How does a plush toy with no screen run apps, you might wonder? These are exclusively audio apps — in keeping with the original concept for the toys to put communications technology within the reach of younger kids (between two and eight) without having them fixate on a screen from such an early age.
Indeed, the Talkies — which is the name of the current gen of the toys — look more like teddy bears than mobile phones. But turn them around and there’s two buttons on the back for kids to cycle through their Toymail contacts, and record/send messages.
Parents can send messages to kids’ Talkies via the companion Toymail app on their smartphones. And now they can also load additional functionality onto the toys via the Toymail Cloud (aka its app store).
Apps available at this point include an app called Sleepie, which is supposed to send soothing bedtime sounds for helping put your kids to sleep, and one called Voicie, that adds “fun voice filtering” to the toy.
This first handful of apps has been built by Toymail (and are free), but the startup previously told us it plans to launch paid app content in future — so presumably some third party branded apps will be on way in future, opening up an additional app-based revenue stream for the hardware startup via relevant commercial tie-ups.
We’ve reached out to Toymail with questions but the company currently appears to be drowning in a deluge of email after appearing on SharkTank (where they also raised money) — so has yet to respond to our emails. We’ll update this post when/if they do.
Update: Founder and CEO Gauri Nanda tells us Toymail has sold close to 20,000 Talkies at this point, along with 20,000 of the first-gen version of the product — which we covered back in 2013.
The startup had slated the Talkies’ app store to launch last year. Explaining the delay, she says the company wanted to spend more time getting customer feedback on the apps that were most useful to them.
“We started shipping the Talkies in November of last year. We took some time to understand the needs of our customers. We had overwhelming response to our Remindie app, which turns your Talkie in an audible calender to help keep kids on track. And, our Sleepie app was another major request. Our customers wanted to ensure their kids weren’t up late sending messages, and we saw this as an opportunity to turn your Talkie into a bed buddy to help lull your child to sleep.”
Nanda adds she expects paid apps to launch on the Toymail Cloud in the next “three to four months”.