Coming soon to your kid’s Christmas wish list: child-friendly tablets

11 Sep 2012

We know it’s only September, but with the release of the Toys ‘R’ Us Tabeo, a tablet computer designed especially for kids and available only through Toys ‘R’ Us stores, we’ll only need one guess at what will be top of the ‘Dear Santa’ requests this year.

Children’s toys that mimic what adults use on a daily basis are nothing new, but the Tabeo isn’t just a toy made to look and feel like a tablet. It’s a proper Wi-Fi-enabled 7-inch tablet computer with a capacitive multi-touch screen and a UI designed for young children. It comes with 1GB of RAM, is powered by a 1GHz ARM Cortex processor and runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, albeit a stripped-down version.

Pre-loaded on the device are an initial library of interactive books, about 10 educational apps, and almost 20 games, including popular hits like Cut the Rope, Temple Run and Angry Birds. It will also have activity apps, creativity apps for budding photographers, and a built-in web browser.

Parental controls

All this access to the mobile web can be concerning for parents, so Toys ’R’ Us has put controls in place to ensure that Tabeo is child-safe. The dedicated Tabeo App Store contains more than 7,000 free apps, all of which have been approved by Toys ’R’ Us. Parents can tailor security on the device, giving children of varying ages different levels of access. They can also set the tablet to permit use only on certain days or during certain hours.

For safe web browsing, Tabeo has already blocked any content deemed inappropriate for children and parents can access these controls and block and unblock sites at will. Not forgetting how clever digital natives can be, if the browser is bypassed, parents will be alerted by email.

The Tabeo also comes with a front-facing camera, built-in speaker and microphone, G sensor, mini-HDMI output, and 4GB of storage (expandable by up to 32GB via a micro-SDHC slot). The battery provides up to 10 hours of typical use, while the protective bumper that keeps it safe from drops and falls can be switched out for a range of colours.

In demand

This isn’t the first Android tablet made for kids – there are devices from Meep!, Kurio and Nabi available in Ireland right now – but it’s the first to be tied in with a toy store, and the Toys ’R’ Us tablet, plus its range of Tabeo-branded accessories, will not be available anywhere but in-store.

The device will go on sale in the US on 21 October for US$150 and, while there’s no information on an Irish release just yet, expect to see this device or similar cropping up on your child’s wish list as we get closer to Christmas. Last year, tablet imitators the LeapFrog LeapPad and Vtech InnoTab were some of the most in-demand toys at Christmas time. This year, the devices have improved, as will children’s tastes. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic