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.
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 prices makes them great 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 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. And while this happens, your child is falling out of love with the device, bit by bit.
12 Months With Two Amazon Fire Tablets for Kids
I bought my children (boy and girl twins) a pair of Amazon Fire 7 tablets, each equipped with a rubber foam case. The devices cost just $50 each (less on Prime Day or other special deal events). My kids were, of course, instantly delighted. But soon the problems started.
It wasn’t long before the tablets 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 mainly intended the tablets 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 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 on a Kids’ Tablet
Buried within the “2x more durable than an iPad mini 4” tablet is a 1.3GHz quad-core CPU accompanied by 1GB of RAM. A single gigabyte of memory is laughable.
My smartphone has 4GB of RAM. Even the Amazon Fire HD 8 has 1.5GB of RAM. Sure, these are more expensive devices, but 1GB is utterly paltry for a device that’s supposed to be capable of running apps and games from the Amazon Appstore.
In short, there are titles in the store that demand more from the hardware. You can install games that push the very limits of what your device can handle. But 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 are running. Some are lightweight, while others demand more resources. Either way, multitasking grinds to a halt, along with the tablet.
And 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.
The Default Storage Space Is a Joke
The Fire Tablet’s RAM is low; its default storage is another problem. With just 16GB to play with, if you don’t want to run out, 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 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 downloaded files and as installed programs.
Meanwhile, children love watching movies in the back of the car. You can downloaded these 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 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 problem 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? 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 exactly straightforward when you’re driving a car.
Now, 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 (as well as books and audiobooks) will run. Whether you’re playing free or paid games, this simply isn’t good enough.
Games That Won’t Install to the SD Card
Because 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. However, you can 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 that 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. So it probably doesn’t care that 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 usually the progress they’ve made disappears too.
A full reset is 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 no competent tech support for these units.
A factory reset is only a temporary solution to a deeper issue. 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 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. 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, that’s fine. You’re the parent; it’s your call how much time you waste dealing with these problems on behalf of your child. But let’s be honest: there’s nothing simple about the Amazon Fire experience for children.
We’re well into the 21st century at this point. 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 a game? Why won’t their 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 the tablet will entertain your child, only to find that all these problems arise in quick succession?
You’re the mom or dad. You’re probably not a tech expert. Other tasks are waiting in your house—you need to get 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?
Three Alternatives to the Amazon Fire Kids Tablet
Thankfully, you have several affordable alternatives to the Fire tablet. We’ll be honest—they’re not as cheap as the Amazon Fire kids tablet. After all, that device is essentially a portal into the Amazon ecosystem, manufactured on-demand by the massive Amazon machine.
Really, it’s not just a low-spec tablet; it’s a cash cow.
However, these non-Amazon Fire tablets aren’t strictly tablets for kids. Thus, 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. We’ve shown even more steps you can take to kid-proof a Fire tablet.
However, 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 as another alternative.
This tablet has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 1.3GHz CPU. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. However, you’ll notice that the ASUS ZenPad 8 is quite expensive for a child-friendly tablet. This is certainly not one for younger kids!
Available with 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, and a quad-core 1.4GHz, the Huawei Mediapad T3 is preinstalled with Android 7 Nougat. It features a 5MP rear camera and an HD IPS display.
3. iPad Mini
If money is no object, you might opt for a premium tablet. The latest iPad Mini is clearly an expensive option, but cheaper and older models are available with less storage.
What Does Your Child Think of Their Amazon Fire?
12 months in, 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’ve identified the major problems we’ve encountered with the Amazon Fire. But it’s entirely possible that there are more. Of course, it’s not a completely useless device. Check our unofficial Amazon Fire tablet manual to ensure yours is correctly set up.