What is the Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition?
This is the smaller of Amazon’s two tablets aimed at kids. But the Fire Kids Edition models are about much more than just a case that looks like an accident with some expanding foam; the real draw here is a year’s free access to an absolutely enormous amount of child-friendly apps, games and videos, as well as a no-quibble two-year warranty.
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Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition – Design and features
At the heart of this package is the Amazon Fire 7, which is a very basic 7-inch tablet that doesn’t feel like much of an update from Fire models from years ago. For the money, it does what it needs, but don’t expect to be wowed by the look and feel, nor by the specs.
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Once you’ve squeezed it into the supplied Kids Edition case – available in blue, pink or yellow – it becomes much fatter and heavier, but very easy to grip. It also feels like it could take being thrown against a wall in the middle of a major meltdown.
The case reminds me of a car steering wheel, and the Fire 7 easily squeezes into it with a nice, tight fit. It has holes cut out of it for the 2-megapixel rear camera, the single mono speaker along the bottom, the volume rocker and 3.5mm headphone socket, as well as the power button and Micro USB charging port.
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You’d expect Amazon to supply a screen protector, considering its target audience and the premium you pay for the Kids Edition over the standard Fire 7. But no, it’s a £9.99 optional extra. The case protrudes far enough from the screen that you mostly shouldn’t need the protector, but a direct hit on that glass will still cause a smash. Thankfully, Amazon offers a two-year no-quibble warranty with the Fire 7 Kids Edition.
The Fire 7 Kids Edition comes with only 16GB of storage, but a microSD slot means you can extend that to 256GB.
The final extra that you pay a premium for is the Fire For Kids app and a one-year free subscription to the service. This offers a child-friendly overlay with a load of useful parental controls and access to a ton of decent videos, games and ebooks.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition – Performance
As we noted in our Amazon Fire 7 review, this is a tablet that feels like a throwback. You won’t notice much difference between this and the very first Fire model, aside from the addition of the Alexa digital assistant.
Amazon’s operating system, Fire OS, is Android-based but not Android as you know it. That means you can get most of the major Android apps for Fire OS, including Netflix and the CBeebies apps, but you can’t get Sky Q or Sky Kids, for instance. You’ve been warned.
As long as you’re not expecting too much for your money, the relatively low-resolution screen and slightly slow performance shouldn’t bother you. The eight-hour battery life is a little disappointing, though, and means you’ll have the Fire 7 on charge more than you might like. Since little ones tend to be pretty rubbish at remembering to charge stuff, that’ll be your responsibility. Sorry.
The cameras will satisfy kids taking novelty photos, but they’re really very poor in quality, so don’t expect your kids to be taking anything worthy of actually keeping.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition – Fire For Kids app
And now to the real reason to consider this ahead of other, non-Amazon tablets: that one-year subscription to the Fire For Kids service. In essence it’s a simplified overlay for Fire OS, and provides access to swathes of age-appropriate content.
Fire For Kids is opened just like any other app, and gives you the option to add profiles for each of the children who’ll be using the tablet. Firstly you need to let it know their name, age, gender and the profile pic they’d like to use. You can also decide whether to assign them a standard Fire For Kids account or give them a Teen Profile, for children aged 11 and older. I couldn’t really spot much difference between the two.
Once your kid is signed in, they have a choice of content type: Books, Videos, Apps, Characters, and (if you’ve given them permission within the app) Web. They can also search by title or use the camera. All of the categories are full to the brim with content, and unlike with some kiddy tablets, you’ll even recognise most of it – most are well-known brands rather than cheapo filler content.
Browsing by character, for instance, reveals a load of familiar faces: Harry Potter, Gruffalo, Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine and a shedload more. There are also sub-categories such as Dinosaurs, Trains, Princesses, Sports and Superheroes.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any real structure to the category lists, so something like Videos can be a bit overwhelming, and so a lot of good content might never be discovered by your little ones.
Some of the apps can take a long time to download, and the progress bar isn’t very obvious, so you might get your kids whining about the tablet being unresponsive when they just haven’t noticed that it’s actually doing something. Books are much quicker to download, and videos stream almost instantly – although you do need constant Wi-Fi for the latter, so don’t expect to have things to watch for long car journeys and flights.
Handily, you can also download standard Fire OS apps – such as CBeebies Playtime Island – through your adult account and just add them to your child’s approved apps list. I’ve found this really useful for my son, who’s a little older, as much of the Fire For Kids content is still targeted at younger kids.
Amazon has provided a custom web browser with Fire For Kids, which can be set to show a curated set of Amazon-approved bookmarks. Any other websites have to be manually put on the approved list – although in the case of YouTube, you can only approve specific videos rather than the whole site, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Within the Fire For Kids Settings page, you can also set daily goals and time limits. You can specify what time of day your child’s profile can be accessed, for how long per day, and whether you want to set them a goal, such as a minimum of 30 minutes reading books.
Why buy the Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition?
Taken purely as a hardware proposition, the Fire 7 Kids Edition looks terribly underwhelming – ageing tech concealed in a blobby case. But the Fire For Kids content and two-year warranty are what you’re really paying that little bit extra for. There’s an amazing array of videos, games, books and educational apps available here.
For a sharper screen, extra storage and longer battery life, the HD 8 Kids Edition is worth splashing out the extra cash for, but the Fire 7 is still a good buy if you’re on a tight budget.
The hardware may not be great, but the year of amazing free content still means this is worth the money.