Kid’s Android Tablets Invasion

What’s $150, looks just like mom and dad’s version, and will be flying off the shelves this holiday season?

Answer – Tablet PCs made just for the kids. In time for the holidays, there are now more than 15 different kid-centric tablets. Tablets, like doctor’s kits or toy vacuum cleaners, are aimed at kids who like to play grown-up. They’re also aimed at the parents weary of sharing their iPads and phones, and anxious for their kids to learning, exploring and communicating.

 So what defines this new group of tablets for kids..?

  • They’re all based on Android 4.0.
  • They all offer internet connectivity via built-in WiFi.
  • They all have a camera.
  • They’re all in the $150 range.
  • They all have been made extra durable with protective glass on their 7-inch screens.
  • They all come pre-populated with content: mostly books and games, and much of it free content, with quality quite varied.
  • They all have some form of parental controls built-in.

On the downside, these devices are all going to require some parental involvement and for some parents, learning a new tablet may be too much to bear. And parents who want book-centric experiences for kids may opt for the Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook. My guess is that by next year at this time, only the best in kids tablets will survive.

While there are a good variety of kid-tablets out there – Kurio7, Nabi, Inno, LeapPad – here are a few of the latest:

Tabeo: ToysRUs thinks tablets will be so important this holiday that they launched their own custom tablet this past September. Parental support, preloaded apps and a sturdily-designed 7-inch capacitive multi-touch TFT LCD screen are the hallmarks of Tabeo. Pre-loaded with 50 apps, including Angry Birds, Freddie Fish, and Cut the Rug, with more than 7,000 additional apps available to download for free from the Tabeo App Store. Be prepared to get some ToysRUs marketing materials (invitations to watch upcoming best selling toys, etc) distributed via the Tabeo. The guts of the machine include Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), a built-in speaker, microphone, G-sensor and front-facing camera.

Early reviews are mixed, with the worst complaints including overheating, short battery life and ease of use issues.

Meep: This is a Halloween-colored tablet from Oregon Scientific. One of its big differentiators it that parents get to keep virtual coins stocked up, and kids redeem the coins to download software. Future plans include accessories like musical instruments that plug into Meep.

Early reviews have praised the ease of use, but complained about the unit freezing and lag times.

Lexibook: Lexibook, headquartered in Paris, has a full line of tablet products, not just one. There’s something specific to each age group: 3-6, 6-10, 10-12, and 12 and up, both in hardware and software functionality. This makes Lexibook the most targeted of the bunch.  Learning curriculum as well as entertainment like video and music are included as part of the out of box experience. Plenty of educational curriculums are included, though it’s fairly basic, worksheet kind of stuff. More grown-up software like Spotify and Angry Birds are available on the Lexibook store.

Most of the customer reviews were from the UK, but many felt the company had to make the tablet easier to scroll and make the content more accessible to English speakers.

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