Lisa Johnston On Jul 22 2013 - 12:00am

Kids Tablets Promote Security, Education

 

NEW YORK — In a way to greater differentiate themselves from the competitive lower- and midpriced Android tablet market, kid-tablet makers are promoting the heightened security measures and free educational content in their latest models.

A quartet of manufacturers — VTech, Techno Source, LeapFrog and Vivitar — announced updated models or began shipping new products this month. In addition to taking on the Android tablet market, Kurio also intends to compete with Apple’s iPod Touch in the elementary school-aged audience.

VTech, which just announced the InnoTab 3 with a 4.3-inch touchscreen at the end of June ($69.99), debuted the InnoTab 3S at a media preview, here, last Thursday. The InnoTab 3S features a 5-inch touchscreen with 480 by 272 resolution and a $99.99 price tag. It comes with 4GB of onboard memory (up from 2GB from both the InnoTab 3 and the InnoTab 2S), which can be expanded to 32GB via MicroSD slot.

The InnoTab 3S comes with built-in Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g and an open web browser, but parents must first whitelist individual websites before children can visit them. It will come with 15 sites pre-approved.

Users can also send messages, animated stickers and drawings from an InnoTab 3S to another InnoTab, or to a parent’s mobile phone. To activate this feature, known as Kid Connect, parents must first download an Android or iOS app to receive or send messages. Only phone numbers approved by parents will be able to send or receive messages via Kid Connect.

The Basic plan, which is free for one year, allows users to send text messages and animated stickers; a Premium version for $15 adds the ability to send photos, drawings, and voice messages with voice effects and avatars.

The InnoTab 3S comes with 20 free apps and one free cartridge. When asked why VTech remains committed to both cartridge content and apps, a VTech spokeswoman told TWICE that retailers still desire those add-on sales, and people are still buying them. She also noted that VTech is still focused on educational content as a primary concern.

All of the cartridges can also be downloaded as apps at VTech’s Learning Lodge site. The spokeswoman said there are expected to be around 600 apps available by the end of the year.

Other features of the InnoTab 3S include a D-pad game controller, a landscape orientation, a rechargeable battery pack, and a 2-megapixel 180-degree rotating camera.

The company will discontinue the InnoTab 2 and InnoTab 2S to make room for the new models. The InnoTab 3 is currently available, and the 3S will become available Aug. 5.

Techno Source has updated its Kurio kids tablet with three new models, including a 4-inch version it’s positioning against the iPod Touch.

Seven-inch and 10-inch tablet models will also be offered. All three have 8GB of internal storage and can be expanded up to 40GB via MicroSD card.

Eric Levin, division head for Techno Source, told TWICE the Kurio 4s “is really the only true competitor for the iPod Touch,” which he noted is “almost every kid’s precursor to their phone.”

The company strongly promoted its customizable parental controls. All three Wi-Fi-enabled Kurio models allow parents to set up different user profiles — four for the 4s and eight for the 7s and 10s tablets — with each profile customizable for access to different apps and content.

New to the Kurio line is the ability for each user profile to access the specific level or score of each game, and this is facilitated because the devices have been upgraded to Android 4.2, Levin said. Now one user can access level 12 of “Angry Birds” while a sibling can still only access level six, he explained.

The company has partnered with Disney and educational site Mr. Nussbaum to preload the devices with apps, games and educational content. Levin estimated each device will carry about $400 worth of preloaded content.

Techno Source has also updated the parental controls and Internet safety features. The company keeps ongoing whitelists and blacklists of websites, and the devices now offer the ability to whitelist a site but still block any offensive advertisements.

Techno Source, a division of LF Products, has also redesigned the Kurio Store so consumers can sort content by age, category and interest. Parents can set time limits and manage apps by profile.

The Kurio Touch 4s, which carries a $99.99 suggested retail, has a 4-inch multi-point touchscreen, dual-core processor, 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 2.1-megapixel rear-facing camera, integrated mic, and six to eight hours of battery life.

More than 40 games and apps are included, as are child-sized ear buds.

The 7s is a 7-inch tablet with the same processor, cameras and battery life as the 4s. It also has a MiniHDMI connector and a protective bumper, and comes with more than 60 preloaded games, apps and e-books. Suggested retail is $149. The 4s and 7s will be available in August at Toys“R”Us and elsewhere in September.

The third model, the Kurio 10s, is a 10.1-inch model that will be sold exclusively through Toys“R”Us for $249 Toys“R”Us will have it exclusively through the end of the year “and then we’ll see what happens,” Levin said. It is similar to the 7s but upgrades to an IPS touchscreen, quad-core processor, and 2.1-megapixel front and rear cameras.

A full line of accessories will also be offered, including cases, chargers, screen protectors and ear buds.

LeapFrog has updated its LeapPad2 kids tablet to include a rechargeable battery and AC adapter.

“When we asked parents how we could make the next version even better, the top feature they requested was rechargeable batteries,” noted John Barbour, LeapFrog CEO.

The four rechargeable NiMH batteries for the LeapPad2 Power are said to provide up to nine hours of playtime. Suggested retail is $99.99 with availability scheduled for August.

The original LeapPad2 had its price dropped to 79.99.

Vivitar announced its XO tablet will be available in Walmart stores Aug. 1 and in other retailers going forward. The Android tablet, which was previewed at International CES in January, is a multilingual (English/ Spanish) device featuring the XO Learning System that was designed and developed by One Laptop per Child. The platform features content from a variety of educational partners, including Discovery Kids, Common Sense Media, Sesame Street and Oxford University Press.

Features of the XO tablet include a $149 suggested retail, 7-inch 1,024 by 600 touchscreen, 1.64GHz dualcore processor, eight hours of battery life, front- and rear-facing cameras and Android 4.2 OS.

It comes preloaded with more than 100 apps, games, books and other content. Up to three user profiles can be created with password protection.

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