Last year, when I first found out that Leapfrog were producing their first tablet to run the Android operating system, I was over the moon. This was ground-breaking news that could finally close the gap between kid tech and adult tech. At Christmas we became the proud owners of a new Leapfrog Epic tablet so I thought I would share my experience so far...
For me, the exciting thing about Leapfrog issuing an Android tablet was the new levels of freedom we now have for choosing apps. I think this will help increase competition and will eventually cause the price of specialist Leapfrog apps to have to drop to compete with the enormous app market. Using parent mode on the Epic, I was able to install Amazon Underground which in turn allows me to side load onto the tablet almost any suitable app from the Amazon store. For every app you install, the Epic allows you as a parent to restrict which users of the tablet can access it. I had great plans for letting Lara use Netflix, but stopping Holly from using it. Unfortunately, I've never managed to get the Netflix app to work (due, I think to network configuration issues on the tablet that I can't quite fathom).
After the initial euphoria at having worked out how to install android apps, I've actually found it hard to find any good value kids apps that I genuinely want to install to the device!!! In fact, given the library of Leapfrog learning apps that we have built up, I'm very happy with the choice and options at Leapfrog, even though they are more expensive than many of the "public" kids apps. At least with the Leapfrog apps I can clearly see the educational value and target age range for each game and the quality of graphics and game play is consistent! You can use any of your library of purchased leappad apps that you have stored in your leapfrog learning account but you can't use leappad cartridges. You can also purchase new apps directly from the device when you are in parent mode.
The Leapfrog Epic is highly customisable. You can choose which apps each child can use, and which they see on their home page. They can customise their own home page by moving icons and characters and elements of the screen. It is a 7 inch display on the screen (the same as other leappads) and the screen quality and ease of touch screen use is great. I like the removable bump-protector around the outside; this is another demonstration of where kid-tech has seamlessly met adult-tech. The tablet comes with a stylus which is joined by a small cord to prevent it from being lost.
Leapfrog Epic includes a full internet browser which, in parent mode is unrestricted. You can set up a list of permitted websites (it comes with a small range of recommended kid-friendly sites) from which your child can choose to explore using the Leapsearch browser.
Lara seems most impressed with a few of the smaller apps on the tablet which simulate those she sees me use - the weather app is one of her favourite!!!
A couple of other small observations I have about the Epic may both also be down to the move to the Android operating system. The UI looks fab - I love the little bubble icons on the homepage and it makes it easy to find the apps the girls want to play. I have also noticed that it is fast! Even games we've been used to playing on previous Leappad incarnations seem noticeably faster on this tablet. Yay!
Lara and Holly have enjoyed using the camera on the Epic to play interactive games such as Leapfrog Imagicards. I'm sure we will unlock more of the magic as the months unfold.