It turns out a few of us at Adaptive Path have both iPads and toddlers. And while toddlers love iPad, and I love that my son loves iPad (it can buy my wife and I up to many minutes to do something else with him around), much could be done to make iPad a toddler-friendly device.
You know how iPhone and iPad have “airplane mode”, which turns off all connectivity? Right under that, I want “Toddler Mode”. When switched on, you’ll get a dialog letting you know you are entering Toddler Mode, and an explanation of how to get out. Unlike Airplane Mode, you can’t get out of Toddler Mode through settings, because there’s no way Toddler Mode should allow access to the settings panel. I haven’t figured out the best way out of Toddler Mode, but I’m thinking a quick triple-click on the home button, followed by a swipe, should work.
Which gets us to the home button. Toddlers love the home button. Being the only physical button on the device, and thus the only the that provides tactile satisfaction, toddlers press the button all the time. Particularly while using an app they really like. And they don’t realize that pressing this gets them out of the app. And after they press it, they then look at you, as if to suggest something is broken, and you need to help them. So, the first thing for Toddler Mode is that it disables the home button. You might ask, “How do they go to other apps, then?” Well, they don’t. That’s for parents to do. I’m thinking a quick double-click takes you to the home screen. Some toddlers might figure that out, and that’s fine, because…
...the home screen has only the Toddler Apps on it. Toddler Apps would be determined by the parent, either in iTunes, or creating a folder in iOS4. You place only those apps you want your Toddler to have access to (in our case, Talking Carl, Angry Birds, and Koi Pond), and this prevents him from launching things that might have less-than-happy results (say, buying $1000 apps in the App Store).
The other thing Jules (my son) loves on iPad are movies. We’ve got a few Pixar flicks and shorts on there for him. The thing is, they’re in the mix with the things that the parents are interested in, and the sucky Videos app means there’s a bit of hunting to find what you want for him. So, Toddler Mode would show just those movies that we’ve tagged as for Toddlers.
This post is a little silly, but for me, it highlights something important about iPad that it seems Apple doesn’t really get. iPad, at least this first version, is built on the model of iPhone. And iPhones are personal devices—it’s reasonable to expect only one person uses an iPhone, and that the design should optimize for that. iPads, at least in my household, and those of folks I talk to, are family devices. They go from person to person in a house. This isn’t typical for most computing devices (except new-fangled set-top boxes for your TV). iPad’s form factor drastically changes the sociality of the device, and I suspect this will prove a rich avenue of exploration.