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Back in January, the folks from Zimmiz asked if they could dispatch one of the alien creatures from “Planet Zimmi” to pay us a visit here at Rock Father HQ. Not one to resist the opportunity to check out some new toys, I accepted the offer, and soon a little green Zimmi was sitting on our doorstep. He’d “come a long way…

Zimmiz are one of the new wave of “App Toys” that have become increasingly popular over the past year. On the surface, each Zimmi is a detailed, plush “shell” of sorts – a lifeless, faceless husk awaiting the insertion of an iPhone or iPod Touch to bring the toy to life. Powered by a “Freemium App” (the app is free, but additional functionality can be purchased for just $0.99), the Zimmi becomes an interactive friend for the kids, using the iOS device hardware to react to touch and motion. It’s pretty cool, and with my oldest daughter, Addie, as the product tester, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with our Zimmi.

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There’s certainly some elements of the Zimmiz’ personality that reminds me of past interactive toys, most recently Furby… but going back to the 1990s, the Tamagotchi. You can please the Zimmi. You can anger the Zimmi. The emotional connection is interesting to witness, but it’s not long-lasting. We’ve had real time to experience this toy, and as a parent – I’ve seen the interest in it dimish drastically in just four months.

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As far as App Toys are concerned, I think that Zimmiz are solid, and a fine idea, but I’m not sold on “App Toys” as a whole. While the Zimmiz accomplish exactly what they set out to do, I fear that App Toys will never spawn a truly “timeless” play experience because they’re dependent on outside technology to function. As that technology becomes outdated and obsolete, what happens to the toy? We’ve already begun to experience this with our Zimmi because it’s my old iPhone 3 that functions as his heart and soul. I’ve switched platforms completely (I use Windows Phone now), and it’s already become a chore just to keep the old iPhone charged for playtime. And with a toy that functions on just one platform, the potential user base is automatically limited. There’s a lot of kids out there whose parents are Android users. No Zimmiz for them.

Though it might be 30+ years outdated, I can still put fresh batteries in a Teddy Ruxpin and he’ll come to life and start telling stories from his archaic cassette tape. Will we be able to say the same about an App Toy even five years from now? I don’t think so.

Zimmiz are compatible with iPhone 5, iPhone 4s, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPod touch. The App is available now on the App Store. Zimmiz are available online at  http://www.planetzimmi.com/ or from my friends over at Build-A-Bear Workshop. It should also be noted that the App works just fine on it’s own on an iOS device without even purchasing the actual Zimmi toy. Feel free to “try before you buy.”

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The Rock Father Rating: 3/5 Stars

FTC Disclosure: A Zimmiz Toy was provided to The Rock Father for the purpose of review consideration. All opinions are that of James Zahn with input from his children. You should agree with them. They’re usually right.

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