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LeapFrog Product Review

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Leap Pad - Quantum Pad

iQuest -Turbo Twist

Leap Frog produces numerous electronic educational toys.  They are quite innovative and they drew my attention because one of my children is speech and language impaired and benefits from devices which talk to her.

The first product which we purchased was an early Turbo Twist math toy.  It was useful except for the fact that it lacked an earphone jack.  Needless to say it could be quite irritating but it was an effective teaching tool.

The second unit was the Leap Pad (similar to the later Quantum Pad).  Books for this vary from $12-$15.  We invested about $300 total in this product and the books.)  This product has been a  useful educational tool but was to put it mildly pricey.  In retrospect money invested in the Leap Pad & Quantum Pad products would have been better spent on computer software.

The third unit purchased was a Turbo Twist spelling unit.  Thankfully this has an earphone jack.  This unit was advertised as having the ability to program the child's spelling words.  What was not clear in the advertising hype was that this function required paying an annual fee to use the feature.  So the Turbo Twist was $30 retail ($25 on sale) and it gave the impression that the programmable feature was available with the purchase of a cartridge ($15) and a Mind Station programming station ($25).  

Other products like this come with the necessary software and when you buy the product is is useful for it's life as is.  But Leap frog has come up with a different business model which is great for them and not so hot for the consumer.

When the customer buys the Turbo Twist, the cartridge, and the Mind Station for about $60 retail Leap Frog gets about half of the sale price, namely about thirty dollars.  Cost of production, marketing, and other business overhead leaves Leap frog with about half of the $30, or say $15 net.

But instead of giving the consumer the software to load spelling words (or any other programmable feature) Leap Frog has set it up so that all words have to be loaded from their web site.  There is no way to store the words on your computer.  So you have to subscribe indefinitely to their service to use much of the advertised features.  It is likely that Leap frog makes more money off these subscriptions then they do selling the product.  

The third product purchased was the iQuest and the Mind Station to program cartridges and several extra cartridges.  The iQuest unit talks, but only on some functions.  In addition, we did not find even one of our child's text books supported by the iQuest over several years.  Much of the navigation does not speak and it turned out that for us the iQuest was a complete waste of money.

Annual subscriptions Turbo Twist $18, iQuest outlines $12, textbook w/outlines $24, Leap Pad $18.

Conclusion:

Leap frog produces an innovative product line.  But their business model is deceptive, in that many of the features they hype are only available if you pay for annual subscriptions.  The subscription rates are such that Leap Frog will make more money each year from your subscription then they likely make from selling you the product.  

If it were not for Leap Frog's gouging on subscriptions I would highly recommend their products.  But this blending of included features and those for which you must pay for indefinitely is in my view misleading and unethical.

In retrospect when I look at the $500 or so dollars I spent on Leap Frog products and compare that expenditure to buying computer software or books which continue to deliver the service year after year, it is my feeling that many of the Leap Frog products were in the end not as good a value as other products.  The exception being the Turbo Twist products with pre programmed cartridges.  Those devices do deliver reasonable value.

Ronald J Riley

 

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