Yoto Player vs Toniebox: which one is best for your child?
Yoto and Tonies are 2 of the most popular kids audio brands. Find out the key differences between the 2 players and see which one is best suited to your family
When it comes to kids audio players, Yoto and Tonies are easily the 2 most popular brands. Both products are portable, well built and designed to be easy for children to use. They also both have vast libraries of content ranging from classic books by authors like Julia Donaldson to stories from big brands like Disney.
But which one is best for you and your child? Our guide breaks down everything you need to know about both the Yoto player and Toniebox help you decide which one is best for your family.
Yoto vs. Tonies at a glance:
- Best for collectibility: Toniebox Starter Set, £79.99
- Best for free content: Yoto Player 3rd Generation, £99.99
We put both the Yoto Player 3rd generation and Toniebox to the test, looking at everything from ease of use, build quality and interactivity to the library of available content and extra features, to help you find the perfect device for your child. We’ve broken down our guide into sections to make it easier for you to find the answer you’re looking for. Use the jump links below to navigate the page.
- What is a Yoto Player?
- What is a Toniebox?
- What are the differences between the Yoto Player and Toniebox?
- Yoto vs Tonie: Price
- Yoto vs Tonie: Usability & Features
- Yoto vs Tonie: Build Quality
- Yoto Cards vs Tonies figures
- Yoto vs Tonie: Accessories
- Yoto vs. Toniebox: Apps
Want to know what we thought of the Yoto Player when we tested it out? Read our Yoto player review for an even more in-depth analysis from a family that's been using it for over a year. Plus, for some great deals, here's the best Yoto Player Black Friday deals and Tonies Black Friday deals or take a look at the best Oodie Black Friday deals and Jellycat Black Friday deals we've found for you.
The Yoto Player, currently on its 3rd generation, is a kids audio player. It is essentially a speaker that can play audio content via Yoto Cards, as well as content from an accompanying app. The cards, purchased separately, include a range of content from audiobooks like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Chronicles of Narnia to music from bands like Queen.
- Best Yoto bundle: Trio Gift Set (Yoto Player, Adventure Jacket and Charging Dock),
It can also be paired with a caregiver's phone to play audio via bluetooth and access additional content like the daily podcast. The player features a pixelated screen that displays simple animated graphics alongside content.
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Yoto also offers the Yoto Mini, a smaller player at a lower price point that is designed for portability.
- Best portable audio player: Yoto Mini, £59.99
Similarly to the Yoto Player, the Toniebox is a kids audio player that can play a range of audio content via small figures called Tonies (sold separately). The Toniebox is covered in a soft 'huggable' fabric designed to make using the player a more tactile experience. It doesn't feature a screen or any physical buttons beyond two 'ears' that are used to control the volume. Instead, you control the player by tilting it to the left or right (to fastforward and rewind) or tapping on the sides (to pause, play or skip chapters).
- Best Tonies bundle: Toniebox + 5 Tonies,
The Toniebox Starter Set includes the box itself, the charging stand and a Creative Tonie figure that is used to show you how to use the device – you can then upload your own audio to the figure to customise it. The Toniebox comes in a variety of colours including red, blue and purple.
We think both the Yoto Player and the Toniebox are great products, in fact we recently awarded them joint gold awards in the MadeForMums Toy Awards 2023. They’re both well-built and easy to use, offering a unique and interactive way to get your children engaging with stories and music (and perhaps buy you a few extra minutes of peace). They're a clever alternative to screen time, and can really bring stories to life, especially for children who can't read yet.
Picking between the two will ultimately come down to what you're looking for in a few key areas. For example, the Toniebox doesn’t include a screen, while the Yoto Player does (albeit a very simple one). This does mean that the Toniebox can’t be used as a night light and clock, whereas the Yoto can. Both have large content libraries with a similar set of familiar brands and characters, but the Tonies used with the Toniebox are also detailed figures that add to the play value and collectability of the stories themselves, while Yoto uses simpler cards. However, this does affect cost: Tonies are more expensive than Yoto cards. (more on that below).
Overall, our testing showed the the Toniebox is great for younger children due to it's soft fabric exterior and the "wow" factor of the collectable Tonies figures, while the Yoto Player works well for older children due to it more mature design, ability to access the Yoto radio and more advanced app control. As parent tester Milly noted, "We’ve actually got both, for my two year old the Toniebox is the real winner as the characters are fun and it’s more robust. However, for my 4 and 8 year old, the Yoto has much more choice and the radio and nightlight is a bonus."
Interestingly, though, multiple members of our Top Testers Club noted, when asked which they prefer, that they feel the Yoto is a better value option as it has greater longevity due to its wider range of capabilities that parents will enjoy. "I like that it has more features like the night light, day/night clock, radio, Bluetooth speaker, podcasts, the app I can play in the car etc," parent tester Rachel said of the Yoto. "I also think that the selection of stories is broader so it will grow with him and last longer." That being said, many testers also noted how important the Tonies figures were in their decision to pick the Toniebox over the Yoto.
Both the Yoto Player and Toniesbox are similarly priced, with the latter coming in at £20.04 cheaper. For the extra cost you do get a few added features with the Yoto that aren’t available with the Toniebox, such as the free daily podcast and the clock/nightlight feature.
Yoto cards start at £5.99 (although most are between £7.99 and £9.99) whereas the Tonies figures start at £14.99, though it is worth pointing out that the figures do offer additional play potential beyond just the audio. They are great for collecting and displaying on a shelf in your child’s room – Tonies even offers magnetic shelves designed for displaying the figures. The collectible nature of the Tonies is a huge selling point and one that shouldn't be discounted when deciding which is right for your child.
Overall, the value proposition that the Yoto Player offers might just give it the edge on price. Though it is marginally more expensive at the outset, you do get a more future proof device overall and adding to the library is significantly cheaper over time. "It's got fabulous features and is great value for money," says parent tester Athena about the Yoto. "It will last longer than Toniebox, the adults in our house use it as well as my daughter so I know she can use it for a long time with content to suit her age."
Increasing the value of the Yoto Player is the Yoto Club subscription service. For the price of £9.99 per month (or £99.99 annually), the same price as around 1 Yoto card, the Yoto Club allows members to pick two Yoto Cards from a rotating library that updates monthly with stories for every age. The chosen cards are then available instantly within the app for you to stream and the physical cards will be sent out to members by post. Additional club benefits include free shipping on all orders, with no minimum spend, and 10% off everything, all the time even during sales.
- Yoto Club: £99 /year, £9.99 /month at Yoto
When it comes to usability and features, we think this is an area where the Yoto comes out on top. In our testing, we found the controls for pausing, playing, skipping tracks and fast-forwarding and rewinding on the Toniebox to be difficult to use. They require tilting the box itself or tapping the side making the functions easy to trigger accidentally and frustratingly tricky to trigger on purpose. This is intended to make it easier for children but it still requires them to learn the knack.
The lack of simplicity extends to the two buttons that the Tonies does include. The buttons, designed to look like rubber ears, are simple enough to use and provide tactile feedback when pressed, but the tone they play when changing volume - especially when listening through headphones - may be irritating to some.
On the other hand, we felt the the Yoto’s controls were much easier and more enjoyable to use. Two robust control dials on either side of the device offer a range of functionality including volume control, the ability to change chapters and shortcuts to trigger content like the Yoto Daily podcast and Yoto Radio. They are tactile buttons with a satisfying click when turned and, thanks to the screen, it is always clear what you are doing when controlling the device. For example, icons for each of a stories chapters is displayed when skipping forward or backwards. Our 2-year-old tester got the hang of them very quickly.
With the Toniebox, the lack of a screen is very much a feature of the device. It is designed and advertised as a screen-free way to help support your child's independent reading and entertainment. Whether the fact that the Yoto Player includes a screen is an issue for you will come down to your screen time preference, but it is worth noting that the screen is a simple pixelated display and isn’t used for much beyond displaying graphics alongside a story, aiding in controlling the device, or allowing the Yoto to be used as a clock. In our testing, we found the screen to be useful for navigating and using the device and providing basic information such as the weather and time. The screen's brightness can be controlled within the app, though it doesn’t appear that the screen can be disabled wholly at the time of writing. Interestingly, you can also view the room temperature within the Yoto app thanks to the Yoto Player 3rd generation’s temperature sensor, something that might provide extra peace of mind with younger children, and remove the need to buy a separate room thermometer.
One feature parents may find particularly useful with the Yoto Player is its built in nightlight. The nightlight is dim enough to not disrupt your child's sleep yet bright enough to save you needing to buy an external nightlight. The nightlight can be programmed through the app to work as a sleep training clock, changing colour at a certain time to give a child a cue that it's time to wake up. Parent tester Laura noted, "We went for the Yoto because I felt it had more longevity with the cards rather than characters. I genuinely love ours and it’s the only thing that kept my 3 year old in her bed!"
This all isn’t to say that the Toniesbox is lacking in the features it does have. The brand recently rolled out a nightlight feature, although this comes in the form of a large-sized Tonie figure you have to buy separately. There's also a new podcast, but again a Tonie figure must be purchased separately to access this.
If you're conscious of investing in yet another device with a screen, then the Toniebox is a great way to allow your child access to a range of books and audio without needing to use a screen of any kind, something that is becoming harder to find in the tech focused world of today. You’ve also got the figures themselves. We talk more about the Tonies figures below, but the fact that they are figures as opposed to simple cards adds to the play potential of the device. Ultimately, the Toniebox is well suited to younger children due to its simplicity, lack of a screen and the playability of the Tonies figures.
Both the Yoto Player and the Toniebox are well built and designed to last, which one you pick will come down to personal preference regarding the design and materials used. The Yoto Player is made of hard plastic, which makes it robust and durable but also heavy and potentially hazardous if knocked off a shelf or bedside table - though this can be mitigated using one of the rubber Adventure Jackets – sold separately, adding to the price.
The Yoto is designed well, with the controls mentioned earlier being a particular standout. In our testing we didn’t notice any bend in the plastic casing when pressure was applied. The screen, thanks to it’s pixel-like design, is covered in a sheet of matte plastic as opposed to glass. It also has four rubber feet that prevent the device from sliding on hard surfaces. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a sleek design that feels sturdy and simple and will fit in nicely into any child’s bedroom then the Yoto Player is a great option.
However, if you’re looking for a more tactile device with that added fun factor then the Toniebox might be a better option. The colourful fabric box is, as Tonies describes, “soft, huggable and tumble-proof”, something we can very much attest to after our testing. The Toniebox is satisfying to hold and use, designed less for setting and forgetting and more for a tactile user experience.
As parent tester Anna, whose daughter uses her Toniebox everyday, noted, "the box itself I find very durable due to its padded surround, meaning it can withstand a few drops." Everything has been built to avoid hard edges with the control ears being made from flexible rubber and the padded fabric body being soft and squishy. The only hard surfaces on the Toniebox is the spot where the figures are magnetically attached and at the base where the charging port is located. Ultimately, the design of the Toniebox will appeal to children looking for a more hands on experience, versus the smaller and more subdued Yoto Player.
In order to make the most out of both the Yoto Player and the Toniebox, you’ll need something to play. Both Yoto and Tonies offer a vast library of content including stories from familiar names like Disney, Marvel and Julia Donaldson as well as music and other audio content. Yoto’s audio is stored on Yoto Cards – small cards about the size of a credit card – that slot into the player and download the audio.
Once the audio is downloaded to the player and a card is added to your library within the Yoto app, the audio can be played without the cards making them an ideal option for travel, something parent tester Nathalie noted as a reason she chose the Yoto Player over the Toniebox. "The cards aren't cheap for either," she noted, "but the Yoto cards certainly do have extra features, like games, rather than just the stories."
As we mentioned above, the cards start at £5.99 but most are in the £7.99 to £9.99 range. You can also make your own Yoto Cards through the Yoto website allowing you to upload a range of audio from recordings of loved ones and mixtapes of your own MP3s. If storage is a concern and you want to purchase stories and other audio that won’t take up too much space then the Yoto Cards are perfect. They’re small and easy enough to store and take with you on holiday and the art on each card is colourful and vibrant.
This is one area where the Toniebox might best the Yoto Player. In order to play audio through the Toniebox, you need small figures called Tonies. These themed figurines are very detailed and usually depict a character from the story they contain. They attach magnetically to the top of the Toniebox and immediately begin playing audio after it has been downloaded to the player. As they are figures, they provide an added layer of play and collectibility.
They’re designed to be displayed and work as a toy on their own outside of their function when combined with the Toniebox. They do, however, start at slightly more expensive £14.99. The starter set includes a Creative Tonie figure that you can use to store messages uploaded via the app, a feature that parent tester Natalie found particularly useful, saying, "It was a godsend in lockdown when pre recorded messages and stories read by their grandparents were being listened to when the world was at a standstill."
The libraries available for both the Yoto Player and the Toniebox are similar with some titles crossing over. Both have audio available from big brands including Disney, Paw Patrol and more, and both have audio available for a wide age range from 0-9+. If you’re on the fence about which player to buy, deciding if you’d prefer to invest in the Yoto Cards or the Tonies might be a great way to help make your choice. Ultimately, Yoto Cards are better if you’re looking for something to save space and money while the Tonies are great for collectibility and play.
It's also worth noting that both companies offer podcasts. The Yoto Daily podcast is free to access via the device or mobile app and includes music and fun activities for listeners. The Today with Tonies podcast requires the purchase of a Tonies figure for £11.99, offering a similar daily listening experience to the Yoto. The Yoto also allows access to the Yoto radio station, another free to access stream of audio that includes child friendly games and music.
Both the Yoto Player and Toniebox are compatible with a range of accessories including cases, headphones and more.
As the Yoto Player lacks any real protection around its hard plastic casing, they offer something called the Adventure Jacket for £24.99, which is available in a range of colours perfect for customising your child's Yoto. As an added bonus, the silicone jacket includes a handle to improve portability.
- Best Yoto Player case for listening on the go: Adventure Jacket (3rd Generation), £24,99
Given that the Toniebox is made from soft fabric, there is no sleeve on offer, however, they do sell a range of themed cases that store both the player and several Tonies figures. They start at £24.99 and come in a variety of fun designs and colours so you can match the style to your child. If you’re looking for something closer to the Yoto Adventure Jacket, they do sell a carry case in a range of colours that has a vent on the front to allow you to play audio while it is in the case.
- Best Toniebox travel case: tonies® Listen & Play Bag - Enchanted Forest, £27.99
- Best Toniebox case for listening on the go: Carry case, £15.99
Tonies offers a range of wired headphones, including foldable options, in different colourways to match the Toniebox with prices starting at £19.99. Yoto, on the other hand, offers both wireless and wired headphones in the signature Yoto orange starting at £24.99 for the wired option. Other kids headphones will also work with both devices.
- Best headphones for the Yoto Player: Wireless Headphones, £34.99
- Best headphones for the Toniebox: Tonies Foldable Headphones, £24.99
As the Yoto Player 3rd Generation comes with wireless charging functionality, as we mentioned above, they also sell a wireless charging dock for £29.99. We should note, though, that in our testing, we were also able to charge the Yoto Player using a third party wireless charger.
- Best wireless charger for the Yoto: Wireless Charging Dock (3rd Generation), £29.99
Due to the collectable nature of the Tonies figures, they offer a range of display options including wooden shelves with magnetic attachment points that your child can use to show off their Tonies collection. There are currently 3 different designs, clouds, mountain and rainbow, to suit the design of your child's bedroom.
- Best for displaying Tonies figures: Tonies Shelves, £47.99
Yoto also offer storage for the Yoto Cards, with their focus being more on travel and portability. The Yoto card case comes in 3 colourways and fits up to 64 Yoto Cards to help keep your collection organised or ready to take on the road.
- Best for storing Yoto Cards: Card Case, £24.99
Both the Yoto and Toniebox make use of mobile apps which are essential to the setup and use of the device. Both apps are available for Android and iOS and are designed to be used on a parents device, giving them parental controls such as volume limits and more. In our testing, we found the Toniebox app to be limited in functionality. It is intuitive and easy to use, though it is missing a few key features present within the Yoto app. The setup process within the app is a bit convoluted, requiring you to enter a device number on the bottom of the Toniebox which is quite small and difficult to read in order to pair your device with the app ready for use.
The app does allow you to make recordings and upload them to the Creative Tonies figure that is included with your Toniebox. It also allows you to set the volume both for the speaker itself and for headphones and lets you control the brightness of the LED that surrounds the magnetic space where the Tonies figures attach. One thing we found notably absent from the app is any sort of playback controls. Given that the controls for the Toniebox are quite difficult to use, having playback controls within the app would have made life easier.
The Yoto App is significantly more full featured, though, allowing you to view the standard device stats like battery level - it also shows you when the device is charging - as well as the WIFI network the device is connected to and volume level. As the Yoto Player 3rd Generation includes a room thermometer, the app also shows you the room temperature. You can also set alarms and, customise both day and night modes allowing you to set different volume limits and change the LED ring and display colour/brightness depending on the time of day.
The controls on the Yoto Player itself can also be mapped within the app so you can set them to perform different functions including playing the Yoto radio or Daily podcast or setting a homework timer. As we mentioned above, the app also allows you to play audio that you have downloaded to the player and added to your library. When a card is first inserted into the player, it is downloaded to the Yoto Player itself and will appear within the app’s library section where you can choose to play it either on the mobile device or on the Yoto Player. This function also includes all the playback controls that the Tonies app is missing including a sleep timer that will turn off the audio after a set amount of time.
Overall, the Yoto app increases the portability of the device beyond the player itself, something parent tester Elizabeth echoed. "I love that I can use the app on my phone if we're out and about," she said, "as soon as I buy the cards they're on my phone even if they haven't arrived."
Both the Toniebox and the Yoto Player offer a lot to encourage children's interest in stories, and are enticing alternatives to screen time. Our parent testers and reviewers were unanimous in their conclusion that they are a worthwhile investment for most children.
On the whole, we would recommend the Toniebox to those looking for a more child-friendly, toy-like experience, as the collectible Tonies figures and the tactile, soft design give it that instant "wow" factor and make it fun to use and explore. It's also the best option if you want a truly screen-free experience.
The Yoto – although still brilliantly designed for kids – has more in common with a gadget, offering great parent-friendly features to go alongside the audio capabilities, and does tend to wow the adults a little more. It is more compact and cost-effective over time. The cards lack the instant appeal of the Tonies figures, but have similar content and will keep children entertained for hours.
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