Make us your home page

'Appcessorize' high-tech toys and still remain within holiday budget

Toymakers are tapping into the popularity of mobile applications for some of this holiday season's hottest toys.

Pairing tablets and smartphones with playthings creates something called "appcessories," hybrid toys such as the $50 Helo TC helicopter that's remote-controlled by an iPhone. There are even board games and gadgets inspired by popular apps such as the $17 Angry Birds Knock on Wood Game and the $40 I Am T-Pain microphone.

Apps have been a ubiquitous part of the digital landscape for the past three years, but this is the first holiday season that their influence is so obvious in toy aisles.

Analysts say the proliferation speaks to manufacturers' renewed interest in high-tech toys. Before the recession was a steady stream of techno toys, usually knockoffs of adult electronics. The collapse of the economy spurred a slew of low- to no-tech toys, such as Zhu Zhu pets, that were easy on the wallets of cash-strapped shoppers.

"The economy has put limits on what prices can be charged, but the toy companies know that kids want and expect interactivity and relevant digital expressions of play," said analyst Sean McGowen of Needham & Co.

Toymakers are known for taking cues from popular culture, from Harry Potter Lego sets to Justin Bieber dolls, but digital doodads can be tricky. If they are too sophisticated and pricey, companies risk alienating kids, not to mention parents. So many makers are focusing on giving new life to toy box staples, using apps to add zing without too much extra cost.

Take the Disney-Pixar Cars 2 AppMates. The $19.99 kit, which comes with two miniature cars, is essentially designed to transform Mom and Dad's iPad into a classic raceway. Each little roadster is automatically detected when placed on the tablet and can be revved up with car sounds, after downloading the free app from Disney.

Crayola put a high-tech spin on a traditional plaything by teaming with Griffin Technology to create the iMarker Digital Stylus and Crayola ColorStudio HD app. This $29.99 combo can simulate a coloring book with Crayola crayons, markers and paints when it touches an iPad.

"Kids are digital natives," said Vicky Lozano, vice president of marketing at Crayola. "The biggest challenge is making sure we pace ourselves and not get distracted by the next shiny object."

Whether appcessories fly off the shelves this season, Adrienne Appell, a spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association, anticipates they will have longevity in the market.

"Every kid wants to play with the iPad or Mom and Dad's iPhone, and that's not going away," she said. "When toymakers are able to be out in the market with characters kids love and interactive technology, it's a win-win situation."

'Appcessorize' high-tech toys and still remain within holiday budget 11/14/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2011 10:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena


    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  2. Rick Scott appoints longtime ally Jimmy Patronis as Florida CFO

    State Roundup
    Rick Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis (background) as CFO. [STEVE BOUSQUET | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Local gas prices plummet as Fourth of July holiday travel approaches


    TAMPA — Local gas prices are enjoying an unseasonal dip around the $2 mark just in time for the hectic Fourth of July holiday travel weekend.

    The price of regular unleaded gasoline has dropped to $1.99 at a Rally station on Pasadena Ave. South and Gulfport Boulevard South, South Pasadena.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Air bag recalls, lawsuits lead Takata to file for bankruptcy


    Shattered by recall costs and lawsuits, Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. filed Monday for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., saying it was the only way it could keep on supplying replacements for faulty air bag inflators linked to the deaths of at least 16 people.

    Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. CEO Shigehisa Takada bows during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of defective air bag inflators.
[(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]
  5. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.


    DETROIT — Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of faulty air bag inflators.