My Christmas holiday week just ended. The Beloved and I took a few days off for a road trip visit with a beloved little friend, and in between the train building, Lego building, blanket-fort building and grilled-cheese sandwich excursions, Little Monkey amused himself with some gadget play. He’s only two-and-a-half years old, but he’s already logged some (heavily) supervised time with parental iPhones, iPads and so on. I had, in fact, loaded up my own iPad with Mr. Potato Head, Toca Band and other kid-friendly goodies just for his amusement.
And … ?
Google Nexus for the win! Little Monkey spent most of his gadget time watching YouTube clips on the Beloved’s Google Nexus and completely ignoring my shiny iOS apps. I’ll admit, I was stunned. We tease each other good-naturedly in my house about the whole Apple/Android thing—I like my Apple stuff and my professional IT boy can’t stand them. But I have field-tested this stuff with adults, with older kids—with groups at all age levels—and they generally can’t get enough of the iToys. So, why is it different with a toddler? Why was the Nexus the perfect toy for a two-year-old?
1. Some people don’t need all the extras.
Yes, I have more apps than my Beloved does. Yes, they can do many fancy things. But not everybody needs that stuff. The same way there are those who are quite happy with their E Ink Kindles and have no desire for a tablet, so too is Little Monkey doing just fine without all the extra bells and whistles. There will come a time when he has friends who use these things and he’ll want the apps they have—peer pressure may yet make him an Apple fanboy someday—but right now, he’s not there. There were three YouTube videos he wanted to watch—over and over and over again—and that was pretty much it. The rest was just distraction to him.
The iPad is big and clunky and requires adult supervision. He could hold the Nexus himself in his own tiny little hands, and carry it around without knocking it about too much. It was just more hand-friendly for a little person. And unlike the iPad, it has no physical home button, which meant that once we got him into the YouTube app, he was much less likely to accidentally get himself out of it. We didn’t have to supervise him quite as much. And he is hitting that Mr. Independent stage where he likes to do everything himself, so he would not have welcomed an adult intrusion to “help” him if he screwed it up. He naturally gravitated toward the device he could better use by himself.
3. The Android iOS app is better.
When Apple took away the iOS YouTube app, I tested a bunch of replacement apps (including the later-released official YouTube one) and finally settled on an app called Jasmine. It’s a slick and well-featured piece of software with tabs that you access via swiping; it was too much for him.
The Android app, however, seemed a little more pared down. Once he found his stuff, he could keep going back to it as he saw fit. He did eventually figure out how to leave the app and get back into it, and I suspect he’ll be ready for more the next time we see each other. But for now, there was just one thing he wanted to do, and the Android way of doing it was simply easier for him to manage.
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It just goes to show that in the gadget wars, it is not a zero-sum game with an eventual ‘winner’ who stands triumphant over a battlefield littered with the bodies of his enemies. Little Monkey had his choice, and he made it. If something better—for him—comes along later, it comes along. But for Christmas Visit 2012, it was Nexus all the way.