news 3 months ago

Amazon Releases New Echo Dot Kids Edition Smart Speaker

Variety — Janko Roettgers

Amazon still believes that children deserve their own smart speaker: The e-commerce giant released a revamped version of its Echo Dot Kids Edition speaker Wednesday, while also announcing tweaks to its Freetime Unlimited subscription service for children’s content.

The new Echo Dot Kids Edition features a new fabric case, similar to the revamped version of the Echo Dot, albeit with two color options not available for adults (light blue and rainbow stripes). Like the new Echo Dot, it is also 70% louder than its predecessor.

The new Echo Dot Kids Edition will start shipping on June 26, and cost $69.99 — $20 more than a regular Echo Dot, but $10 less than the first-generation Kids Edition speaker the company introduced last year. (Currently, both Echo Dot and Echo Dot Kids Edition list for $20 off on Amazon.com.)

For this mark-up, children and their parents will have access to a year’s worth of Freetime Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription service for kids content. Freetime Unimited promises access to more than 1000 children’s audio books from Audible, as well as books and games that can be accessed on tablets and other devices with a screen.

Freetime Unlimited typically costs $2.99 for Amazon Prime members, and $4.99 for users who don’t have a prime subscription. In addition to content, the service also offers parental controls, making it possible to monitor device usage, and block access at certain times. Coinciding with the revamp of the Echo Dot Kids speaker, Amazon also added some premium Alexa skills from publishers like Disney and Sony as well as kids podcasts from NPR and Gimlet Media to Freetime.

Amazon faced some criticism when it first introduced a smart speaker for children. In fact, a consortium of consumer rights and privacy advocacy groups filed a complaint with the FCC last year, alleging that the collection of voice recordings from minors violated privacy  and child protection laws.

The company responded to that criticism Wednesday by emphasizing that the Echo Dot Kids Edition speaker was complaint with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. As part of that commitment, Amazon said that Alexa skills available through the speaker wouldn’t have access to personal identifiable information, and that parents could always delete voice recordings through the Alexa Privacy Hub.

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