Amazon's cavalcade of tablet announcements this evening includes a surprisingly good offer to parents. It's the Fire HD Kids Edition. Essentially, the Kids Edition is a standard Kindle Fire HD tablet — at either the 6-inch or 7-inch size — with a pile of add-on features that are designed for kids and the havoc they tend to wreak. You pay a $50 premium over the standard version, which amounts to $149 for the 6-inch version and $189 for the 7-inch base model. But for that $50 you get a few special bonuses. The first is a one-year subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, the company's set of kid-friendly content that includes 5,000 games, videos, and books. You also get a gigantic case that protects the tablet and makes it easier for small children to hold. Last but certainly not-least is a 2-year, no-questions-asked warranty. Amazon representatives all but intimated that your child could put it in a blender — just send the busted bits back and Amazon will send you a new one.
There have been many attempts at making tablets for children, but the vast majority of them have been so poorly-specced or had so few apps that they have been more insulting than educational. Amazon, however, has been spending the last couple years building out both a massive content library and parental controls in its Fire OS software. The combination of those pieces with hardware that's cheap enough to entrust to your toddler makes this the first child-friendly option that could legitimately compare to just handing your iPad to your kid. The fact that your son or daughter won't have access to your work email is a nice bonus.
The tablet itself is a relatively uninspiring affair, blocky and low-end. But it also appears to be more durable than the average cheap tablet — Amazon claims it's also twice as durable as the iPad mini. It also seems to be faster than the average super-cheap Android tablet — but that is not saying very much. But "good enough" could be good enough for this category, and frankly we haven't seen anything rise above that very low bar yet. Whether it's good enough to keep your kids from resenting you for giving them a low-end tablet is another matter.
One of the software improvements in Fire OS 4.0 is Profiles — which makes it fast to switch between users and is a feature that's sorely missing from the iPad. When you're in your parent profile, you can set time limits at a very granular level. You can say it's ok for your child to play games for a few hours a day, but never past 8pm, for example — but they can read as much as they want until midnight. It's a deeper and better set of controls than you can find on other platforms.
Notably, their prices do not include the usual advertising that Amazon puts on most of its Kindle products. Amazon says that it wouldn't be appropriate for kids — and even goes so far as to block in-app advertising on apps and set limits on in-app purchases.
The Kids Edition tablets are available for preorder now and will ship in October.
Read more about Amazon's new Kindle lineup
- The new Kindle Voyage e-reader is shockingly good
- Amazon Kindle Fire HD 6 and Fire HD 7 aim to redefine cheap tablets
- Amazon's entry-level Kindle finally has a touchscreen
- Amazon upgrades the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 with more speed and better sound
- Amazon's new Family Library feature lets you share purchases as a household