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I'd skip both devices. Instead, I'd get him an iPod Touch or an iPad mini. There are thousands of games available for each, but both devices also do a lot more than just play games. Plus the cost of the games on iOS is usually less than on the two platforms you mentioned.
An iPod Touch or iPad mini can be used for ebooks, TV shows, movies, web browsing, email and lots of other things, in addition to games.
So I suggest stopping by the Apple Store to check out both products. See which one might work best for your kid. Why waste money on something that just plays games, when you can have a device that offers so much more?
This is one where I totally disagree with you. While there can be solid tablet or smartphone games, they pale in quality and complexity to a good handheld console game. You simply cannot get the same gameplay quality in a title that sells for next to nothing as you can in a console game that cost millions of dollars to produce. Plus there is the issue of controls. A touch screen is fine for simple strategy/physics games such as Angry Birds (Just to give one example. ). But for a deeper gaming experience like Assassins Creed III: Liberation on the Vita or Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS, there is really no comparison to games on Android or iOS. For fine control, there is no substitute for physical control sticks and buttons. Touchscreens just don't work as well, and your fingers end up blocking a portion of the screen.
I readily concede that an iPad or iPod touch is much more versatile than either of the two portable consoles, and they are fine for simple, distraction type games. If your kid wants versatility, then there you go, head over to the Apple store. If they want a superior and deeper gaming experience though, walk on past it and head over to Gamestop for an actual gaming console.
BTW, I'm not trying to be "a hater". I play games on my smartphone when I'm waiting for someone/something, or if I only have a few minutes to spare. I even play a couple Need for Speed titles and find them passable. But Mario Kart 7 is in a whole 'nother league of gameplay.