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iBuku Pets lets you recycle your old iPhone by giving it to your kids

Rather than toss their old iPhone or iPod touch into the trash, an increasing number of parents are giving their worn down devices to their children as toys. I have to agree that an iPod touch with the right apps can be an enjoyable play thing for your little one, but that device is not made Fisher-Price strong. Once it hits the floor with any force, there's a good chance it will shatter. To help protect your device and make it safe for small hands, there is a new cushiony and cute case from Arbor Cube called iBuku Pets. I received a review unit and handed it over to my kids for a week. Read on to see how BiBi, the pink iBuku Pet, fared with my tribe.

Design

The iBuku Pet is shaped like an adorable pet with ears, an elongated back and chunky arms and legs. It's the perfect size for a preschooler to hold. There is an opening in the stomach area where the iOS device resides. It has a small notch on one end that can house the charging cable. I was able to insert my iPod third generation with the cable plugged into the charging port and could charge the device while it was still in the iBuku case.

On the back side of the device is a cavity that can hold spare cables and an opening that is used to route cables for charging. The back is also elongated and acts as a sound chamber to increase the volume of the device. This shape also makes it possible to place the iBuku on a table and it will sit flat without falling over.

iBuku Pets lets you recycle your old iPhone by giving it to your kids

Material-wise, the iBuku Pet is made of a firm, but spongy material that absorbs much of the impact of a fall. It's flexible enough that your child can wiggle the pet's arms and legs, but firm enough that they won't bend or break. For real young ones, it is biteable and any bites will leave teeth marks in the case. It is non-toxic, Phthalate-free, PVC-free, BPA-free and AZO dye-free. The surface of the case is easily washable with soap and water, just make sure to remove your iOS device first or be extremely careful with your cleaning.

The iBuku Pet fits the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. The fit varies by device, with the iPhone fitting more snuggly than the iPod touch. All devices are secure enough that you can shake, drop or toss the iBuku and the iOS device stays safe inside the case.

With the iPhone, children can move the arm to toggle the screen on and off and press buttons on the front of the Pet to control the volume. I used the iBuku with the iPod touch and found that the device was secure in the slot, but it wasn't big enough to be used with the iBuku's buttons. You don't have to worry about connectivity either as the iBuku works with or without WiFi and doesn't require any cellular service plan.

Functionality

My children loved playing with my iPod touch within the iBuku Pet as it is the right size for little hands. Its chunky arms and legs make it easy to hold, and it is weighted just right for the under-six crowd to carry around. Its bright colors and cutesy appearance really attracts their attention.

iBuku Pets lets you recycle your old iPhone by giving it to your kids

The iBuku Pet works as described to protect your iOS device. The snug fit of the case and its spongy material did a great job protecting my device. My iPod touch dropped to the floor or pavement several times each day and it was unscathed.

The iBuku Pet includes a free app that has the characters, BiBi and Alvi, from the cases. The app is designed for kids in mind with a fun "Smash the Trash" game and a sing-along section with the iBuku Pet characters. The app, though, is geared towards younger children and not toddlers. On-screen elements are not sized for the imprecise taps of a 1-year-old and there is a fair amount of tapping on selections and "next" buttons, which do not work well with little ones. My 5-year-old, though could whip through the app with no problem. You can also install your own age-appropriate apps.

iBuku Pets lets you recycle your old iPhone by giving it to your kids

One problem with the iBuku Pet concept is iOS itself. I am using the iBuku with an older device that does not support iOS 6, which means there is no Guided Access. Guided Access is an iOS 6 feature that limits what your child can do with your device. You can disable hardware buttons and lock your child into an app. You can also disable select features and areas with an app.

With iOS 5, my toddler kept pressing the Home button and getting himself out of his games. Once he got into the home screen, he wreaked havoc on the device by deleting apps and inadvertently sending emails, a service that I forgot to turn off before handing over my device. I ended up installing more toddler-friendly games and watched him closely while he played. The lack of any native parental controls, especially on older devices, is something to consider before you turn your iOS device into a play toy.

iBuku Pets lets you recycle your old iPhone by giving it to your kids

As mentioned above, the iBuku Pet is biteable and any bites will mar the outer appearance of the case. It sustained a lot of biting from my 1-year-old, but he was never able to bite off a chunk. I believe it is both the chunky size of the iBuku Pet and the firm material from which it is constructed that prevented him from getting his full bite into the case. My 3-year-old and my 5-year-old never chewed on the case as they are both past that biting stage.

Conclusion

The iBuku Pet is a wonderful case for children. It turns an iPhone or iPod touch into a safe toy and has convenience features like in-case charging and backup battery options for parents. Though it is susceptible to bite marks, the iBuku Pet didn't fail during very rigorous testing from my children. It was dropped, thrown, bitten and stepped on and still protected my iPod touch completely.

The iBuku Pet is available as a Kickstarter project. Each Pet costs $35 and will ship in time for Christmas. You can select between the Green Alvi or the Pink Bibi character.

Pros

  • Durable, spongy material protects your iPhone or iPod touch during a fall
  • Innovative design lets you charge the device and store the cables inside the case
  • Optional battery pack helps keeps your iOS device running even when the battery is worn out
  • Child-friendly design, especially suitable for kids from 3 to 5 years old

Cons

  • Susceptible to bite marks from young children
  • Variable fit depending on the iOS device

Who is it for?

  • Parents with children 2 years old to 5 years old and an old iOS device laying around

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