NEW YORK - Not to be outdone by the likes of kiddie-tablet makers Fuhu or competitors like Samsung, Amazon is introducing its own tablet intended for kids. Starting at $149, the Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition is 6- or 7-inches of Amazon tablet goodness, which comes with a year of FreeTime Unlimited all-you-can-eat kids content and a 2-year worry-free guarantee. Preorders start now, and the two tablets should be on sale in October.
The Kids Edition models feature identical hardware and software to the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. That is to say it features a quad-core MediaTek CPU, 8GB of storage, a 2-MP rear camera and VGA front camera, and sports a 1280 x 800-pixel display made of durable Gorilla Glass. It will offer up Dolby surround sound 5.1 audio and be powered by Fire OS 4 Sangria. That includes the new Family Library feature, which means two parents and four kids can share movies, books, games and apps, and each person can have their very own profile on the tablet.
The torture test that Amazon performs on its tablets should add to parents' peace of mind. The company told me it splashes the device with fresh water and salt water, slathers it in sun screen and drops it from a meter high. Based on the company's claims, the $149 Fire HD 6-inch and $189 HD 7-inch are two times more reliable and rugged than the iPad mini and 20 times more reliable than other budget tablets. And when you wrap these two slates in the company's $25 kid-friendly case (which comes with the Kid Edition), and you've got a near indestructible tablet. You can choose blue, pink or lime green.
Even with all that ruggedness built-in, you know your kids will still find a way to bust it. In the event that nature finds a way in the first 2 years, Amazon will replace your tablet, no questions asked. That includes Junior leaving the tablet out in the rain, dropping it off a building or putting it on the stairs for you to slip on.
FreeTime isn't new to Kindle Fire tablets, but Amazon has made some nice improvements. I like that parents can require a little one to complete 30 minutes of reading or some time spent with educational apps before firing up Cut the Rope.
Amazon also throws in a one-year subscription to its existing FreeTime Unlimited, which ordinarily would cost you $2.99 per month. Through FreeTime Unlimited you get access to a huge library of kid-friendly content, including books, apps, videos and more. Amazon says there are 5,000 curated items to be found through this service, and they are not from unknown brands. You'll find Disney, EA, Nickelodeon, PBS Kids and much more, at the touch of a button. And by selecting the Characters tab, even younguns with low-level reading skills will be able to tap on familiar logos to find the content they want.
Plus, when you purchase a Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition, you will also add FreeTime Unlimited to your Fire TV, if you have one.
Sure, the non-children's Kindle Fire HD 6-inch goes for just $99, but by spending an extra $50 you get about $61 worth of extras. These tablets could make perfect gifts for the children on your list this holiday season.