Over the holidays, my 3.5 year old got a Leappad for a gift. As a tech savvy guy he is already familiar with iPad and iPhone so this was no big stretch. However I have been struck by a few glaring differences.
- Market - As you may know, iPad has already sold over 100 million devices as of October 2012; I highly doubt Leap has even come close to 10% of that. Then, as they say, along came the iPad mini. iPad is targeted at basically everyone, while Leappad is targeted at toddlers and young kids.
- Usability is comparable, with the Leap device dumbed down for the wee ones.Where my toddler has "issues" is in his random exploration of the interface - randomly launching apps, randomly tapping this and that. The Leappad is tightened up so he can't change WiFi settings or something destructive like that.
- Price is quite disparate. The iPad options start at what, $250 and up? Leappad II was about $100. Definitely much better for ages 3-8. While the target market demands a more rugged product, there was nothing we could do for our Leappad to protect it from a 3-year-old breaking its glass. iPad at least has the availability (for more $$ of course) to purchase rugged cases that can withstand spills and impacts.
- Manageability - and by this I mean ability to back up, transfer apps, etc. iTunes is a premier complete package for managing your devices. Apple has a well known universe for their devices. Leap has an app you download on your computer that gives you an App Store, but here's how our experience went. The device came with coupons to download free apps. So we did, and bought a couple. Prices were a lot more than Apple apps, $15-20. Elliott broke his Leappad (it has a plastic body, and glass screen), so they replaced it under warranty. However, when we got the new one, the apps didn't transfer. So the apps we downloaded as software were not usable on the new device. Only the cartridges that you plug into the top were transferable.
- Tech Support - Apple is well-known for creating raving fans. Leap - they need to go to Apple school. We got the replacement unit (with the unbroken glass) and couldn't transfer the apps we had bought. Their attitude was, sorry, that's how it works, when we called them and spent hours on the phone waiting on hold, explaining, and finally complaining that we spent the money and couldn't transfer the software apps we downloaded under our account. It's like they mate you with a device for life, never expecting you to upgrade or replace it!
- Company - Leapfrog (NYSE: LF) has been around for almost 20 years precisely in the business of portable kid-friendly devices. Stock is around $8/share, $574M market cap. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has been specifically in this business for 4 years, and is way down to $450/share, $424B market cap. More than 50x share price, 1000x market cap. 20 years, 4 years (for tablets that is).
- Pudding - As in, the proof's in the. Now that he has had the Leappad for 5 months, what have I seen? He uses it very infrequently. You have to find some special charger to charge it up, you can't just use a standard USB adapter. The number, variety, and price of games means we just can't afford to constantly buy apps for it - while a bunch of free and less-than-$5 apps for iOS means we use it constantly. Since his tastes vary, he sometimes plays with the Leappad, but primary prefers the iPad. The Prince Has Spoken.
- Admittedly LeapPad II is an inexpensive device. If you are getting a device for a small child, perhaps that is a consideration. However the quality, support, price and availability of apps, range of options and accessories, support, compatibility, support, transportability and wide-ranging use, resale value, support, long-term viability, and did I say support? For all that, I think I'm going to recommend sticking with Apple. Even over Android tablets, which are more competitive on the other features.