Update: This story has been updated to include a comment from Amazon.
- Amazon on Wednesday announced the Echo Dot Kids Edition, a version of its Dot smart speaker designed for use by children, according to a company release and multiple reports. The device includes the company’s Alexa virtual assistant and is integrated with access to Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited library of kid-focused content, apps and Alexa skills. Additional parental controls and kid-specific Alexa features were also rolled out across the Amazon FreeTime services, including bedtime limits, reinforcement of the use of the word "please" by young users and the option to disable voice purchasing.
- The new device, aimed at kids ages five to 12, sells for $79.99 and has a “color bumper” for rough handling by children, similar to Amazon's Fire Tablet Kids Edition. The version of Alexa on the device also is trained to understand children’s voices and question patterns, and to provide age-appropriate answers to their questions, according to a TechCrunch report.
- The price of the new device includes a one-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, which normally costs about $3 per month for Amazon Prime members. The FreeTime content for the device includes 300 child-friendly Audible books, content from Disney, Nickelodeon and others, and features like alarms that use cartoon character voices to wake kids up in the morning. Devices begin shipping May 9.
Amazon didn’t simply slap a bump guard on its standard Echo Dot and call it a kid-friendly device. The company told CNN Money that it would not share personal data about children who use the device with third parties. Also, in addition to providing a plethora of kid-focused content and training and age-appropriate answers to kids, the device has parent profiles and parental controls that can be adjusted on the fly. Those security measures may help Amazon get out in front of the privacy concerns that have stymied other kid-focused devices.
In a statement emailed to Retail Dive an Amazon spokesperson said, "The reason we created FreeTime on Alexa is because we’ve heard from customers how much they love using Alexa in the home, especially with their families, and we wanted to create a unique, Alexa experience for kids. Technology – in general – isn’t a replacement for parenting. One of the great things about Alexa and Echo is the communal nature of the device. Unlike your phone or tablet, parents and kids can join in the learning and fun together."
Many retailers continue to struggle to understand the wants, needs and shopping patterns of younger generations. Amazon may be trying to get to know them early, something that child-focused content and cartoon character alarm clock voices can be tremendously valuable in helping it do. And beyond generating more revenue from device sales and content subscriptions, the Echo Dot Kids Edition will also train a new generation on using smart speakers and other devices.
This move isn't Amazon's first foray into kid-focused devices — the retailer previously unveiled a Fire Tablet Kid Edition. It’s not clear how well that tablet has sold since it was introduced as part of the Fire Tablet 7 family, but there already has been a Fire Tablet 8 Kid Edition, which came out last year. The Echo Dot Kids Edition, as an audio device, is priced lower than the video tablets (about $100 for Version 7 Kid Edition and about $130 for Version 8.) As it has done more broadly with the Echo and Fire device families, Amazon is looking to cover all bases and price points, regardless of who the end user is, or how old.