Toy camera implies cheaply made and usually, though not always, comes with a certain aesthetic. I prefer lo-fi appearance in a more reliable body, so tend to favour older folding cameras for the same role. The name toy derives from the fact many were originally aimed at children, and have play value but not high expectancy of a long life, which can be a problem if you're relying on one.
Polaroid probably gets lumped in with toy because the resulting print is small and 'toy-like'.
To me, a toy camera is one made specifically for children. It can be cheap or expensive. On the other hand, my best friend had a "child's" 110 when she was young, and it was merely a shell around an average 110 camera.
I never considered a Polaroid a toy - just a different kind of camera for various different purposes. For example, my father was in real estate, and often used Polaroids to take pictures of houses for sale. Not fine photography, but not toying by any means.
I've an Holga, and while I'll call it my "toy" camera, I don't consider it a toy. It was cheap, so I bought it to see if I liked medium format; I still use it from time to time for it's unique qualities.
I don't think I can agree that Polaroid film images are "non-archival".
I have many Polaroid prints that are 40+ years old and still have most of the contrast from their original shot. Oddly the Color images have held up the best - the sliver-transfer B&W (e.g. Types 42, 107 - coating necessary) have done fairly well, too. I wouldn't claim they have the permanence of Kodachrome, but I would say much better than Anscochrome. The dye-transfer B&W types (20C, 87, 667) have not fared as well, but can be used for full-contrast images by digital scanning and resetting the levels.
I find the main shortfall of Land imaging to be sharpness. The dye-transfer process limits the sharpness in the print to about 10 lp/mm (the silver-transfer was sharper, resulting in nice images from type 42, but Polaroid never made any "type 102" film)
Note that the resolution on the final print remained <10 lp/mm regardless of format. The I-Zone produced tiny images that would render a complete blur when enlarged to snapshot size (and thus the I-Zone was a working toy camera if there ever was one). Polaroid once made a 20"x24" camera that produced superb images- as the resolution still approached 10 lp/mm - great when the end result was 20"x24" (about 50x60cm).
Would not some of the attitude come from the fact that when you say Polaroid to most people, they think flip-up flash/plastic lensed 600 and not an SLR 680 or folding SX70, similarly with peel-apart: Auto 210 and not the 195?
I'm sure the Swinger prints are still good today, if they used the coating stick. I miss that smell. Swingers were neat. My Sister got one in 65. for Christmas. I didn't get a Colorpack II till about 69. But that Swinger was neat. Turn it till is said YES,and it worked like a charm.
I chimed in on this before, stating that I feel "toy" cameras are made for children, and that I do not consider a Polaroid a toy. My Great Grandmother's The 800 certainly isn't a toy.
The more I think about it, though, many today think of Polaroids only as the plastic One-Step style cameras. While still not toys, they are not as "serious" as some of the other (and older) offerings from Polaroid. Also, even though they were not made for children, often they were given to children as a first camera. They are fairly durable, easy to use, and give immediate gratification. Maybe this contributes to the perception.
Let's call them Toys for the Boys...
Diffusion Transfer Reversal (DTR) uses noble metals and has a permanence greater than most silver based photographs. It is incorrect to say that instant photography is not archival. One only needs to look at the now 60 year old monochrome DTR examples at the George Eastman House to see many perfectly preserved examples. And on the subject of GEH - it is apparent to me that instant photography and its technology is under-represented. DTR is the most important (commercially, socially) advancement made in 20th Century photography and is the basis for the nanotech revolution, and other important industrial advances. To lump it all in the toy category represents a prejudice that disregards the reality of history.
I consider it farfetched to consider images resulting from a DTR process to be more stable as such.
Not only noble metals had been employed in DTR proceses as nuclei. And if, likely in the ion form. The image consisting of metallic silver, as in classic, non-DTR images.
And we do not know how those early samples had been treated.
In a receptive layer which has not been washed or where no stabilizing means have been employed there are elements that facilitate the process of the image-forming silver turning into oxide, then ion and being either bleached or sulphidized. Both leading to the image deteriarating or vanishing.
There are a number of beliefs about black and white instant photography that possibly started with the very earliest Polaroid prints, done before the process was well understood, and refined. One such misconception is that the positive image is formed of metallic silver. Since DTR is one of the earliest important commercial forms of nanotechnology and self-assembly, I recommend
PHOTOGRAPHIC SILVER HALIDE DIFFUSION PROCESSES – ANDRE ROTT, EDITH WEYDE - FOCAL PRESS
For basic information about image formation in DTR mode. It is interesting that Edith Weyde actually first appears to have invented the process leading to instant photography.
In the nanotech world, silver DTR is a hot topic today.