Among the many early childhood learning programs out there, ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read are two excellent and very high-quality options.
Filled with interactive games, stories, videos and solid phonics learning, both programs offer kids a personal learning experience that is as entertaining as it is educational.
In fact, homeschooling and enrichment-seeking families everywhere have found a good deal of success with these digital learning supplements and often advocate their use quite passionately online.
With so many fans, it can sometimes be hard for parents to choose between these two paid programs.
That’s why we decided to take a look at these two programs and compare them across a number of criteria so parents can make a more informed decision as to which program best suits their child’s needs.
Both ABCmouse and the Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read app are digital apps that supplement early childhood learning.
Both programs impressed us with the amount of learning content and features they offer both parents and children.
ABCmouse Early Learning Academy is a complete supplementary learning program in core subjects such as reading, language, math, science and social studies, art and more.
The program contains over 10,000 activities filled with videos, lessons, songs, games, 850 lessons, 1500 printable worksheets and a library of over 450 books and readers for kids to peruse.
Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read, meanwhile, is a standards-aligned reading program with an app that contains over 250 lessons, games, videos and songs as well as a library of over 100 ebooks available on demand.
The app can also be bundled with optional physical practice packs that can be purchased as a subscription and are mailed out each month.
These practice packs are designed to go along with the digital app’s lessons and include workbooks, stickers and 2-3 storybooks, ultimately creating an interesting mix of digital and physical learning.
Bottom Line for Features:
Both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read are feature rich programs that contain tons of educational content that span the physical and digital divide.
There is a lot to do for kids in both these programs, and they both can keep kids learning for quite some time.
Note: Prices are correct as of writing and are in USD.
When it comes to price ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics have a similar subscription price structure, with flexible monthly subscriptions as well as discounted annual subscriptions.
At time of writing, the Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read digital app costs around $6.99 per month.
Bundled with physical practice packs, this price can rise to $12.99 per month plus shipping and handling (about $15.98 total).
ABCmouse, on the other hand, costs $12.99 per month as a month to month plan.
Both programs offer a yearly subscription, with ABCmouse costing about $59.99 per year and Hooked on Phonics costing about $49.99 for the app alone.
Neither option is particularly expensive, but app to app Hooked on Phonics tends to be somewhat less expensive than ABCmouse overall.
In fact, Hooked on Phonics tends to only meet (or exceed if you count shipping) ABCmouse’s monthly price when it includes a series of optional physical practice packs that are mailed out, a potentially valuable added feature that ABCmouse doesn’t offer.
That said, both companies tend to offer fairly frequent discounts and promotions that can affect their exact pricing and we’d obviously recommend checking their pricing before making a decision on price alone.
Bottom Line for Price:
Although neither program is particularly all that expensive, with its slightly more affordable per month and yearly plans, the Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read app has a slight advantage when it comes to price.
Winner: Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read
As of writing, Hooked on Phonics offers its digital Learn & Read app with practice packs as a 30 day trial for $1.
It also offers its app from various app stores as a 7-day free trial, as well as letting users download and try the app with limited features.
In contrast, ABCmouse offers a simple, 30-day free trial.
In this area, then, ABCmouse has an advantage – its trial is free for a longer period.
That said, both companies offer specials and promotional deals, including trials, fairly frequently and it’s usually worth checking out their respective websites for the latest offers.
Bottom Line on Free trials:
While Hooked on Phonics’ various trial offers are pretty good, ABCmouse’s free 30 day trial is more useful overall.
Both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read app are aimed at early childhood learning, that is up to the end of grade 2.
Hooked on Phonics is aimed at pre-K-2 (about 3 or 4 to 8), the ages at which kids are able to begin learning phonics and pre-reading skills.
ABCmouse, on the other hand, is aimed at preschool (age 2 or so) to grade 2, with a preschool curriculum of letters, colors, basic numbers and more that solidly extend its learning to a slightly younger age group than Hooked on Phonics.
Similarly, it’s important to note that ABCmouse also naturally and easily leads into the company’s sister product Adventure Academy.
Adventure Academy is a learning app designed for kids ages 8-13 that supplements the elementary school curriculum to a greater degree, and it gives parents and children a natural place to go once they’ve finished ABCmouse.
Bottom Line on Age Range:
Although both programs are designed to supplement early childhood education up to grade 2, ABCmouse does have specific lessons catering to early preschool students, making it suitable for even the youngest students, a boon for parents looking to get an earlier head start.
As a program, it can also lead into the elementary school-aimed Adventure Academy, providing parents with a sense of continuation and an easier transition..
Overall, this wider age range gives ABCmouse an edge.
Support for Multiple Child Accounts
Apps that allow users to create accounts for multiple children can represent significant savings to parents of larger families, saving them from having to buy app subscriptions for each of their children.
Both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics support the creation of multiple accounts for kids, with both programs allowing parents to create up to 3 per subscription (although parents should note that the bundled Hooked on Phonics’ physical practice packs are only intended for a single child).
Given the fairly specific age range of these programs, this will probably be sufficient for most families.
Bottom Line on Multiple Accounts:
Both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics offer support for 3 kids at once, making them both flexible and useful options for larger families.
ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics are quite different when it comes to overall subject coverage.
ABCmouse offers supplementary learning for the core subjects that parents might expect for preschool to Grade 2 – covering reading, writing and spelling, as well as Math, Science, Social Studies and Art.
Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read, on the other hand, is much more of a focused and dedicated reading, writing (and spelling) program, diving deeply into and offering practice packs and other supporting material for these skills .
Bottom Line on Subject Coverage:
Although both programs do an excellent job at covering reading and the first steps of writing, ABCmouse boasts a more complete learning curriculum. covering Math, ELA, Art, Science and Social Studies, as well as a phonics-based reading component.
Overall, there is a great deal of similarity in how ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics teach.
Both programs teach using a progressive pathway, with individual levels that kids can progress through in a step by step manner and much like a video game.
In this way, Hooked on Phonics Learn & Grow and ABCmouse use a scaffolded teaching method to break complex topics down into smaller lessons that sequentially build on each other, making the material easier to digest for young kids.
To teach kids the material, both programs rely on various multimedia activities, using songs, animations, read aloud books and even interactive games to keep users engaged and interested.
These programs are also quite multisensory as well, using visual, auditory and tactile activities that can engage multiple learning pathways and strengthen learning in the long run.
Bottom Line on Teaching Style:
With progressive learning pathways, phonics based reading, and fun and interactive multimedia content, both Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read and ABCmouse teach their material very similarly and quite effectively, making them both great options from a learning perspective.
As we mentioned when discussing features, both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read, both these apps contain a lot of educational content.
ABCmouse has over 10,000 activities to enjoy across multiple subjects, hundreds of lessons, over a thousand printable worksheets and a library of over 400 books and readers for kids to work with.
While Hooked on Phonics does have an optional (and extra) practice pack component that can be delivered by mail each month, it does have less content overall, at least partly owing to being a more specialized app.
To be sure it’s no slouch, with over 250 lessons, activities and games and a digital library with well over 100 books and stories it has a lot of content to offer kids as well, just not quite as much in terms of pure content as ABCmouse.
Bottom Line on Content:
While both Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse have a good selection of content to help teach their material, from an educational content standpoint, ABCmouse simply includes far more for kids to explore across several different subjects and has the advantage in this area.
Given that Hooked on Phonics is primarily a reading program, it’s only fair that we compare how each program teaches students to read.
To start, both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics use recognized and effective phonics-based approaches, teaching letter recognition before proceeding to phonemic awareness, decoding strategies, simple words and, finally, reading sentences.
Both programs also use a combination of multimedia lessons and interactive activities to develop these skills, relying on entertaining demonstrations, videos and songs to convey ideas and puzzles, games and various activities to practice them.
The difference between the two is in their overall focus.
Hooked on Phonics dedicates nearly all its resources to teaching reading skills and is, in the end, a dedicated phonics reading app.
ABCmouse, on the other hand, includes a full phonics program as part of a complete preschool to Grade 2 program, with a section for reading and comprehension alongside sections for math, language arts, science and social studies, etc.
As such, only a portion of its total resources are dedicated to phonics reading.
That said, as we have stated, ABCmouse has a vast content resource base that is significantly greater than Hooked on Phonics, and the portion it does dedicate to reading is substantial, with hundreds and hundreds of phonics reading games, songs and videos on offer.
In the end, when it comes to reading both apps use the same approach and have a great amount of reading activities to offer.
For parents, then, the question is really if they want a dedicated reading program that will focus their child’s attention solely on phonics or if they want an app that can work on phonics reading skills as well as other subjects.
The answer to that can only be based on personal preference and the individual child’s needs.
Bottom Line on Reading:
Both Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse offer recognized and effective phonics based reading programs with a substantial amount of multimedia and interactive content to develop reading skill.
Parents therefore need to really decide if they want a dedicated reading program or a program that teaches reading as part of a more comprehensive and expansive learning experience.
Gamification of Learning
Gamification can be an effective tool in learning, especially when it comes to apps and software.
By adding elements of game-playing, such as letting kids earn points and win tokens for getting right answers or completing lessons, these programs can increase students’ motivation and engagement with learning and lead to better overall retention of material.
Both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read have gamified their learning to some degree.
In particular, they both reward users for successfully completing lessons and activities with tokens that can be redeemed for in-app prizes.
They also function somewhat similarly.
Hooked on Phonics rewards users with stars that can be then redeemed for in-app stickers, digital toys and other prizes.
ABCmouse rewards students with tickets that can be redeemed for virtual pets, virtual classroom decorations, stickers and more.
Where they tend to differ is that ABCmouse offers a slightly more sophisticated and engaging game reward system.
With enough tickets, students can fill a virtual aquarium with fish and populate, construct, modify and of course view their very own virtual hamster habitat.
The ability to interact with and customize their rewards, rather than just accumulating them, gives ABCmouse a slight advantage in this area.
Bottom Line on Gamification:
Both Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse have added game elements to their programs to keep students engaged and interested.
That said, with its prizes, virtual pets and other decorations that kids can play around with more directly, ABCmouse offers slightly more sophisticated and interactive game rewards than Hooked on Phonics.
Analytics, Assessment and Progress Tracking
As programs designed for students to use with less direct parental supervision, both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics offer fairly detailed and useful progress tracking that parents can use to make sure kids are using the programs as intended and aren’t falling behind or getting frustrated with the material.
Hooked on Phonics does a good job at offering the necessary progress tracking one would expect and require from such a program.
In a very friendly and colorful way, it gives both parents and kids an idea of their individual progress, detailing lesson use, reading progress and more.
ABCmouse, as a multi-subject program designed to supplement homeschooling, offers slightly more sophisticated progress tracking for parents, reporting on things like skill development, lesson progress, program usage, ticket accumulation and subject by subject progress, and offering them in a super easy to understand visual and comparative layout.
Further, the company also offers an optional paid premium assessment center with software co-designed with the University of Chicago that tests student skill and can therefore more directly examine student progress, yielding far more in-depth and usable insights into student learning.
Bottom Line on Progress Tracking and Analytics:
As self-study programs for kids, both Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse apps have integrated analytics and progress tracking to monitor student usage and performance.
Overall, however, ABCmouse offers slightly more sophisticated progress tracking for parents and offers a dedicated and paid assessment option that can be quite useful for determining student progress as well as their relative strengths and weaknesses.
Look and Feel
Although both programs are well made with lots of animations, bright colors and drawn characters populating the programs, Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse do have different visual styles.
Overall, we believe Hooked on Phonics has a more modern feel to it. The app is slick and clean with more whitespace, making it very easy to start using, and has simpler, more modern animations and drawings.
ABCmouse, on the other hand, has a more traditional style to it, with more detail to the animations and imagery that reminds us somewhat of the Magic School Bus and other classic cartoons.
The app itself tends to have more visual items and options available on the screen.
For example, while Hooked on Phonics keeps its learning pathway linear and fairly simple, ABCmouse also includes a virtual classroom that kids can explore.
This cartoon classroom allows students to access the program’s educational content by clicking on classroom items and buttons located around the screen.
While this is an interesting and adorable free-form learning alternative to the more structured learning pathway, the amount of visual items on screen can get a little overwhelming for some kids and can make it feel a little cluttered at times.
Bottom Line on Look and Feel:
Although it is a matter of taste in the end, in our opinion with a simpler, cleaner and sleeker app layout, as well as more up to date cartoon graphics in many instances, Hooked on Phonics’ more modern look and slick feel has a slight advantage on ABCmouse, being a little more intuitive for kids to use and navigate quickly on their own.
Winner: Hooked on Phonics
Like with pretty much every other educational app we’ve seen, we found that both Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read and ABCmouse can occasionally suffer from loading wait times.
While it was only a few seconds or so in our experience in each case, loading times can vary quite a bit between users depending on device type and connection speed and can frustrate kids if they go on too long (kids not being exactly known for their patience).
Because Hooked on Phonics downloads content on demand, it does have a slight advantage in this area.
Loading can be significantly reduced if parents download content ahead of time, which can be particularly helpful for those who live in areas with spotty internet service.
In addition, this feature also means that with some pre-planning the Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read app can be used offline (at least temporarily), which is good news for parents who don’t relish the idea of leaving their young child with an internet enabled device.
Bottom Line on Loading Times:
All apps with a lot of content tend to have loading times between sections and ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics are no exception.
That said, the ability to individually download content ahead of time and use it as needed gives Hooked on Phonics a slight advantage in this area.
Winner: Hooked on Phonics
Both Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse use a library of cartoons, songs, games and other content to entertain as well as teach.
Both apps also contain a gamified system of collecting rewards that can be redeemed for things kids can play around with and enjoy.
While it’s true that in the end these are educational apps and not the latest exciting video games designed to keep kids glued to the screen for as long as possible, we do feel that both apps are still quite fun and entertaining for young kids and should keep kids laughing as well as learning for some time.
Bottom Line on Fun:
They’re not the latest and greatest video games, but with cartoons, songs, games and visually pleasing interactive content, both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics can be quite fun to use for younger kids.
Multi Device Support
In this connected age, it’s not uncommon for families to have a couple family computers as well as tablets and other mobile devices lying around the house.
With kids shifting around between devices depending on the needs of the family and being constantly on the go, it’s essential that companies allow users to access apps and programs from multiple devices without any issue.
Hooked on Phonics allows users to stay logged into the app from up to 3 devices at one time, requiring users to log out if they want to access it from an additional device.
ABCmouse, on the other hand, offers access to unlimited devices, letting kids hop between devices and pick up where they left off.
Although realistically we don’t know just how many devices a family will use to access an app, this does give ABCmouse an advantage in this area.
Bottom Line for Multi Device Support:
Both Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse have no issue allowing users to access the apps from different devices and syncing user data across them.
That said, ABCmouse has a slight advantage, offering access to an unlimited number of devices without logging out, rather than the three that Hooked on Phonics supports.
Opportunities for Offline Learning
Overall, both Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse offer users the ability to take learning offline.
ABCmouse includes access to over 1500 worksheets and printables across its subjects that users can work with away from the screen.
Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read, on the other hand, offers parents a variety of optional physical worksheets and storybooks that can be sent to their house and that are designed to go with the app’s lessons.
Additionally, of course, there is the Hooked on Phonics famous ecosystem of reading and spelling support that parents can purchase material from.
All this gives Hooked on Phonics an advantage when it comes to giving parents more opportunities to take learning offline and reduce screen time.
Although both apps offer physical and offline learning options, Hooked on Phonics offers a wider selection with optional physical practice packs and an ecosystem of additional well-regarded reading, writing and spelling programs available for sale to users.
Winner: Hooked on Phonics
Independent Learning and Child Safety
Both ABCmouse and Hooked on Phonics do a lot to make independent learning easier and reduce the amount of parental supervision required.
Using progressive learning pathways, both apps do an excellent job at guiding kids step by step from lesson to lesson and reduce the likelihood that kids will get lost, meaning parents don’t have to set lessons or monitor the learning themselves.
As we would expect from high quality and well-respected brands like Hooked on Phonics and Age of Learning, both Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read and ABCmouse are extremely safe for kids to use on their own.
They are both fully contained apps, with no ads, no external links or any other potentially harmful content for kids, with ABCmouse even making the effort of being certified COPPA-compliant.
Overall, We don’t think there is much to worry about when it comes to kids using either of these programs on their own.
Both Hooked on Phonics and ABCmouse are easy for kids to navigate and do a good job at guiding kids through their lessons.
With no ads, external links or in-app purchases, they are both very safe for kids to use on their own and should present no problem for those looking to encourage their kids to learn more independently.
|ABCmouse||Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read Digital App|
|Price per month||$12.99/mo||$6.99/mo for the app, $15.98/mo for app bundle with practice packs (with shipping)|
|Free Trial||30 day free trial||7 day free trialLimited app trial 30 day trial for $1|
|Frequent discounts and offers||Yes||Yes|
|Ages||Preschool to Grade 2|
(about 2 to 8)
|Pre-K to Grade 2 |
(about 3 or 4 to 8)
|Device Support||iOS, Android, Web Browser||iOS, Android, Web Browser|
|Look and Feel||Traditional, Detailed Cartoon Style||Modern, Sleek Cartoon Style|
|Subjects||Reading and language|
|Content||6 Subjects10 levels|
10 000 + activities
450 books and readers
|250 videos, songs, games, lessons100 eBooks|
Optional physical practice packs with workbooks, and 2-3 physical books (paid)
|Supports independent learning||✔||✔|
|Assessment Center||Optional (paid)||❌|
Conclusion – What We Recommend
When it comes to early childhood learning apps, Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read and ABCmouse are effective, safe, fun and multisensory options that offer a lot of well-designed activities at a price that won’t really break the bank.
In terms of helping a child learn to read, which is really where these apps go head to head, both programs use solid and recognized phonics programs that have excellent reputations for taking students from letter recognition and sounds all the way to blending and even reading sentences.
That said, if you’re looking for a program that’s dedicated to and highly focused on reading and phonics with slightly fewer distractions and the option for physical practice books to go with digital learning, Hooked on Phonics might be the better choice for you.
If however you’re more interested in your student learning phonics and reading alongside a more comprehensive curriculum of math, social studies, science, art and more, and are looking for a more multimedia-rich interactive experience to get kids excited about learning, then ABCmouse may be the right app for your needs.
To help parents out, below we’ve included a variety of common concerns and the program we feel is best suitable for addressing them.
|I want a focused, dedicated and intensive phonics-based reading program||Hooked on Phonics|
|I’d like to try a more complete curriculum that teaches reading as well as math and other subjects||ABCmouse|
|I want a program that encourages self-study and independent learning habits||Both|
|I’d like to use the program offline as well as online, or I live in an area with intermittent internet service||Hooked on Phonics|
|I want a clean and modern looking app that’s very intuitive and super simple to navigate||Hooked on Phonics|
|I want an app with lots of features to explore and keep my child wanting to come back||ABCmouse|
|I want to check it out with a free trial and explore the program fully||ABCmouse|
|I want to have more physical learning material to work with as well as an app||Hooked on Phonics|
|It’s hard for my student to get excited about and want to use learning programs||ABCmouse|
|My household has a lot of devices and want to use the app on the fly||ABCmouse|
|I want a safe app and learning experience for my child||Both|
For more information about these apps, you can check out our in-depth reviews of each product.
Read our review of ABCmouse
Read our review of the Hooked on Phonics Learn & Read app
Or, visit the company websites:
About the Author
Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.