PBS debuts its own tablet for kids, the Playtime Pad

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The public broadcaster PBS today unveiled a new plan to bring its children’s television programming to its young audience, who spend more time behind tablets than sitting in front of TV sets. It’s debuting its own branded tablet, called the Playtime Pad. The tablet, which is produced by Ematic will come preloaded with PBS Kids’ entertainment, including games, video clips, music videos, and more, as well as the company’s suite of mobile applications, like PBS Kids Video, PBS Kids Scratch Jr., and PBS Parents Play and Learn.

In total, there are over 25 games installed on the device, including a “Paint Box” app for coloring, along with 120 video clips, songs and music videos.

The device itself sports fairly standard specs: 16 GB RAM, 1.3Hz quad-core processor, a microSD card slot and USB connection, a 7-inch 1024×600 screen, a front-and-back camera, 16 GB of Flash memory, and it runs a customized version of the Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) operating system.

What parents will like about the device is that it comes with easy-to-use parental controls that let them further customize the experience, including the ability to approve or block streaming videos, online games, and installed apps, and the ability to set daily usage time limits and the hours when the tablet can be used.

These controls are useful, given that the tablet also has access to over a million downloadable apps and games from the Google Play Store.

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Of course, Android already comes with parental controls, and Amazon has long targeted parents with its own version of its flagship Fire tablet, aimed at kids. Like PBS’ Playtime Pad, Amazon’s tablet also includes parental controls, as well as access to FreeTime Unlimited, a selection of books, videos, apps and games, all of which are curated for age-appropriateness.

The 16 GB version of the Fire Kids Edition tablet is $99.99, the Playtime Pad is a slightly cheaper $79.99, but it’s unclear what further advantages the tablet really offers. The device itself isn’t continually updated with new content – instead, new content is delivered into the PBS apps. And these apps are available on other platforms, including Android and iOS.

The bigger selling point for grown-ups could be simply that the tablet is better customized for younger kids, like pre-schoolers, with its colorful wallpapers and durable design with handgrips on the sides. There’s also the feel-good benefit of knowing that all the net proceeds from the device are going to support PBS.

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Asked why the broadcaster wanted to venture into its own branded hardware, the company explained that it’s both about catering to today’s multi-screen generation, while also meeting parents’ demand for more educational content, which PBS has historically focused on providing.

“PBS KIDS is committed to being everywhere kids are — offering media content that helps them reach their potential, anytime and anywhere,” says Dawn Ciccone, Vice President, Brand Licensing, PBS. “We know that many families are looking for kid-friendly devices to help support their kids’ learning, so partnering with Ematic to offer our content on the Playtime Pad was a great fit for us, because it provides yet another place for children to engage with the PBS KIDS shows and characters they love.”

The PBS KIDS Playtime Pad will be available starting November 6 at Best Buy stores and on online for $79.99, as well as on Walmart.com and on shop.pbskids.org.