Last fall, Amazon introduced its new Kindle Fire lineup, and we very excited by the new Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet for our soon to be 4 year old, Alex. We ordered it immediately and tucked it away for Alex’s birthday in December.
The features that they claimed are why we bought it:
- 2 Year unconditional warranty against spills, drops, breaks, etc.
- FreeTime Unlimited subscription for a year
- 6″ form factor, perfect size for a four year old
- Kindle FreeTime, which offers great content control as well as a method to provide select purchased content to the device
After having used it for a couple of months now, I’m sad to say that I’m terribly disappointed in it. So disappointed that it is now sitting on a shelf, powered off. We’ll probably end up selling it cheap or just giving it to a friend who is far less technically demanding and can better cope with its limitations.
Let me start by saying the design is great. It feels solid in the hands, and doesn’t “creak” when being manipulated. For anyone who has used a Samsung tablet, you know exactly what I’m talking about by “creaking”. The 6″ form factor is great for a four year old or even a two year old to watch videos or use story-book apps. Its not too heavy to hold, and the bumper case fits it perfectly and really offers a lot of protection. The battery life is also decent, not great, but enough that it can be used for about 6 hours before needing a charge, which is way more screen time than I want my kids to have in a day.
In fact, there is only one thing about the tablet that I don’t like, but that particular problem is so huge it makes the entire tablet almost unusable. That problem is that it has only 8GB of storage, with about 5GB of it used up by the operating system. This leaves just around 3GB of storage space for any apps or other content. Thats not enough for today’s devices. Not even close.
Amazon has an awesome feature to manage your content and devices, you can give each family member on your account permission to use certain apps. This is an incredible feature for parents and households. It allows me to share videos, apps, and books I have purchsed with both the kids and Jessica. Likewise, with Jessica’s account, she can share with me. It really is a great feature and one of the things that keeps me using Amazon.
This awesome feature actually compounds the problem with the limited memory on the device. By allowing access, it doesn’t actually install the app or book on the device (another great feature), but instead puts an icon on it. The first time it gets clicked on it downloads it and installs it.
Now, give a tablet with a few dozen icons to a four year old with all his favorite Little Critter books and watch what happens. The tablet will be full in under an hour and start complaining that its low on space. Apps will start failing randomly and you have an unhappy child and frustrated parent.
The Fire will automatically clean things up, which is helpful, but it takes a while to train before it starts removing unused apps. Even with only twenty or so apps, it won’t get a chance to start removing before its full, which is not helpful.
There is also a camera on the tablet. Since we both take pictures regularly with our phones, the kids are going to want to do the same. Kids like taking pictures, whether its of their favorite toys, their skinned knee, the dog, or just a picture of the carpet, they love taking pictures and looking at them. Remember now, there is only about 3GB of storage. Give a kid a camera and its going to chew into that really quickly.
Now, if you add in FreeTime Unlimited with hundreds of available apps and books, the limited storage problem grows exponentially.
So to summarize, this would be a superb tablet for a child if Amazon had chosen to give it 16GB of storage instead of 8GB. 8GB isn’t really even enough for low-end phones these days, but at least most of those have an SD card slot so you can move photos or some apps to it. Even 12GB of storage would be enough, though not really practical with today’s memory packages. So after a couple of extremely frustrating months, we ended up replacing it with two 16GB Fire HD 7 Kids Edition tablets when they went on sale, one blue and one green for each of the boys. While I would have preferred the 6″ version, they’re not available with 16GB of storage.
The kids are both happy with them and we haven’t ran out of storage on either one of them yet.