This was nothing if not inevitable. Alexa’s steady home takeover just found its way into your kids’ rooms — and it’s doing so with a brightly colored case. Amazon just unveiled the Echo Dot Kids Edition — the first time the company’s popular smart speaker line has targeted children directly.
From a hardware perspective, there’s not really a lot different here. The Echo Dot Kids Edition is essentially a standard Echo Dot, with a color bumper to help it withstand your standard kid jostling and the same “two-year worry-free guarantee” the company introduced on its kids’ Fire Tablets. That means it’s covered for accidental and intentional breakage, should the little one take the thing apart out of curiosity.
At $80, it’s a $30 premium over the standard Dot. That price jump is largely due to the software included herein, making the device a bundle of sorts. It covers a year of FreeTime Unlimited— which includes a new premium version of the company’s smart assistant built for kids. That includes a bunch of child-friendly content, including 300 Audible books, an ad-free version of iHeartRadio Family and skills and content from the likes of Disney and National Geographic. Amazon’s also partnered with Disney and Nickelodeon on alarms, so kids can get woken up by the likes of Coco each morning.
Like the free version of FreeTime, it also includes a number of parental controls that can be adjusted directly from the Alexa app, similar to what the company has already rolled out on the tablet side of things. Parents can adjust time limits, filter out explicit content and review their kids’ Alexa activity from the new parental dashboard. The Dot also features the new intercom functionality rolled out from Alexa, but disables the ability to call Echos outside of the home network.
Beyond that, there aren’t any new privacy features baked into the hardware. There’s still that mute button, and parents can set a sleep mode that will disable the device from answering questions. But the microphone can’t be disabled by default, and even in sleep mode, the device is still listening for a wake word. Amazon stands by the same privacy features it’s rolled out on all of its products (encryption, etc.), but many parents will no doubt still be wary about putting an always-listening device into their kids’ room.
The Echo Dot Kids Edition is available for pre-order today. It starts shipping May 9.