Android for Kids: Kindle Fire, or a Nexus 7?

BrianKeith513 asks in our forums a pretty important question when it comes to purchasing a tablet for kids.

I'm asked a lot about mobile devices from friends and families, because I've worked in the mobile industry for many years now, in various capacities. However, I'm stumped over one thing; The Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire for kids.Now I know that the Nexus 7 is a better value, in that it is superior in just about every way than the Fire. The thing is, is the Kindle Fire easier to use for an elementary school-aged child? She uses my iPad 2, and loves it, but her mom wants her to have her own tablet, no more than $200. What do you think?

An excellent question. I've already weighed in on the Nexus 7 versus the Kindle Fire, and there's a clear winner. But that's for me. A (relatively) grown adult. I've got kids, and my kids use tablets. A lot, actually.

But here's the thing: My 6-year-old doesn't particularly care which tablet she uses. Hell, I'm not even sure she knows the difference. For her, it's all about the apps. Which does the tablet have Where's my Perry on it? Can she play Ski Safari? (Yes, I got her hooked on that, too.) How about PBS Kids or Netflix? So long as it has the apps that she uses -- and that she knows she's allowed to use -- hardware doesn't really matter to her. "I like them both the same, Daddy," she just said to me. Of course, she's 6, but a girl's allowed to have an opinion, amiright? And we're talking about bouncing between the Nexus 7, iPad 2 (and 3) and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. (She rocks a Chromebook, too, if you must know.)

Back to me, though, since I'm the one buying these things. If I had to choose between the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire for my budding little techie, I'd go with the Nexus 7, hands down. A few reasons for that:

  • Better screen resolution: Hands down, that's a major factor.
  • Ecosystem and flexibility: While I'm still amazed at how well the Amazon Appstore has done, there's nothing like the depth and flexibility of Google Play. Now, you have to balance the fact that Google has more apps with the fact that Amazon has better video. But Netflix takes care of a lot of that, and hopefully Google will one day catch up.

Now, make no mistake, my kids don't actually know all the minutiae when it comes to comparing the Kindle Fire to the Nexus 7. They know where the power button is. They know how to unlock the tablet. They know how to find their apps -- and there's a big difference, actually, since the Nexus 7 has proper homescreens with app icons -- and they know how to return to the homescreen. But, c'mon, they're 6 and 2. Tablets, at this point, are the same to them. At this point, the purchase needs to be about you, the parent. 

For me, those two reasons are enough to push me toward the Nexus 7 when it comes to my children. That might change when we see an updated Kindle Fire, so we'll have to revisit that. 

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  • Defiantly the nexus 7.
  • Depends - Do you want kids in the Honors track or the Not get left behind track?
  • I already had a kindle fire sitting around that my gf never used so to halt my 2 year old from constantly taking my tab 10.1 from me I rooted the fire and put jb on it with gapps. Works awesome.
  • Nexus 7. The Kindle Fire's fatal flaw is the lack of hardware volume and navigation control. Imagine having to quickly yank the blaring Kindle away from your kid, try to tap the on-screen arrow, then drag the on-screen volume indicator to a suitable level, all while everyone around you in the pews, library, or train car is staring at you and your child. Don't forget, the Nexus 7 has a camera. That means more fun with apps and games that use it, as well as give you video-chatting capability when you're at work and she's at home. It really is a no-brainer. The starting price of both is $199, so why go with one that has less options on it? You want the Amazon App Store on the 7? Install it. You can't install a camera, memory card, GPS, or Bluetooth on a Kindle Fire - you're done.
  • Though I have a Toshiba Excite 10 which I DO NOT LET MY CHILDREN USE, I can say the Nexus would be a great tablet for Child and easily able to be lockdown with Apps on the market. Me personally, can not accept letting my children play any games on my tablet or smartphone. They are peices of equipment to costly to be consistently repaired everytime they drop it, no matter how much protection is on it. My wife has officially exhausted her insurance on her phone due to this free for all mentality she has created around her phone, with a 5yr old boy and 2yr old twin sons. You got to see the youngest of the twin just going to town and opening up the apps section, on an android, to find the game he wants to play. Thats what I least wanted was to expose them to the easiness of technology...Pick up a book, play with your toys, run around, but dont get sucked in to the Apps. Its become a moral dilemma in my mind. Not crazy but a dilemma regardless. I saw what being stuck to videogames did to me and made me freaking sendentary for huge swath of my childhood. Loved playing videogames. I didnt want this decade of hardware to suck them into it too. Nonetheless an Nexus 7 would be the correct pick because even an adult would love picking it up and using it alongside the youngins. You can make the Nexus 7 do almost exactly the same things the Kindle does. Amazon Prime you can run thru the browser if you wanted. So NEXUS 7 it is, IMO.
  • I buy the NExus 7 because as soon as the kid doesn't want to play it, I can play with it!
  • Nexus 7; the fire is nice but you can still watch Amazon instant video's on the Nexus 7 (at least I can on my GNex and Xoom). So even that reason crumbles. Nexus 7 will be relevant much longer after all we are already hearing about a potential newer version of the Kindle Fire on the way.
  • Neither! Get your kids outside and off their bums! Now that I say that, me too! Off the puter and get some exercise! ;P
  • I bet your still sitting here...
  • LOL
  • What about the Nabi 2 tablet? Spec's look great; added software looks cool. But I haven't tried it myself as I'm in Canada and they don't have them at Best Buy for some reason (but do in the US). My kid is only two, so she just occasionally plays supervised on my Gateway tablet (same as Acer A500) with Kid Mode by Zoodles; but I'm guessing that we will eventually get her a tablet to learn and play with.
  • totally agree! the Fuhu NABI NABI2-NV7A 7-Inch Tablet is the same price and spec as the Nexus 7, but, seems more durable! unless you want to have the Nexus 7 later, and just add a good protection on it, until the kid gets board from it, then Nexus 7. Other than that, go with the Fuhu NABI NABI2-NV7A 7-Inch Tablet AKA "NABI2". I would never even think of the Kindle Fire!
  • Agreed! We have a Nabi 2 for our daughter (5 1/2) and she loves it! I love the kid mode Vs the parent mode so that we can lock her out of apps she doesn't need to be i or websites she doesn't need to go to. We can also lock her out of making a random smurfberry purchase! On top of that, there are some great educational and chores apps that are pre-installed that allow her to earn coins to purchase apps or music or movies. Big thumbs up from our house...
  • My biggest problem with the Kindle Fire is the idiotic built in reset. If you try unlocking it too many times (three) it asks if you want to reset it. Twice now my two year old has picked up my Fire and reset it (read: erase everything) in under a minute.
  • I'd offer the Nexus 7 is the better of the two options mentioned in the article. However, personally, my wife and I had our kids do extra work around the house and save for 6 months to earn enough money to buy their own Galaxy Player (GP) devices. My daughter opted for the GP 4.2, and my son purchased the GP 3.6. For less than $275 on Ebay we bought both devices and the kids absolutely enjoy them. Because they are Android devices they have access to the entire Google Play Store, for games, books, music, and movies. Also the GP has both a front and rear facing camera, and shoots video. Btw, we only gave them the option to buy GP devices because right now I refuse to spend any money on an Apple product.
  • How are the parental controls on each, and locking down things like in-app purchases?
  • If it's for your children you can just download free games. You can also just remove your payment information after buying apps. But as Google Play gift cards will be available soon (may be available already) you can just purchase one and use that.
  • Wow Phil, you've got some lucky kids. I'm 35 and have been wanting a tablet for some time, but still haven't been able to swing it. Will you adopt me?
  • How does a parent control purchases within the individual stores? Is it possible for devices to have access, though carry a $0 balance?
  • In my case, the internet, play store, netflix, are locked down with an app titled "application protection." My kids cannot access these apps without me inputting an access code. In which case I am right there to monitor what they are wanting to download or view online.
  • Nice to hear an actual parent parenting. :)
  • Just go into the settings of google play and amazon appstore and set up a pin for purchases. Both work fine to block app installs and in-game content. I learned the hard way when my daughter bought $130 worth of "happy stars" in the game Clouds and Sheep.
  • To be honest, kids learn to use these things even easier than adults... The Nexus is probably easier to set some content controls on tho, as the above commenter did, and it'll have a better resale value. No contest IMO, the Fire's all but irrelevant at this point unless Amazon gets very bullish on it and either cuts the price or further limits some of their services to it and keeps them from stock Android (unlikely IMO, they want people using and paying for them regardless of hardware).
  • My son is 2 and loves using daddys nexus 7 . He knows all the ins and ouy of the nexus. Its great for kids very userfriendly. Plus he loves to watch movies on it more than watching movies on t.v
  • Got my daughter (10 year old) the kindle fire for Christmas. She loves it but she has now grown custom to my transformer and Toshiba thrive. She is bored with Amazon's GUI. That could be because she has the Droid razr and is very in tune with the android universe but if you are contemplating the purchase now nexus 7 wins hands down. Kindle fire was cool for my daughter last year when there weren't any other 200 dollar tablets.
  • My six three and one year old use my Nexus7. Because it has JB they just have one folder for all there apps and know hot to get to it. Works great
  • What a coincidence to see this article! I've been looking at Christmas presents for my girl, and it'll likely be the Nexus.
  • Nexus 7.
    All the young ones at my local church got iPod Touches after I purchased one when they were released. These little kids are prone to dropping and losing their items, so now I recommend them to get a Android PMP device. These days I tell them to get the Nexus 7. Because at the price it's selling at it's worth 10x more then the small iPod Touch. The Tegra 3 will help the boys who like to play graphically intense games play without stutter lag. While the bigger screen keeps them from holding the device up to their face.
  • My kids get a lot of mileage out of the camera. Have seen many deals for the Kfire (as low as $130) but can't buy it without a camera. Also have chromebook kids. Damn their iphones (at least they are gophones).
  • As a best buy employee I definitely reccommend the nabi 2 tablet for any child. I was actually looking at specs today for a customer for her child and its by far the better smarter choice if you're looking to get an inexpensive tablet for your child. :)))
  • I am sorry but the Nabi 2 is garbage and requires a credit card before you can set up the device. All of the included content is links to already free content or YouTube clips. Save your money and buy a Nexus 7
  • Just buy Nexus 7 and there are many kids launchers that you can customize it so it can be very easy for your kid for example just type in Google Play Store "kids launcher" and you will see many of them there. =)
  • I know that for many, it's fairly easy to plunk down $200 on a tablet for a child. However, if you have two or more kids, that adds up REALLY fast. I'd really like to see a comprehensive review for tablets under the $150 mark. Preferably less than $100. I have two boys (they will be 9 and 6 by Christmas) and I just cringe at the the thought of spending that much money on a tablet for each of them, especially as they tend to be hard on their toys. Yes, I parent them, and discipline for bad behavior, but boys are boys and sometimes things get broken. How about it Phil? Could you do a review for the lower end 7" tablets? There are so many out there, it's hard to wade through the truly crappy ones and find the ones that are actually worthwhile. Yes, I know that there is a sacrifice, but as you said yourself, they don't care about specs. They just want it to work and play games. :-)
  • I actually agree with you here. While I would be comfortable getting my oldest daughter something in the $200 range, I'd feel better getting my younger two something in the under $100 range.
  • This is actually going to continue being a hot topic. I definitely want to get my 10 year old daughter the N7, due to the price, value, utility, flexibility. But issues like whether to register it to my account, or create one for her,... how to lock it down (parental controls),... how to "sandbox" apps like Netflix (sorry, Netflix currently doesn't even offer the "kids' mode" on Android, boooooo Netfailix), Wallet, etc.... All are of concern to me as she lives with her mother and when I let her go back home after Christmas, that'll be it, that tablet will be out of reach. Perhaps we should do a more in-depth article on turning an N7 into a child's 24/7 "my tablet" with proper safety and security.
  • Take a look at Kytephone ( Its a free app that creates a sandboxed environment for kids on Android smartphones and tablets. Parents can stay connected to their kids by having access to the sandbox remotely - giving them control to set time limits for games as well as manage what apps the kids can use.