Kids tablet makers shift to more mature, higher-end products

NEW YORK -- Kiddie tablets have grown up.

Tablets designed just for kids are getting more sophisticated as they face increased competition from regular tablets.

See Full Article

The new products also have better screens, speedier chips and fashionably slim bodies. They let older children do more, yet hold their hands until they're ready for unsupervised access.

Although many of the tablets were originally conceived as educational toys for kids as old as middle schoolers, they've been more popular with younger children. Older kids have been apt to reject them in favour of their parents' tablet or smartphone.

That shift has prompted companies to focus more on preschoolers and kindergarteners, as they create super-durable products that can withstand repeated abuse and develop games and apps that teach reading and math.

But now, some of those companies are looking to take back some of the sales to older kids that they've lost over the years, offering premium products -- most with price tags of over $100 -- that look and perform less like toys and more like the ones adults use.

LeapFrog, maker of the toy-like LeapPad, released its first Android tablet this year. And Kurio is branching out to Windows 10 and includes a full version of Microsoft Office in a new tablet-laptop combination.

The use of Android and Windows software, in place of the more basic, custom-made systems used in toy tablets, allows for more sophisticated apps and games and a range of content from standard app stores.

Monica Brown, LeapFrog's vice-president for product marketing, said the company aimed to "create something that was kind of sleek and more tech forward for kids who were looking for something that felt like their parents' tablet."

But parents still want educational content and safety features that come with a tablet designed purely for kids. LeapFrog's Epic, along with the other new tablets for kids, are attempts to bridge that gap.

The Epic looks like a regular Android tablet, but comes with a removable bright-green bumper. It is much faster than a LeapPad and can run versions of popular Android games such as "Fruit Ninja" and "Doodle Jump." There's access to the Internet, but it's limited to about 10,000 kid-safe websites (though parents can add others). Parents can also limit and track how much time a child spends watching videos, playing games or reading.

Lynn Schofield Clark, a professor of media studies at the University of Denver, said kids tablets are a tough sell these days.

"Kids are always aspirational in their ages, and they're always interested in what older kids are doing," Clark said, pointing to the fascination that many preteens have with smartphones as a prime example.

Meanwhile, most parents won't spend money on kids-only gadgets unless they believe they offer significant educational benefits.

"If they're just looking for something to entertain their kid, then why wouldn't they just hand over their smartphone?" she asked.

Kurio aims to answer that question with the Smart, a device that let kids do things they previously might have needed their parents' laptop for, such as typing up and saving their homework online or playing video on their TV through an HDMI cable. The Smart is a Windows 10 laptop with a detachable screen and comes with a free year of Microsoft Office.

Eric Levin, Kurio's strategic director, said kids using children's tablets are getting younger, as older kids gravitate toward adult products. Four years ago, he said, most Kurio users ranged from ages 6 to 12. Now, half of them are 3 to 5.

Although older kids may be ready for adult tablets, the shift has left those 8 to 12 without age-appropriate devices, Levin says. The Smart tries to fix that.

Other makers of kids tablets have also gone high-end this year. Fuhu bills the Nabi Elev-8 as a premium, 8-inch tablet. But the company ran into financial problems early in the holiday season, and its products have been tough to find.

Nonetheless, adult tablets remain popular with kids.

Amazon touts its Fire tablet as something the entire family can use, eliminating the need to buy something just for the kids.

"While I appreciate that might have led other companies to adjust their products, we're upping our game based on what customers want in the best kid experience," said Aaron Bromberg, senior manager of product management for Amazon Devices.

The tablet's FreeTime app lets parents set up profiles for each kid, with access to only the content they approve. It also lets parents limit the amount of time spent on different kinds of content such as videos or apps. For an additional fee, Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited service offers more than 10,000 books, apps, games and videos geared toward kids ages 3 to 10.

Nonetheless, Amazon is selling a kids' edition tablet for $100. It's essentially Amazon's bare-bones $50 Fire tablet packaged with a colorful protective bumper and a year's subscription to FreeTime Unlimited.

It also comes with a two-year guarantee: If your kid breaks it, Amazon will replace it.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Samsung delays its new phone, showcases tablets instead

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Samsung's product showcase Sunday is notable for what's missing: a new flagship phone. Instead, Samsung is spotlighting new Android and Windows tablets after delaying the Galaxy S8 smartphone - an indirect casualty of the unprecedented September recall of the fire-prone Note 7 phone . Source
  • Nokia relaunches iconic 3310 mobile model

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Finnish brand Nokia, a former mobile star, on Sunday launched three new Android smartphones and unveiled a revamped version of its iconic 3310 model more than a decade after it was phased out. Unlike the original, which was known for its sturdiness, the new Nokia 3310 will allow web browsing. Source
  • ZTE launches world's first 5G-ready smartphone

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Chinese telecoms giant ZTE unveiled Sunday what it said is the world's first smartphone compatible with the lightening-fast 5G mobile internet service that networks expect to have up and running by 2020. The company said the Gigabit Phone is the first smartphone capable of download speeds reaching up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) -- up to 10 times faster than the first generation of 4G services widely in use today. Source
  • Rings in stomach could be key to telling lobsters' age

    Tech & Science CTV News
    ORONO, Maine - Researchers are testing a technique they say could determine the age of lobsters. Lobsters can live to be more than 100 years old. Their ages are typically estimated based on size, as they shed their shells and grow larger as they get older. Source
  • Sap science: Researchers say this machine is a game-changer for syrup production

    Tech & Science CTV News
    UNDERHILL, Vt. -- Maple syrup doesn't get that rich flavour and colour in an instant. It's a long process from tree to bottle. But an improved technology could keep maple sugarers from working late into the night boiling sap into syrup. Source
  • Private data leaked online by Cloudflare bug

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Internet users Friday were being urged to change all their passwords in the wake of a Cloudflare bug that could have leaked passwords, messages and more from website visits. A Cloudflare service used by millions of websites to enhance security and performance said that it had fixed the flaw quickly after being alerted a week ago by Google researcher Tavis Ormandy. Source
  • BlackBerry KEYone coming in April

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — If you're a fan of the BlackBerry's classic physical keyboard, you will have reason to celebrate when the last product designed in part by the former smartphone leader becomes available in April. The Waterloo, Ont. Source
  • Thorny skate will not be added to endangered species list

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PORTLAND, Maine - The federal government says the thorny skate will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups argued that the thorny skate's decline in the northwest Atlantic Ocean was considerable enough to afford it protections set aside for endangered animals. Source
  • 'Go to sleep. The stream can wait'; Gamer who died during 24-hour marathon 'was in rough shape'

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia man who died while during a 24-hour gaming marathon appeared to be in "rough shape" before leaving for a smoke break he never returned from, a friend said. Brian Vigneault, 35, had spent about 22 hours playing the online war game World of Tanks on the streaming platform Twitch.tv. Source
  • Horizon Zero Dawn review: PS4 exclusive a perfect gaming experience

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    In Horizon Zero Dawn, there are robot animals to fight, bloodthirsty bandits to eliminate and millennium-spanning mysteries to uncover. Yet, every time I turned a corner in this lushly detailed video game world, I was sucked into some incredible new spectacle. Source