Our kids have had Amazon Kids Tablets for awhile. They’re great for long car rides or when they need some down time. We limit their time on them. Now the Kids Tablet isn’t the official name. They’re actually the Amazon Fire tablet. But we bought them both with the kids bundle. This include a kid friendly carrying case, a warranty, and a subscription to Free Time.
I’ll start off by saying that my wife doesn’t like them. She’s used to her iPad and we even use her old one for the kids as a secondary option. So, she makes me deal with the Amazon tablets, and I have a slightly different approach. Overall, I don’t really care for them too much, but for the value, I like them.
Here are some thoughts on various aspects.
The hardware has actually held up pretty well. My daughter’s buttons for volume and power are a bit harder to manage. Overall, though, everything else has held up well.
I will admit, you get what you pay for on battery life. By and large, it isn’t very good. They can use them for around three hours before having to re-charge. What I really don’t like is that when they’re not used, they still drain battery. Both my wife’s iPad and my Google Nexus basically stop draining battery when the screen is off. The Amazon tablets will drain about 25% or more battery in a day, even when off. This has made for a few frustrating occasions when the kids want to use them, but have no power.
Free Time Unlimited
Each tablet we bought gave us a year subscription to Free Time Unlimited. This gives access to a ton of kids games and books. This was good and bad. The problem is that it presented every single option available. Our kids would try to check out a whole bunch. We ended up with storage problems many times as a result. Plus it was hard for our kids to scroll through with so many options.
After two years the free subscriptions ran out. Then they wanted $5 or $6 per month to continue. No thanks. I cancelled the subscription and the apps went away from the main screen. However, it appeared that any app data they had was still on the device. Not so cool.
It took me a while but I figured out how to get the kids set up with different apps and books. I can actually do it all from my desktop. I browse through the Amazon App Store, find free games or books, and ‘buy’ them. Then I can assign them to either or both tablets. Then I go to the app setting and grant access to who I want to have the app. Within an hour it or so it shows up on their tablet.
There aren’t as many games as are in the Google or Apple stores, but there’s still a decent amount. They also have a fairly decent selection of eBooks.
We have the basic tablets that have 8GB of storage. We also bought an external SD card for more storage. This works out pretty well, except the problem is that most apps put all or most application data on the internal storage. Even if you ‘move’ an app to external storage, it seems very little actually gets transferred.
As a result we often run out of space. Now, Amazon integrates the ‘Cloud’ where it archives apps that haven’t been used in awhile. This sounds great but can be very frustrating. Essentially what happens is that each app that’s actually on the device has a checkmark. Any app that’s been archived (or never downloaded) does not have a checkmark.
This seems pretty straightforward except that there are times when an app that they use regularly suddenly disappears. This can be especially frustrating if we’ve taken the tablet in the car and there’s no wi-fi. This does seem to happen when the device starts running low on storage space, which is quite regularly.
Luckily, I’ve figured out that dealing with the storage issue is pretty simple. All you have to do is reset the device. Since everything is associated with my Amazon account and the individual profiles, it’s no big deal to reset the device to factory defaults and start over. This wipes the internal storage (but not the SD card) and starts over. As soon as I enter my Amazon credentials, it downloads the kids profile info. Then, they can just download the apps again. Much of the app data is stored on the cloud, so they don’t lose their progress in every game.
I’ve found that resetting the device is often the quickest method to fixing problems when it starts getting slow. I had originally downloaded a couple of programs that were supposed to clean unused files, and while it worked to some degree, it seemed a stopgap solution.
Sticking With Them For Now
As you can tell, the Amazon Fire tablet is not as straightforward as other devices. I know my wife would disagree, but I still think it’s good for the kids. For a bundle that cost under $100 each, it’s been worth the trade offs. I think as they get older, the limited content might end up being an issue. But by that point, I’d probably trust them with a more expensive piece of equipment, where I really don’t today.