Hooked on Phonics vs ABC Mouse [2021]

If you’re looking for an educational app for your child, our Hooked on Phonics vs ABCMouse comparison might be just the thing you’re looking for.

From picking a nutritious formula to choosing the best toys, there are lots of ways in which parents can support their child’s learning – and therefore, there are lots of decisions to be made. Modern parents have the advantage of technology, and the two programs we’re looking at today use apps to teach your children phonics.

But which one is better?

Straight away, we can tell you that both apps are really fun – but there are some issues that parents have had with ABCMouse that makes us lean towards Hooked on Phonics as our top choice. If you’re interested to know more, keep reading – we tested them both out, so we’ve got the inside scoop on how they work. First, let’s look at the differences between them.

Main Differences Between Hooked on Phonics vs ABCMouse

The main differences between Hooked on Phonics vs ABCMouse are:

  • Hooked on Phonics is cheaper per month, whereas ABCMouse is more expensive.
  • Hooked on Phonics focuses just on phonics and reading, whereas ABCMouse teaches phonics and reading plus math, the wider world, and art.
  • Hooked on Phonics has a simpler interface, whereas ABCMouse’s interface is more cluttered.
  • Hooked on Phonics doesn’t offer much customization, whereas ABCMouse allows your child to customize their avatar, virtual bedroom, and more.

The main thing to consider is that Hooked on Phonics is a much simpler platform. You’ll find navigating Hooked on Phonics to be really easy, and they don’t offer much extra content other than games and songs. They also focus on phonics and reading.

ABCMouse, meanwhile, is more cluttered and ‘busy’ with a lot of extra features for your kid, but also offers much more in terms of content, as it covers phonics plus math, the wider world, and art. This is reflected in the pricing, with Hooked on Phonics being the cheaper option.

The Similarities

  • They both have activities for toddlers all the way through to school-aged kids.
  • They both have fun games that are engaging and encourage repetition.
  • They both have a variety of levels depending on your child’s age and ability.
  • They both work on multiple devices and allow you to have three children in one account.

What is Hooked on Phonics?

Hooked on Phonics is a reading program used by teachers and parents (at the time of writing, it has been used by over five million families). It combines digital learning as well as books and workbooks.

With Hooked on Phonics, you get access to an app that synchronizes across all your devices. You also have the option of purchasing workbooks and storybooks. It’s designed for children aged 2-8, or those reading between a Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st Grade and 2nd Grade level.

What is ABCMouse?

ABCMouse is an online learning platform for kids. It is comprised of more than 850 lessons split across ten levels, with over 9,000 individual activities.

It has four main areas: Reading and Language Arts, Math, and The World Around Us, and Arts and Colors.

ABCMouse is a digital-only meaning you won’t have the option to buy workbooks, but there are printable worksheets.

It’s designed for kids aged 2-8.

Hooked on Phonics – Main Features

Hooked on Phonics uses a four-step process to help you teach your children how to read. The steps are as follows:

  • Learn – fun videos, songs, and interactive activities are used to introduce children to brand new concepts.
  • Practice – kids can practice skills using activities, puzzles, games, and Practice Packs, which allow them to practice their writing skills.
  • Read – children can read physical books and eBooks that are specifically designed to draw on the skills they’ve been learning.
  • Celebrate – kids and parents can celebrate success using stickers, in-app rewards, and certificates.

You can register up to three children with your Hooked on Phonics account.

There are 8 levels in the program. You don’t have to complete the whole thing – you could follow it from the start, or you could use it to reinforce what your child is already learning at school.

The Phonics App

The app is available for Apple and Android devices, as well as on desktop or Amazon devices. Once it’s downloaded, you can use it offline.

Once you load up the phonics app, you’ll have two choices – Pre-reader World and Learn to Read World.

The animations are super-bright and colorful, and the songs are really catchy – it’s easy to see that it will appeal to young kids. We created a test account (for ‘Rosie’) to take a look at how it works.

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Children are introduced to a new concept (in this case, the sound ‘A’ in the ‘Pre-Reader World’ level).

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Then, they will be presented with some easy games to further reinforce this (in this case, they’ll be asked to drag objects beginning with the ‘A’ sound into the picture frame).

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‘Learn to Read World’ is a little more complex, with children learning new sounds and concepts (for example, words ending in ‘-at’ or other word alphabet combinations). They’ll be introduced to a wider variety of games, too.

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At any time, you can access books, games, songs, and rewards for each level.

Your child will be rewarded with gifts (like in-app stickers, and a certificate when they get to the end of their level).

The downside is that the app can take some time to load when switching between learning activities. It also crashed once while we were testing it, which may be down to the device we were using to test it. Some parents have had the same issue here, and it may be that as the app is updated, it will start to run less smoothly on older devices.

However, it’s a fun app with a good variety of activities – enough to keep your child occupied without them getting bored.

ABCMouse – Main Features

ABCMouse focuses on four areas of learning:

  • Reading and Language Arts (including phonemic awareness)
  • Math Skills
  • The World Around Us
  • Art and Colors

You can register up to three children using your ABCMouse account.

There are ten levels in the program. Just like Hooked on Phonics, you can choose the level depending on your child’s age.

The App

The app is available for Android and Apple devices, as well as on desktop.

Upon downloading the app, you’ll have to skip through a lot of upsells. A minor thing, but worth mentioning. You’ll also have to set up a parent account, as well as an account for your child. It’s a little more customizable than Hooked on Phonics – kids can pick an avatar as well as a pet hamster (which they can name), and a fish.

They have a Getting Started video which will give you an overview of how the app works. It’s worth watching, because it’s quite a big platform with a lot to learn.

As you can see here, there’s a lot going on – it’s a bit more cluttered than Hooked on Phonics, but it’s colorful and interesting. (We also noticed that when logging in, a voice said, ‘Welcome Back Rosie!’ which is a nice touch, especially for younger kids).

Learning Path allows your child to follow a specific path, guiding them along the curriculum for their age range. Your child must complete each lesson before they can progress to the next one.

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The Classroom is a cute ‘home’ screen for kids, which will allow them to access art activities, books, a calendar, songs, letter and sound activities, math activities, and fun extras like the aquarium (you can feed the fish, and even add more fish over time). You can also click on the whiteboard to find the lesson your child is currently working on.

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The activities are fun and easy to understand – they’re colorful and fun, and your child will get an instant reward in the form of tickets.

You can also watch visit a farm or zoo (to play fun educational games and learn facts about animals), access the library (to read eBooks, pitched at your child’s current reading level), and even play games/feed your child’s hamster.

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Tickets can be spent at the shopping mall, where children can buy more pets, buy toys and furniture for their virtual bedrooms, and go to the cinema to watch ABCMouse videos. They can also buy clothing and accessories for their avatar.

It’s a very ‘busy’ interface. You can see how it appeals to kids – it’s colorful and exciting – but some children might find this more distracting, and may prefer the more stripped back, simple approach of Hooked on Phonics. This will be down to each parent to decide, of course. Younger kids (particularly pre-school or toddler-aged children) may find it more difficult to navigate ABCMouse, and they might not get as much out of the reward system as older kids would.

It’s a fun app, though, and the customization is great – it will give children a sense of ownership, which is nice. It slowed down a couple of times and crashed once, which again, might be to do with the device we were using to test it.


Hooked on Phonics Pricing

The Hooked on Phonics app subscription has three levels

One Month – $6.99

This allows you to use the app for 30 days.

1 Year – $39.99

This gives you access to the app for one year.

Lifetime – $79.99

This gives you lifetime access to the app.

Extras: Reading Book and Worksheet Bundles

The workbooks and reading books come at an additional cost beyond the reading app. For example, the Ultimate Learn to Read Book Bundle with Hooked on Spelling, Reading Fun Pack, and Lifetime App Access bundle comes in at $289.99, and gives you lifetime access to the app, 36 books, 8 workbooks, 8 DVDs, video streaming, stickers, flashcards, and a reading book fun pack.

If your budget won’t stretch to that, or you don’t need access to the whole program, you can choose to buy individual practice pack addons for your child’s level ($6 each) or a storybook and workbook bundle ($31.99). You can see all the options on their store.

They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you don’t like the reading or phonics program or find it doesn’t suit your child, you can apply for a full refund.

If you download the app first via Google Play or the Apple App Store, you can try a free 7-day trial. The website doesn’t advertise this, but you can find out more about their pricing here.

ABCMouse Pricing

ABCMouse has a few options for pricing.

Monthly – $9.95 per month

This gives you access to the full program, which you can cancel at any time.

4-Month Payment Instalments – $19.75 per month (for four months)

This gives you access to a year’s subscription but splits the payment if you don’t want to pay for a full year in one go.

One Year’s Access – $59.95 per year

This gives you access to the full program for a year.

There is one major downside to the ABCMouse platform according to reviewers, and that is that they sometimes charge parents despite canceling their subscription. It’s also difficult to get a response from customer services. It’s not an issue for parents who try out and love the platform, of course, but the option to cancel should be simple and stress-free.

We managed to cancel our free trial easily, but other parents have had issues – if you do cancel at any point, it’s worth checking your bank account to make sure payments aren’t still being taken.

You can try their free trial for 30 days by signing up after you download their app, and you can find out more information about their pricing here.

Awards and Parent Reviews

Hooked on Phonics

Hooked on Phonics games have won a few awards, including the iParenting Media Award (2008), and the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval (2009). You can see the full list of awards here.

Parents have positive things to say about Hooked on Phonics, with some saying it made supporting their child’s learning process much easier. Some parents use it for home schooling, with good results. Most found that their children stayed engaged enough to complete the whole program but felt that it was a much better experience with the workbooks, which come at an extra cost.

A few parents have had issues with the app since it updated, finding that it was slower to run and crashed more often. However, these experiences do seem to be in the minority, with more parents finding that the app runs with no problems.


ABCMouse has won a few awards, including the Mom’s Choice Gold Award and the Parent and Teacher Choice Award from How to Learn.

Parents were positive about the program itself, finding their kids were very engaged with it. Kids seem to love the reward tickets and being able to customize their own virtual bedrooms. However, there were a large number of negative reviews from parents about their cancellation policy and bad customer services (as we mentioned earlier).

Pros and Cons

Hooked on Phonics


  • The songs are catchy
  • The animations are colorful and eye-catching
  • The games are fun and encourage repetition to reinforce concepts
  • Children are rewarded with stickers and certificates
  • The accompanying workbooks and practice packs are fun to use


  • The workbooks and storybooks are expensive if you want to buy the whole program
  • Some parents had issues with the app crashing on older devices



  • Large platform with new games and content added regularly
  • Lots of eBooks with characters kids know and love
  • Good personalization
  • Activities are fun and educational
  • Printable worksheets are useful to go alongside the app


  • No workbooks or print books
  • Some parents had issues with the app crashing on their devices
  • Some parents were charged even after canceling their subscription

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Hooked on Phonics or ABCMouse available in other languages?

No, not at this time.

Can ABCMouse be used offline?

Some games can be played offline, but other parts of the app do require an internet connection.

At what age can my kids start using Hooked on Phonics or ABCMouse?

Hooked on Phonics is recommended for ages 2 and up. ABCMouse can be used by toddlers aged 18 months or above.

Conclusion – Which Program is Better?

In terms of features, ABCMouse is better. It covers more subjects, it has tons of games and extra activities, and it has a lot of personalization which kids will love. It’s a loud, colorful platform, and there’s plenty going on to capture your child’s imagination. Although it’s more expensive, we do think that is understandable given the subjects that are covered.

However, we think that if we had to choose, we’d go for Hooked on Phonics. It has catchy songs and fun games, which is great. Being a simpler app has some advantages – it’s a ‘calmer’ app that is easier to navigate – but it definitely falls short of ABCMouse in terms of the sheer amount of content.

However, so many parents have had issues with billing and subscriptions with ABCMouse, which makes us reluctant to recommend it, as parents don’t seem to have the same problem with Hooked on Phonics. While it’s not a given that you’ll be charged after cancellation, it does seem to be a common problem with ABCMouse.

When it boils down to it:

  • If you want to focus just on reading, you like a simple app, and you want to avoid the risk of subscription-based stress, go for Hooked on Phonics.
  • If you love the look of ABCMouse and you want to cover a broader curriculum, and you plan to stick with it for a long time (or you’re willing to risk having to deal with customer services), you might get on really well with ABCMouse instead.

What do you think? If you’ve used either service, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you want to read more about educational toys, check out these guides:

Image Credits

All screenshots were taken by the author August 2020.

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