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Amazon’s Fire 7 tablet (our review When Cheap Is Good Enough: Amazon Fire 7 Review When Cheap Is Good Enough: Amazon Fire 7 Review The Amazon Fire 7 is a budget tablet and e-reader from the online shopping giant, whose quality will surprise you. It's available for as little as $50. Read More ) and the child-focused Amazon Fire 7 Kids (they’re both the same device, separated only by a kid-proof case and different return policies) are popular devices for children. They make great gifts!

Your first impression is of a 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 find yourself fixing annoying problems with the tablet, checking for solutions online, and regularly turning it off and back on again.

Oh, and it probably lags too — a lot.

amazon fire 7 home

And while this is happening, your child is falling out of love with the device, bit by bit.

Are your kids happy with the Amazon Fire tablet? Perhaps you’re thinking about buying one. Here’s why you shouldn’t, and why existing owners should move their children onto a real tablet.

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12 Months With 2 Amazon Fires

In June 2016, I bought my children (five-year-old boy and girl twins) a pair of Amazon Fire tablets, equipped with rubber foam cases. Costing just $50 each (or less on Amazon Prime Day or other special deal events) they were, of course, instantly delighted. But soon the problems started.

It wasn’t long before the tablets had run out of internal storage. It was after a week of installing games and taking photos when we noticed the problem — just hours before we had to leave for vacation. The tablets were largely intended as in-car entertainment for the children, so this was not ideal.

amazon fire 7 case

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 the endless tapping of 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 tablet has decided not to launch their favorite game… it’s not good, and it leaves a bad experience. Kids want more from their tech. So do adults.

Insufficient RAM for Multitasking

Buried within the “2x more durable than an iPad mini 4” tablet is a 1.3 GHz quad-core CPU accompanied by 1 GB of RAM.

ONE. GIGABYTE.

My smartphone Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition Smartphone Review Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition Smartphone Review When a phone is released only to a select few enthusiasts, you wonder whether or not the hype is genuinely worth it. Let's look at one of the first phones to run Ubuntu Touch. Read More has 3 GB of RAM. The Samsung Galaxy S8 Samsung Launches the New Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus Samsung Launches the New Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus Samsung has taken the wraps off of its next flagship smartphone. Or, more accurately, its two new flagship smartphones. And, on paper at least, these things look spectacularly good. Read More has 4 GB. Even the Amazon Fire HD8 has 1.5 GB of RAM. Sure, these are more expensive devices, but 1 GB is utterly paltry for a device that is supposed to be capable of running apps and games from the Amazon Appstore.

amazon fire kids twins
Image Credit: ESB Professional via Shutterstock

In short, there are titles in the store that demand more from the hardware. It goes like this: games that are at the very limits of what your device can handle can be installed, then your daughter plays one of them — then she downloads and plays another, and perhaps another.

Within half an hour, three or more games are running, some low spec, others high. But multitasking has ground to a halt, along with the tablet.

And children under 10 just don’t want to close apps they’re not using. They want to be able to switch back to them in a few minutes when they get bored with game number two or three.

Default Storage Is a Joke

RAM is low, but so is default storage. With just 8 GB to play with (a 16 GB model is also available), if you don’t want to run out, you have three options:

  1. Don’t install games or apps bigger than a few megabytes.
  2. Don’t download any movies from Amazon.
  3. Buy a microSD card 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your Next MicroSD Card 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your Next MicroSD Card MicroSD cards seem simple, but there are a few critical mistakes that you must avoid when shopping for one. If you ignore these, you may regret your purchase. Read More and add increased capacity.

This last option might not seem too bad (see below) but the other two can prove troublesome. As we’ll see later, games take up space both as downloading files and as installed programs.

Meanwhile, children love watching movies in the back of the car. These can be downloaded from Amazon Instant Video or synced from your PC. Streaming is an option, but not practical in the car. But prepare too many movies for your little ones to watch, and you’ll quickly run out of space for other media, as well as games.

As you can see, it’s all a bit tricky.

Online Checks for Games. Like, WHAT?

This problem came as a shock.

On a different trip later in the year (a four-hour drive to Liverpool), it soon transpired that some newly-installed games would not play. Why not? Well, the error message for one advised that the title’s “license expired,” and it blocked the game from running.

All you can do to fix this is connect to the internet, which isn’t really straightforward when you’re driving a car.

Now, we had two Amazon Fire tablets, 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 as to whether or not games (and some books and audiobooks from Audible 10 Great Audiobooks You Should Listen to During Your Audible Trial 10 Great Audiobooks You Should Listen to During Your Audible Trial If you're still not sure if audiobooks are right for you, you can sign up for a 30-day Audible trial and get two free audiobooks. Here are our 10 recommendations. Read More ) will run. Whether games have been downloaded for free, or been bought, this simply isn’t good enough.

Games That Won’t Install to the SD Card

Because the Fire OS is based on an old version of Android, it has a problem handling games that run from the SD card. In short, they cannot be installed automatically to the expanded storage. However, they can be moved to the microSD card later.

amazon fire 7 slot

This causes problems. Although many titles can be moved, downloading them in the first place can prove difficult, due to the limitations on native storage. Installing too many games that cannot be moved to the SD card means that games that usually can be moved can’t even be downloaded.

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.

Too Many Problems Fixable With a Factory Reset

With a low-spec approach to building tablets on a massive scale, Amazon probably doesn’t care too much that its most popular device cannot be used without a jigsaw puzzle approach to installing apps and games.

After all, their 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 of their games are gone. Usually the progress they’ve made is also destroyed.

It’s the instruction I received when complaining that the Wi-Fi on one of our Fires would disconnect of its own accord. Seriously, that’s the fix — because there is literally no competent tech support.

In short, a factory reset is a temporary solution to a deeper issue. As long as the Amazon Fire remains a low-spec device, Junior is always going to be frustrated by games that won’t install to the SD card, online checks, low RAM, and a generally sluggish operating system.

And Then There’s Privacy

Credit where it’s due: the Amazon Fire ships with a good parental control tool. But this seems like a bit of an afterthought when there are so many issues with ads on the device.

We’ve previously looked at how to (attempt to) control privacy and ads on the Amazon Fire How to Make Your Amazon Fire Tablet Look Like Stock Android How to Make Your Amazon Fire Tablet Look Like Stock Android If you're sick of Amazon's tweaked version of Android, don't worry! You can make your Fire tablet look just like stock Android. Read More . If you’ve already spent a few minutes looking at how to deal with these issues, you’re probably loathe 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

If you think that everything you just read is okay, then that’s fine. You’re the parent, it’s up to you whether you want to waste time dealing with these problems on behalf of your child. But let’s be honest: there’s nothing frictionless about the Amazon Fire experience for children.

stress
Image Credit: Firesam! via Flickr

We’re towards the end of the second decade of 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 via the remote control. Your child sees you on your iPad or high-end Android or Windows tablet and sees that it just works.

So why is their tablet struggling to load Minion Run? Why won’t the audiobook play? How come it needs to check online whether the game you bought just last week has permission to load? And isn’t it a pain when you’re three hours from home, hoping your child will be entertained by the tablet, only to find that all of these things are a problem in quick succession?

You’re mom. You’re dad. You’re probably not the “expert” from the electrical retailer, nor a “supertechdad”. Other things are happening in your household. You need to get the dinner ready, or mow the lawn, or sort the laundry out.

So, what’s the answer? If not the Amazon Fire, which tablet should you choose for your children?

Finding a Kid-Ready Replacement for the Amazon Fire

Several affordable alternatives can be identified. We’ll be honest, they’re not as cheap as the Amazon Fire, but then again, that device is essentially a portal into the Amazon ecosystem, and is manufactured on demand as part of the massive Amazon machine. In short, it’s not just a low-spec tablet, it’s a cash cow.

However, these non-Amazon Fire tablets for kids aren’t strictly tablets for kids. They’re tablets. You’ll need to install some parental control software to keep a close eye on what is going on. You’ll probably want to ensure your Google Play (or Apple App Store) account is secured so that no accidental purchases are made. However, the performance your little ones will get with these devices will be largely headache free.

  1. ASUS ZenPad 8 (8-inch tablet) — For around $129, this tablet has 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and a 1.3 GHz CPU, running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
  2. Samsung Galaxy Tab A (8-inch tablet) — Just $200 for this tablet with 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of on-board storage. A Samsung quad-core 1.2 GHz CPU is also inside this older Android 5.0 Lollipop device.
  3. iPad Mini 4 (8-inch tablet) — Is your child worth a $500/£350 tablet? This is clearly an expensive option, but cheaper and older models are available with less storage.

What Does Your Child Think of Their Amazon Fire?

Twelve months on, my largely-undemanding children are becoming fed up with the limitations of the Amazon Fire. They’re not hardcore gamers, they just want to be entertained and diverted on long journeys.

I think I’ve identified the problems we’ve encountered with the Amazon Fire. But it’s entirely possible that there are more. Do your children have an Amazon Fire? How has it worked out for them? Are you considering upgrading to a more reliable device and operating system?

I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a message below!

Image Credit: Olimpik via Shutterstock.com

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  1. Wes
    August 1, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Last year I got this Fire 7 tablet for xmass. With in minutes I rooted it, and installed a custom ROM (new OS), and have been happy! Now I do not play games, but I have a few for my kids. Yes if you are a little bit techy it helps but the youtube vids show you all you need to make this a great tablet. I travel from time to time for work, and lod it up with movies, and music and the battery lasts at least 6 hrs.

    Now with the new version you can not root them any more, so getting and older one is key.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 3, 2017 at 8:15 am

      Hi Wes -- which ROM did you use? I have been planning this for a while, but ran into problems with the boot unlock on one of the devices, discouraging me from continuing.

      And I write this as someone who installed Android on old Windows Mobiles and the HP Touchpad hundreds of times via eBay, and have only had one phone I never flashed (Sony Xperia z5)

  2. Light
    July 28, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    I use it for myself. Yes, it's slow. But it's just a machine for Google Chrome, reading comics and... not much else really. I've got a standard set of Apps installed - my obligatory Swiftey, some Google Drive software to do minor editing on the go, my newspaper, Goodreads, Spotify and all my usual media Apps, a few emulators, OneNote, LastPass, Fender Tune, Perfect Ear and Songsterr. No, I'm not a gamer. Yes, this tablet sucks. Yes, this tablet is also exceptional if you consider the price. No, don't give it to a child. Yes, buy it if you know what you're doing. As a mere extension to your monchrome Kindle, it's a fantastic addition to your collection.

  3. armakuni
    July 25, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    My kids share a Kindle Fire 6. I got it cheap as Amazon Warehouse deal, and it was meant as an experiment, if it would go well with my kids.
    I like it, that I can define more than one profile. I like that I can define the usage, how much they can play a day.
    I don't like, that Amazon FreeTime (I didn't try Unlimited) is so ugly to configure.
    Every app will be stored multiple times on the device, if you use more profiles. Actually, this Kindle has 4 profiles: my two kids, me (for config) and a music profile.
    As this device has NO MicroSD card slot, the internal memory is the biggest limit.
    As my daughter began to take photos and videos with the Kindle, the trouble began.
    The only option it has is to upload everything into the cloud. Not an option for me.
    But it is impossible to access her data with my profile. In my profile I could use tools like ES File Explorer, which I use for transfering data to our home server. Therefore I need to install this tool in HER profile, but I could hide the symbol from the app carousel. But it's a matter of time she will find it. Ok, this app can be protected with a pin, but it's not the best solution.
    The same "fun" is for storing music on the device. We don't use Amazon Music on it or any other streaming. I have plenty of MP3 with music and radio plays for them, but I can only store a little amount directly on the device. My plan to use something like a streaming player went south because no player is really suitable (and usable) for kids. And for vacation or a journey this is not an option.
    I avoid the storage problem by installing only two or three actual games. I am already looking for a better device.
    Nevertheless, let it be for kids or not, but Android devices with only 1 GB RAM (or even less) and with only 8 GB internal storage and no MicroSD option are NOT a suitable option.

    These Fire Tablets could be better, and some of them seem to be better. But Amazon did many changes to the underlying Android system. In fact you have more trouble with the Amazon ecosystem than with the hardware itself.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 3, 2017 at 8:12 am

      Thanks for you thoughts, in part I would agree -- it's all about weighing up the impact of the resets, I guess!

  4. MommyIsAHotMess
    July 25, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    I agree with your assertion of the Kindle Fire. I have spent so many hours in the 7 months my daughter has had one. I bought it for my 9 year old daughter who has ADHD and previously had an IPad 1 and 2. I switched to the kindle because of its far superior parental controls and Freetime. However, it's been factory reset at least 15 times often times at the direction of tech support with whom I have spent countless hours on the phone. Unfortunately, your alternatives don't provide what originally brought me to the kindle: parental controls. I would also note that I did a great deal of research on the Fire before purchasing. I rather liked the fact that the storage was expandable with an SD card.

  5. Kelly
    July 25, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I couldn't agree more! I have 2 kids who are currently each on their 3rd Kindle Fire. The memory/storage problems are a nightmare! Some of the older generation Kindles did not have the option for a memory card, so we upgraded in hopes of solving that problem with a 64g card. Now we still have all the issues you described. Plus the charge ports do not hold up well at all!

  6. Scott
    July 25, 2017 at 1:31 am

    Haven't had any trouble with my some for tablet. Then again I used the settings to lower image quality on downloaded movies and he didn't notice. Only time it is slow is when it's covered in a layer of fingerprints and food. The kid mode prevents the installation of extra stuff too.

  7. Jersey Girl
    July 24, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    First of all, five year olds should not have their own tablets. Engage them and give them books to look at. Giving each a tablet as a baby sitter is a parenting cop out. In the car they should be taking in the countryside, looking at the sights and playing games with you. Be creative and play games with them. They will grow up much smarter and better socialized without screens to stare at young ages.

    I have two Fire tablets, a 7 and an 8, and have been very happy with them. For the price, they have performed beyond my expectations.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 3, 2017 at 8:10 am

      I disagree.

      We live in a world where these children need to be engaged with digital technology to have the tools they need to succeed in adulthood. On long car journeys on motorways, looking at countryside for four+ hours is a bit of a big ask. SO why not give them problem solving tasks (spelling games, puzzles, programming-related activities disguised as games) to keep them learning, even on holiday?

      (My children have excellent vocabulary, problem solving skills and crafting ability. They excel at dancing, and have a wide circle of friends at school, dance school, and church.)

      I'm not sure it's fair to make a judgement on a stranger's parenting ability based on a few lines of text. However, thank you for your comment.

  8. infmom
    July 24, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    My granddaughter (almost 4) loves her Kids Fire tablet. Fortunately both her mommies ARE techies, and the tablet never gets connected to the internet while the kidlet's around.

    In fact, the only meltdown occured when granddaughter accidentally deleted one of the cat photos in Neko Atsume, her favorite game.

    I have a similar 7" Fire tablet that occasionally fails to connect with our home wifi, but so do other wireless devices. Probably time for a new router.

  9. Adam
    July 24, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    This article pretty much sums up my experience with multiple Fire tablets.
    Unless you like playing techie and reading articles online about how to fix these dumb things, looks elsewhere for your kids.
    With that said, I have a Fire 7" for personal use and have not had any issues with it. I'm only using it for the internet though.
    I know a lot of the problems with my kids tablets is how the Fire interacts with the Freetime software. Files seems to be everywhere. I've spent countless hours trying to fix these dumb things. It is too much to explain. Just get something else for your kids and save your sanity.

  10. Jeff
    July 24, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    I agree, the device has some drawbacks. But I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around your suggested alternatives. Neither device you suggested has a CPU capable of any faster speeds than the Fire tablet, and neither seems to offer the amount of RAM you seem to think is essential.

    • GB
      July 25, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      I agree, for the cost you cannot fault this. I would consider the 8"but only if you wanted to spend a bit more. I have also installed the Google services on ours for the full experience. I will admit there are some full fat games that you cannot install due to size. I do not think you can blame the fire for games that require always to be online either. It basically boils down to if you want to spend.

  11. Susan L
    July 24, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Totally agree! I bought three for my grandchildren and gave their mother a huge headache. Another big issue we had was the SD card. I knew the 8G would not be enough to hold anything so bought 64G SD cards, and set up the device to install everything it could there. But then we got random but repeated messages that the SD card was not installed. I'm pretty technical and believe it is because the underpowered CPU can't get to the code that "installs" it before the child is trying to load the app.
    And then there was the time that one of the Fire 7's completely reset itself to factory... could not figure out how this could happen. Later I found out that it was caused by an Amazon technical (person??) error where they remotely reset a large number of devices to factory in error.
    Not to mention how poor the design of the software, settings,and user experience is, especially Freetime Unlimited, both for adults and children.
    And so true that the tech support is completely useless; I usually knew more about the device and how it worked than they did. It amazes me that Amazon would want to give such a bad experience to the next generation of its customers. You would think they would read all the comments and try to fix the problems and train tech support, but they don't seem to care at all.
    Last Christmas I replaced the 7's with HD8's with 32G. Most of the problems have gone away. 32G is enough for a child to download lots of games.
    In spite of the problems, the grandkids love them, especially Minecraft. And the benefit of them having games to play in the car on long drives... priceless!! My daughter in law has forgiven me.