My son loves his iPad. Yes, he has taken over our family's tablet, complete with his favourite accessory: Griffin's sturdy Loop stand. As for apps, he's a fan of singalong magic bus songs and musical counting ants, just to name a few of his top picks. His new love? Talking Tom Cat 2 (iPad/iPhone/Android), a sneaky app that I regret ever downloading.
Don't be fooled by Tom's big green eyes and cute little ears. Every time you say something to this animal app star he repeats it back to you in a squeaky little voice. If you rub his belly, he purrs like a sweet little kitty. Tom farts on cue. His sidekick Ben the dog hits him in the face on a regular basis and often does random things to scare his big cat friend.
While the app gets a little saucy for a young audience, at first glance it's pretty entertaining. You can even record what you do with Tom and play it back (or share it) for fun. In fact, Tom has more than 400 thousand friends on Facebook - an international hit of sorts.
The word sneaky comes to mind after just a few minutes interacting. Instead of letting you play along for free, Talking Tom Cat 2 is constantly bombarding you with messages to upgrade. I get that app developers have to make money. What frustrates me to no end is how often your play is interrupted in this app to upgrade, thanks to a vague message that asks "Get extra fun stuff for Tom?"
I had no intention of paying the extra $2.99, especially since it is unclear what you're buying. However, my two-year-old son had a different agenda. During a bunch of random swipes, I found myself agreeing to upgrade. A receipt in my email reflects the purchase, with a final order total of $3.38 (including HST) - please don't judge me.
I still can't figure out what I bought. My little guy was happy with the cat talking back and the mild cartoon-like violence. This is when I wish I had the opportunity to return an app, maybe get half my money back if I don't like it within the first few minutes. Alas, it's addictive little apps like this that inspire even the youngest users to pay for more. It's like super sizing your meal at McDonald's or buying a warranty on a cheap little gadget.
So, Dear Tom, you got me this time. I know you have friends like Talking Larry, Talking Hippo, and Talking Rex, but I won't be fooled again, no matter how sweet and cute these little characters appear to my toddler.