Why You Shouldn’t Buy an Amazon Fire Tablet for Your Kids
Do kids like the Amazon Fire tablet? Perhaps you’re thinking about buying one for your family.
If you’ll hear us out, we must respectfully urge you to take a look at the facts. Here’s why you shouldn’t invite an Amazon Fire 7 kids tablet into your home, and why existing owners should move their children onto a real tablet.
Is the Amazon Fire Tablet for Kids Worth It?
Amazon’s Fire 7 tablet and the child-focused Amazon Fire 7 Kids (essentially the same device, separated only by a kid-proof case and different return policies) are popular devices for children. Their low price makes them attractive gifts.
Your first impression is likely that this is a competent device that can play games, music, audiobooks, and videos; the eight-hour battery is a bit of a bonus, too. However, as time goes on, you’ll find yourself fixing annoying problems with the tablet, checking for solutions online, and regularly turning it off and back on again.
12 Months With Two Amazon Fire Tablets for Kids
I bought my children (a boy and girl twins) a pair of Amazon Fire 7 tablets, each equipped with a rubber foam case. The devices cost just $50 each. My kids were, of course, instantly delighted. Soon, however, we found ourselves running into trouble again.
It wasn’t long before each Fire tablet had run out of internal storage. After a week of installing games and taking photos, we noticed the problem just hours before we had to leave for vacation.
As we had mainly intended for the tablets to serve as in-car entertainment for the children, this was not ideal.
Since then, I’ve bought two high-capacity microSD cards, initiated four factory resets, and uninstalled more games than I can count. Oh, and then there’s endlessly tapping the move to SD card button.
Twelve months of restarts, closing unresponsive games, battling with Wi-Fi drops, performing factory resets, and children crying because their Amazon kids Fire tablet has decided not to launch their favorite game. It’s such a frustrating experience.
Kids want more from their tech. So do adults.
Insufficient RAM for Multitasking on a Kids’ Tablet
Buried within the “2x more durable than an iPad mini 4” marketing for the Amazon Fire for kids is a 1.3GHz quad-core CPU accompanied by 1GB of RAM. A single gigabyte of memory is laughable.
Budget smartphones have at least 4GB of RAM; even the Amazon Fire HD 8 has 2GB of RAM. Sure, these are more expensive devices, but 1GB is paltry, even for a device designed for kids. It’s supposed to be capable of running apps and games from the Amazon Appstore for crying out loud.
There are titles in the store that demand so much more from the hardware; you’ll end up installing games that push the device to its very limit.
After your child plays one of them, they’ll download and play another, and perhaps another. Within half an hour, they’ll have three or more games running. Some are lightweight, but others demand more resources. Either way, the tablet grinds to a halt.
Children under 10 won’t bother closing inactive apps. They want to have the ability to switch back to them in a few minutes when they get bored with game number two or three.
Related: The Best AR Games for Kids
The Default Storage Space Is a Joke
The Fire Tablet’s default storage is another problem. With only 16GB to play with, you have three options:
- Don’t install large games and apps.
- Don’t download any movies from Amazon.
- Buy a compatible microSD card and add more capacity.
This last solution might not seem too bad, but the other two are a real bummer. As we’ll see later, games take up space both as downloaded files and as installed programs.
Meanwhile, children love watching movies in the back of the car. You can download these from Amazon or sync them from your PC. Streaming is an option, but it’s not practical in the car.
One problem presents itself almost immediately: prepare too many movies for your little ones to watch, and you’ll quickly run out of space for other media and games.
As you can see, it’s all a bit tricky. Fortunately, it’s possible to regain storage on the Amazon Fire Tablet, but it takes a bit of work.
Online Checks for Games Are Frustrating
This one came as a shock.
On a different trip later in the year, we found that some newly installed games would simply not play. Why not? The error message for one advised that the title’s license was “expired,” and it blocked the game from running entirely.
All that you can do to fix this is connect to the internet, which isn’t exactly easy when you’re driving a car.
In this anecdote, we had two Amazon Fire tablets for our kids, but only one Amazon account. Other titles run on the tablets without any trouble—often the same game at the same time. Researching the error, I discovered that the problem is often linked to duplicate instances of the same title running, but this is sadly inconsistent.
In short, it’s a lottery whether or not games, books, and audiobooks will run. Whether you’re playing free or paid games, this simply isn’t good enough.
Related: Amazon Fire Tablet Tips and Tricks
Games That Won’t Install to the SD Card
Because the Fire OS is based on an old version of Android, it struggles with games that run from the SD card. You can’t automatically install them to the expanded storage. You can, however, move them to your microSD card later.
Installing too many games that you can’t put on the SD card is a problem. It means you won’t even be able to download games that you’d otherwise be able to move.
This can often result in you, as a parent, getting involved with uninstalling games, trying to download that one awesome new title, failing, and repeating the process.
Many Problems Require a Factory Reset
As it’s building low-spec tablets on a massive scale, Amazon is no doubt aware of its product’s shortcomings; its most popular device is basically impossible to use without a jigsaw puzzle approach to installing apps and games.
After all, the company’s most popular response to support issues is to instruct users to initiate a factory reset. Sure, it makes everything fresh again, but it’s a massive pain, especially for children. All their games are gone after the reset, and the progress that they’ve made often disappears, too.
A full reset is the instruction I received after the Wi-Fi on one of our Fires would disconnect of its own accord. Seriously, that’s the fix.
A factory reset is only a temporary solution. As long as the Amazon Fire remains a low-end device, Junior will continue getting frustrated by games that won’t install to the SD card, online checks, low RAM, and a generally sluggish operating system.
And Then There Are Privacy Concerns
Giving credit where it’s due, the Amazon Fire ships with an excellent parental control tool. This seems like a bit of an afterthought when there are so many issues with ads on the device, however.
We’ve previously looked at how to attempt to control privacy and ads on the Amazon Fire. If you’ve already spent a few minutes looking at how to deal with these issues, you’re probably loath to spend more time closing unused games or trying to get the tablet back online.
In short, the Amazon Fire experience needs to be better for your child—and better for you.
You’re a Parent, Not a Techie
You’re the parent; it’s your call how much time you waste dealing with these problems on behalf of your child. Let’s be honest: there’s nothing simple about the Amazon Fire experience for children.
We’re well into the 21st century; little ones have been born into a world of compact, digital technology. The TV has hundreds of channels that they can call up with the remote control.
Your child sees you on your iPad or high-end Android or Windows tablet. They can see that it works just fine.
So why is their tablet struggling to load a game? Why won’t their audiobook play? How come the device needs to check online whether the game you bought just last week has permission to load? Isn’t it a pain when you’re three hours from home, only to find that none of these problems can be solved on the go?
Chances are, you’re probably not a tech expert; you’re a parent with better things to do. Other tasks are waiting in your home—you need to get dinner ready, mow the lawn, or sort the laundry out.
So, what’s the answer? If not the kids’ Amazon Fire tablet, which tablet should you choose for your children?
Three Alternatives to the Amazon Fire Kids Tablet
Thankfully, there are several affordable alternatives to the Fire tablet. We’ll be honest—they’re not as cheap as the Amazon Fire kids tablet. It’s not just a low-spec tablet; it’s a cash cow.
These non-Amazon Fire tablets aren’t strictly tablets for kids. In order to keep them safe, you’ll need to install some parental control software to keep a close eye on what they do. You’ll probably also want to secure your Google Play (or Apple App Store) account so that your kids can’t make accidental purchases.
The performance your little ones will get from these 8-inch tablets will be largely headache-free, especially if they want a tablet for reading. You might look at a kid-friendly Chromebook or a rugged laptop for children as another alternative.
Depending on what you need to prioritize, these three options should have pretty much any child covered. A bigger screen? More memory? The possibilities are endless.
What Does Your Child Think of Their Amazon Fire?
12 months in, my largely undemanding children are becoming fed up with the limitations of Amazon tablets for kids. They’re not hardcore gamers—they just want to be entertained with something that works.
I’ve identified the major problems we’ve encountered with the Fire Tablet for kids. Of course, it’s not a completely useless device—just not the one for my family.
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Are you getting the most our of your Amazon Fire tablet? These tricks will help you use your tablet to its full potential.
About The Author
(1538 Articles Published)
Deputy Editor for Security, Linux, DIY, Programming, and Tech Explained, and Really Useful Podcast producer, with extensive experience in desktop and software support.
A contributor to Linux Format magazine, Christian is a Raspberry Pi tinkerer, Lego lover and retro gaming fan.
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November 13, 2021 at 07:52AM