Earlier this week, Amazon released an Echo speaker made just for kids. The speakers go on sale May 9 and cost $80. That’s $30 more than the hockey puck-sized Echo Dot for adults.
What you get for your money is a $50 Echo Dot — the same hardware, the same Alexa assistant in the cloud — wrapped in a foam padded enclosure that comes in blue, green, or red. That kid-friendly case almost makes sense, and it’s the same sort of padding Amazon uses to protect Fire tablets for kids. But the Echo Dot for kids is just like the one for adults in that it must stay plugged into the wall.
The purchase of an Echo Dot for kids also gets you a two-year damage replacement warranty and one year of FreeTime Unlimited, Amazon’s service for parents to control the use of electronics, which has been available for parental control and kid-friendly content for years.
Also made available for the first time this week, FreeTime for Alexa allows parents to review their kids’ activity, put time limits on their usage, or block songs with explicit lyrics on Amazon Music. Alexa with FreeTime also positively encourages kids when they say please, encouraging kids to treat everyone — even their robot servant — with respect.
FreeTime Unlimited brings exclusive features to the table, such as ad-free radio or playlists, alarms from Disney and Nickelodeon characters, and premium skills from National Geographic, Disney, and Nickelodeon.
FreeTime is available for Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus, as well. Guess what? It also isn’t free.
FreeTime Unlimited is $2.99 for Prime members and $4.99/month for one child or $9.99/month for a family plan for non-Prime members. Roughly half of all U.S. households are believed to be Prime members, and on Thursday Amazon announced plans to raise the price of Prime membership from $99 to $119.
Amazon has continued its push to capture more young users, bringing Alexa beyond voice apps with the Gadgets API made especially for games. Makers of When in Rome, a family board game that can be controlled by Alexa, and the Play Impossible game ball that works with Alexa both took part in the inaugural class of the Alexa Accelerator hosted by TechStars in Seattle.
In the short-term, Amazon wants Echo Dot for kids to fuel paid subscriptions and Prime membership. Long-term, Amazon wants to train kids to keep up with that brand identity.
Amazon is starting to develop an assistant experience more in line with kids’ needs. In FreeTime, for example, Alexa doesn’t answer questions about guns or alcohol.