Already popular in Germany, Tonies' Toniebox are collectible figurines, from strong licenses and appreciated by children (Disney, Peppa Pig...). An alternative to TV.
With its concept based on collectible figurines representing children's favorite heroes, Toonies has succeeded in imposing its Toniebox across the Rhine, in its native country. Here it comes to France with a content adapted to the language of Molière.
The Toniebox is sold at 79.99$ in a box with a "Tonie Creative" figurine that gives access to 90 minutes of audio content included or to our personal content. It works essentially with figurines sold at 14.99$ each by Tonies, each figurine unlocking access to stories or songs.
Construction and ergonomics
The Toniebox comes in the form of a 12 cm square cube, made of a plastic cage surrounded by dense foam. The latter is covered with a coated polyester fabric which has the advantage of being stretchy, resistant and washable.
The finishing touches are impeccable, with no visible screws, which does not prevent the Toniebox from being easily dismantled. A good point for the reparability, especially since its battery is quite common and linked by a simple connector to the main circuit.
The soft aspect of this big cube gives it a reassuring side and a good tolerance to falls. With its dimensions and 618 g on the scale, the Toniebox is not the type to be carried anywhere or to fit in any bag.
We appreciate the ease of use of the Toniebox. You just have to pinch one of the two ears that stick out of the top to turn it on, then present a figurine in the middle of the plastic square. This one attaches itself automatically thanks to magnets. The NFC chip included in it is immediately recognized by the Toniebox, which then starts the story or picks it up where it left off if the storyteller was left on - it turns off after 10 minutes.
The Toniebox is controlled by gestures, with a simple tap on the right side to go to the next track and a tap on the left side to return to the previous track. Tilting it to the right triggers fast forward and tilting it to the left allows fast rewind. Childish, even if you have to hold the storyteller in your hands for the detection to work properly.
The Toniebox works exclusively with Tonies figurines. Each one is associated with stories or songs that are downloaded via wifi the moment the figurine is placed on it for the first time. The figurine does not store any data and is only intended to unlock content and to serve as a trigger to start reading on the storyteller. The Toniebox must first be configured via the mytonies app (iOS or Android) or from the web interface on the my.tonies.com website. The operation is quick and easy, simply connecting the storyteller to a wifi network so that it can update itself and retrieve the contents from Tonies' servers.
Small internet connections are not a problem, since the stories and songs can be read in streaming during the download time. You just have to do without browsing between tracks during this time, which is still relatively short. In any case, this avoids the frustration of a child who receives a figurine and cannot listen to the associated content right away.
We appreciate to find in the Tonies catalog famous characters from the Disney universe (Ariel the Little Mermaid, Bambi, the Snow Queen, Aladdin...), from popular cartoons (Patrol, Peppa Pig...), without dominating the great classics (Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel...). Our biggest regret at the time of writing this test is the low number of figurines in French. Tonies has so far released only 22, while Germany has no less than 273 figures! Let's hope that the rights to obtain the French adaptations of the different contents will be obtained quickly so that the catalog can be expanded, even if the limiting element will remain the wallet. At $14.99 per figurine, it's better to make a first selection to avoid spending as much as the price of the storyteller itself. Note also that some figurines are less generous in content than others, special mention to the Snow Queen and its 5 tracks (including 4 songs among which the inevitable Libéré, délivrée that you now have in your head - do not thank me, it's a pleasure) for a total of 21 minutes.
As it is, you can still count on the Tonie Créatif figurine - available in several versions if you want to buy more - which has the good idea of allowing the import of any audio content that you already own. This saves a few euros if you don't necessarily want to invest in a lot of specific miniatures.
The Tonie Creative can also be used to record stories with our own voice or that of our relatives. The easiest way to do this is to use the recording function of the mytonies application, which can be used by parents as well as by relatives who would like to contribute by reading stories on their side. The recordings are then hosted on Tonies' servers and are then synchronized with the Toniebox as soon as you press one of your ears for 3 seconds. The synchronization is deliberately manual so that the wifi remains inactive when the storyteller is in use.
This Tonie Creative is therefore a good idea from Tonies, which has chosen not to lock its users into an ecosystem that would require them to buy figurines to complete and renew the audio library of their Toniebox.
We can only regret that the Toniebox cannot be used without the figurines. A card system or even activation via smartphone would have provided security in case of loss or forgetfulness of a figurine. However, one cannot deny the playful role of these figurines for children who are obviously happy to handle them.
Despite its small size, the Toniebox's speaker produces one of the best sounds among the storytellers in our comparison. Clear, powerful enough for a child (limited to 85 dB to meet the toy standard), it delivers a clear and fairly round sound, where many other storytellers suffer from a metallic sound rendering. The foam coating of the Toniebox certainly contributes to this good result, the distortion being rather well controlled. There is just a slight hiss when the storyteller is held to the ear at low volume, which many children tend to do. Nothing which prevents the comprehension of the stories however.
We appreciate the adjustable listening volume on 15 levels and with a very low sound level in the first steps. The insurance of a certain discretion. Another good point is the possibility of limiting the maximum sound volume (to 25, 50 or 75%), both from the speaker and the headphone output. Practical if our dear blonde head tends to push the volume while sticking his ear on the storyteller or if we use an adult headset rather than a child headset, for example.
Note that Tonies markets its own headphones for children, whose manufacturing quality we found to be honorable.
Despite its 2000 mAh battery, the Toniebox only offers a maximum of 7 hours of autonomy, which is sufficient for home use if you remember to regularly rest the storyteller on its charging base, but a little short for travel - especially if you forget to recharge it before a trip.
Especially since the Toniebox can only be charged with its specific base. Too bad there is no USB-C connector to charge the storyteller with any smartphone charger.
Well-finished, easy to use and producing a good sound, the Toniebox can count on a strong catalog of stories and songs from the most famous children's accounts and cartoons. Although it encourages the purchase of figurines to access this content, we appreciate the fact that it also allows the possibility of adding its own content through specific figurines, thus avoiding locking us into an ecosystem that can become quite expensive. Let's hope that the number of miniatures available with French content will grow quickly.