Kindle FreeTime Unlimited: a kid-friendly subscription service
Parental controls are a big trend on mobile devices these days, but now Amazon's taking things a step further with a subscription service for kids called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited.
The all-you-can-eat service automatically downloads kid-friendly games, educational apps, movies, and TV shows to current-generation Kindle Fire tablets, with content from Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS, Sesame Workshop, and others. Monthly subscriptions cost $3 per child or $7 per family with an Amazon Prime subscription, or $5 per child or $10 per family without one.
A quick look through Amazon's list of FreeTime Unlimited content shows an emphasis on books, with more than 1,000 Kindle Books to choose from. The selection also includes more than 300 videos and more than 150 apps.
What is FreeTime?
FreeTime Unlimited is an extension of Amazon's existing FreeTime feature, a child-friendly environment that parents can set up on their tablets. Whereas the free feature requires parents to choose which apps and content are allowed, Unlimited automatically pulls in pre-screened content, based on the age and gender of the child. Essentially, it spares parents the effort of loading up on apps and media for their children (though they can also add additional apps on their own).
Both the free and Unlimited services have additional parental controls, including the ability to block Web browsing, set time limits, and restrict use to certain categories, such as reading or educational apps. They also both prevent children from purchasing new content or making in-app purchases. For apps that come with FreeTime Unlimited, advertisements and social media are disabled as well.
For users of the current-generation Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, Amazon is offering a one-month free trial to the service. The service will be available in the coming weeks, once Amazon delivers a necessary software update.
Other tech companies have also tried to create kid-friendly areas on their devices. Barnes & Noble's Nook lets users set up child profiles with parental controls, and Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 has a “Kid's Corner” with its own Start screen and parent-approved content. Google's Nexus tablets offer multiple user profiles, but this feature is geared more toward multiple adult users, while Apple's iOS devices simply allow parents to set up restrictions on certain apps and features.
Amazon, however, is wagering that parents want more than just a list of approved content, and would pay a subscription fee to eliminate the hassle. It's certainly a clever idea, and may help Amazon's Kindles stand out in the cheap tablet wars.