How can any company compete with iPad when it comes to being the preferred tablet for children, thanks to the App Store’s large selection of educational apps and age-appropriate games? Amazon’s strategy, to date, has to make a more affordable tablet for the young ones, complete with kid-friendly software pre-installed, while also eliminating parents’ concerns over hardware damage.
And today, along with a slew of new, lower-cost Fire tablets and an upgraded Fire TV, the company also announced an upgraded version of its Fire Kids Edition tablet that now sells for under $100 and comes with an updated kid-proof case.
As a parent with a kid who has moved from the original iPad tucked inside a heavy OtterBox case to an iPad 2, complete with a cracked bezel after one too many drops, the idea of a kid-friendly tablet is appealing. What’s been less appealing, however, was spending too much on new Fire tablet when the iPad today has a more robust selection of the apps my daughter wants to use. (And it still works, despite the broken screen.)
That being said, when Amazon introduced the Fire for Kids tablet last year, it had a lot going for it, including its rubberized case, year-long subscription to Amazon’s FreeTime – Amazon’s service that offers a curated and locked-down catalog of games, apps, videos and books – as well as a two-year warranty. And the tablet certainly was in the range of affordability at $149 for the 6-inch model and $189 for the 7-inch version.
But today’s upgrade, which is basically the same tablet in new packaging, makes the Fire Kids Edition more of a no-brainer for parents looking to buy junior their first touchscreen computer. The company has now dropped the price of the hardware to $99.99, which includes the kid-proof case along with the warranty and year of FreeTime Unlimited.
FreeTime is actually one of the bigger selling points for parents, especially if they’re looking to compare the Fire tablets with their more generic Android cousins. The service today offers over 10,000 books, videos, educational apps and games – or more than double the selection from last year – all of which are curated for age-appropriateness, says the company.
In addition, thanks to a soon to be included kid-friendly web browser, FreeTime offers access to over 20,000 vetted and approved websites and YouTube videos. Amazon actually worked with Common Sense Media to check out the sites and videos in order to make sure they’re safe for kids.
If you’re not familiar with Common Sense Media, they provide a great resource online and via native mobile apps that can help parents figure out what movies, apps, TV shows, books and more are right for your kids. I use their apps at least monthly to vet new content arriving on Netflix, Hulu and in the theaters, for example. (Amazon notes that the new kid-friendly web browser will arrive via a free, over-the-air update to Fire OS later this year.)
And while Apple’s App Store still features a wider selection of kids’ apps, Amazon has managed to get some of the bigger kids’ brands on board with FreeTime. For example, the service currently includes titles from Disney, LEGO, Nickelodeon, its own Amazon Studios, and beloved app maker Toca Boca, among others, and offers some favorites brands and characters like Frozen Storybook Deluxe, Star Wars Rebels, Dora the Explorer, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
The tablet itself has decent hardware for a kids’ device, including a quad-core processor, front and rear-facing cameras, up to 128 GB of expandable storage via a microSD slot and access to Amazon’s app store.
But perhaps the biggest selling point is the two-year warranty. If the kids manage to damage the tablet despite the kid-proof case, Amazon will replace it for free – no questions asked. Run over with the truck? Gum in the ports? No problem. That’s definitely a bonus for mom and dad, given how tough kids can be on their toys and electronics.
The specialized Fire Kids edition isn’t the only way Amazon has targeted kids (or rather, their parents) in recent months. The company also introduced a $99 Kindle bundle for kids this spring, which also included a cover and warranty for the Kindle e-reader, which is the tablet designed for books, not apps, games and video.
However, with new Fire tablets available today for under $50 as well, Amazon has made even the $100 kids version look pricey. At that price, if the tablets are practically disposable – if the kids break it, you can easily afford to buy a new one.
Amazon is playing to its strengths with these new hardware releases. Unlike Apple, which is catering to the high-end with professional-grade hardware like the new iPad Pro and its accompanying Pencil, Amazon tablets’ lower price points make them practically impulse buys that you can throw into your cart while shopping on its site for something else.
Fire Kids Edition is a total value of over $200, notes Amazon, but is now available for pre-order starting today for $99.99. The tablet ships September 30.