Another bargain from Amazon made it to our paradise island. This time I went on the hunt for tablet for our children. Even though I already use a variety of tablets - both iOS- and Android-based - for professional reasons I was looking for a more secure solution for children than what is possible with the default systems. Whether you are using an iPad or a stock Android or a Samsung enhanced UI tablet they somehow always fall short in terms of profile management for multiple users, there is lack of safety measures for children, and it surely leaves a gut feeling with the adults when the kids are using "their" device.
Some months back I ran into the unpleasant situation that one of our children did an unwanted purchase on the Play Store. Fortunately for me, Google changed their refund policies recently and I was granted a refund. Grateful, it happened only once and just a minor amount. Due to this incident I did a research on several "child-friendly parachutes" for Android. None of them really convinced and so I put it aside...
Then came Amazon and only by chance while browsing some products in their Kindle department I came across their special offers for the Kindle Fire HDX tablet(s). Reading through the family features on the device combined with the additional cloud options it became obvious that the Kindle Fire would be wonderful solution.
Here are some of the key factors - taken from Amazon product page - that mattered most for us:
Profiles so you can share your tablet
Kindle Fire HDX (OS 4) lets each family member create their own profile, including individual home screens, email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, bookmarks, and game levels—making it easy for a family to share a tablet and give everyone a personalized experience, rather than buying multiple devices.
Set Screen Limits
Many parents choose to limit their kids' screen time, but doing so without the proper tools is difficult. With Kindle FreeTime, parents can set daily limits for tablet use, or restrict certain categories—like games and video—while leaving unlimited time for reading.
Perfect for Parents...
Kindle FreeTime is built from the ground up to help give parents peace of mind when it comes to tablet use. Parents can create a profile for each of their children and choose what books, apps, games, and videos they want to give their kids access to. Kindle FreeTime is free on every new Kindle Fire.
...And Perfect for Kids
When kids use Kindle FreeTime, it's like they have their very own personalized tablet. The background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design, they only see the titles that they have access to see, the home screen carousel shows their recently viewed titles, and they can even navigate visually to content based on characters or topics—for example "Cinderella," "Dinosaurs," or "Puppies."
Just the combination that we were looking for.
Profile creation and protection
The Fire OS 4 used in the Kindle Fire HDX allows to setup a family with 2 adults and up to 4 children. Being used to the Amazon Store App on my other devices and already owning a small library of Android apps as well as a collection of (children) books the Kindle Fire would be the right selection for our household. Actually, our toughest decision was whether we should take a rugged version or stick to the Origami cover...
In general, I would suggest that someone might opt for the Fire HD Kids Edition depending on the age your child(ren) of course. But honestly I have to admit that the technical geek in me won the decision battle and we purchased the regular HDX with higher display resolution. Although the offer with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee sounds amazing.
Well, personal preference...
This is pretty much a standard procedure. Our device(s) came almost fully charged and therefore it was about the first log in with the credentials of an adult Amazon account holder. Following the various steps took me less than 10 minutes and the device was operational. Of course, first things first... Check for updates! And yes there is a newer minor version of Fire OS available. Some bugfixes but also some new and enhanced features compared to the currently installed version.
Next, it's about going into the Settings menu and there you get access to Profiles & Family Library. That's the place to go to... I quickly added two child profiles and made my choices regarding allowed content for their particular age. It's easy to provide different books, apps, games, videos and settings for each individual profile. And more interesting you are able to set daily goals but also set time limits and usage constraints. Optionally you can give profile passwords or even hide profiles completely on the device - nice feature to keep the kids restricted to a) their profile and b) their device.
Overall I have to say that Amazon's Fire OS experience is more complete and polished than any children-safety app that I have tested since now.
Content and battery lifetime
The children got their tablets as present from Santa Claus... And of course, he is very gentle person he already pre-loaded a good number of apps from the Amazon App Store. I'm not quite sure but it seems that each app is downloaded for each profile. Leading to duplicate downloads and higher storage requirements. But I'm not sure about that yet. The Kindle Fire HDX is completely isolated within the Amazon realm, and you don't have access to Google's Play Store or any other sources - which might be good or might be bad depending on how you would like to see it. Personally, I don't miss the access to the Play Store and again it gives me more peace of mind knowing that the kids cannot download and install any inappropriate software.
Regarding battery lifetime it seems that the tablet has enough "juice" for their daily allowance without the need to charge it in-between. Well, I have to admit that I didn't load any movies yet on the device. But up till now, the kids are happy with their playtime using games, drawing apps, reading children books or listening to music.
The Kindle Fire HDX is "only" equipped with a front-facing 720p HD camera. Which is perfect for Skype conversations among each other, or family members, or friends outside our immediate vicinity. And of course "selfies"... Hm, our little artists discovered this drawback during the first evening and were not quite happy about that. As we didn't comment on this they found a solution on their own: Turn the tablet and hold in front of the belly to shoot photos. Simply but effective.
Even after this short period of less than two weeks I'd say that we made the right decision with the purchase of the Kindle Fire HDX and the Origami cover. The children are pleased with their toys, and we as parents can relax - they don't ask anymore for our devices and we feel secure that they won't do any unwanted purchases.
Feel free to leave me a note (or two) in the comment section below. Thanks!