It is a truth universally acknowledged that a parent in possession of an iPad will usually surrender it to a kid who begs to play. Even though iPads and other tablets run upwards of $500, their intuitive interfaces, library of games, and the pretty, moving colors attract toddlers just as much as adults. One solution to the problem of kids wanting to play with adult toys is to create kid toys that mimic them. This concept isn't always as appealing in execution, but VTech's new InnoPad tablet gets pretty close.
The InnoPad tablet for kids is designed for ages 4 and up and has many of the same features as typical tablets. There are plenty of apps--eReader, music player, games, calendar, alarm clock, photos, and more--and parents can add new content whenever they want. VTech's Learning Lodge Navigator is a PC/Mac desktop app that allows parent to surf for new free content for the apps and track their child's learning progress in the software they already have. VTech will also have a large library of cartridges with themed content based on licensed properties, much like their MobiGo and V.Reader devices.
In typical VTech fashion, most of the software is geared toward education, though there are pure fun games included out of the box and on the expansion packs. I'm a fan of the eReader app, since kids can hear the book read to them, read themselves, and tap on words to hear them in isolation, complete with definitions.
Navigating the InnoPad should be easy for any kid who understands how to use an iPad or smart phone. There's a Home button on the front which acts more like a Back button, but it makes sense in the UI. Most interaction is through the touchscreen. It's resistive, yes, because there are some drawing and note-taking apps that utilize the built-in stylus. The good news is that the screen I tested was very responsive to taps and swipes with my finger, and it's still in the prototype stage. The device has an accelerometer, too, so it can switch between portrait and landscape mode and kids can use it to move characters in some games. The app icons are nice and chunky for young hands, and the edges will be rubberized to make holding it easier.
Another nice touch is the kickstand on the back which rotates 90 degrees so kids can sit the InnoPad in portrait or landscape mode. This is great for the tablet's picture slideshow mode and the alarm clock function. Set it by your kid's bed and they'll know what time it is and when to get up.
One of the first things that struck me about the InnoPad is that, even though it's not too much smaller than an iPad, the actual screen is only 5 inches. VTech says that this is for a few reasons. The first is that the extra plastic around the screen acts as protection. This tablet can stand up to drops and falls and probably even the occasional tantrum. Plus, smaller screens cost less, and the toy maker wanted to keep this product under $100. Even though the InnoPad definitely looks the part of the kid's tablet, I don't think that will be a turn-off for kids, even if they have already been indoctrinated into the Apple aesthetic.
The InnoPad will retail for $79.99 with cartridges selling for $24.99. It will be out in the fall, just in time for the holiday season. Check our full gallery below and stay tuned for our hands-on video.
So parents, do you think your kid would choose an InnoPad over an iPad if given the choice?