give my child a controlled environment and be able to monitor what they’ve been doing and monitor their progress when I sync the tablet with my PC. They’ll grow out of these educational toys soon enough and will probably want a tablet later down the line, but by then today’s current models will also be way out of date so buying them one now so they can use it’s full potential later fails.

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