Parents weigh every choice carefully, especially when it comes to devices like Amazon’s Echo Dot. Both the Kids Edition and the regular Echo Dot offer cloud-based functionality, but which smart speaker is best? You need to know it will meet your needs, including safety, durability, and functionality.
Overall, the two devices have a lot in common, but there are some crucial differences. We’ll walk you through what you need to know to make the right choice.
New designs and new faces
The older Echo Dots had a hard shell and hockey puck design. They did the job but lacked style. Then, Amazon’s third-generation Echo Dot was well-received. Unlike the first two, it ditched the hard exterior for a rounded, cloth-covered shell in charcoal, heather gray, plum, and sandstone colors.
Meanwhile, the first Echo Dot Kids Edition model offered a similar look to the older Dots with kid-friendly features. Still available on Amazon, it sports a red, blue, or green hard exterior. The company followed up with the next version based on the third-gen Echo Dot. This model swapped the hard-colored exterior for soft, kid-friendly fabric in rainbow or Frost Blue colors. It was also 70% louder than the previous model.
Fast-forward to September 2020, and Amazon now offers its fourth-gen Echo Dot and its third Kids Edition model sporting a completely new design. The company threw out the former hockey puck enclosure for a more spherical, dot-like design.
While both are identical from a hardware point, the fourth-gen Echo Dot blends into its environment more easily than the Kids Edition. It has a sleek and modern look, while the Kids Edition has cute animal faces.
Tech specs and speaker
Both models have a slightly flattened die-cast aluminum base preventing them from rolling off the table like a meatball. Complementing the flattened base is the familiar light ring for visual responses and notifications, which Amazon moved down to the bottom.
Covering the speaker portion is 100% post-consumer recycled fabric. The Echo Dot ships in charcoal, Glacier White, and Twilight Blue, whereas the clock version drops the charcoal color. The Kids Edition features fabric with Panda and Tiger prints seated on a dark base. The action, volume, and mic buttons reside at the top. A 3.5mm audio output jack and a power connector are located on the back.
Under the rounded hood is a 1.6-inch front-facing speaker promising “crisp vocals and balanced bass.” It’s joined by four far-field microphones. Connectivity consists of Wi-Fi 5 (wireless AC) and Bluetooth supporting A2DP and AVRCP.
Both models measure 3.9 by 3.9 by 3.5 inches and weigh 12 ounces.
Kid-friendly features and parental controls
Right out of the box, you can tell the Kids Edition model is tailored toward children, thanks to the cute animal faces and kid-friendly user guide. Alexa is more friendly in this version, too, responding with stories and age-appropriate interactions.
One of the main differences with the Kids Edition is that it includes free access to Amazon Kids+ for a year. Formerly known as FreeTime Unlimited, this subscription provides kid-friendly content ranging from audiobooks to music to games. However, tucked away within the subscription is a Parent Dashboard for setting limits.
For instance, parents can filter out explicit lyrics in songs on Amazon Music — no f-bombs blasting through the house. Parents can also disable voice purchasing, so they aren’t surprised by boxes of cookies appearing on the front porch. Other tools include setting daily time limits, adjusting the age filter, pausing and restarting connected devices, and managing music.
The Parent Dashboard also includes a toggle for disabling access to smart home devices. This is limited to devices accessible through Amazon Kids+, like the Echo Glow. Want to add apps that can be accessed through the subscription, like Apple TV and Netflix? There’s a tool for that, too.
Amazon Kids+ is also supported by the fourth-gen non-kid’s Echo Dot but requires a subscription from the start.
The parental controls are great for keeping your kids out of trouble, but parents often have questions about privacy as well.
The Kids Edition has a set of privacy guidelines just like on other Echo devices, so it can store data in the cloud and keep voice recordings from when the device is activated and used. This does mean, at rare times, that Amazon’s people can listen to recorded conversations. This data is used to analyze Alexa’s human speech recognition but does not appear to be used for any other purposes, like marketing or demographic information. It is not shared, and personal information like names is not stored.
If parents find this disturbing, there is a solution. Both the fourth-gen Echo Dot and the new Kids Edition have a physical Mic Off button that will completely disable the microphone. Of course, this means kids can’t use any of the voice command options while the switch is on, but it also stops any potential information collection.
Communication and calls
In addition to talking directly to Alexa, both the Echo Dot and the Kids Edition have the ability to call other people in your contacts list. However, the Kids Edition model can limit device calling to specific contacts if an Amazon Kids+ subscription is active. In other words, kids can only call “Grandma” and “Uncle Jerry” but no one else — or however you wish to limit communication options.
Both models also provide a walkie-talkie feature, called Drop In, for in-home, device-to-device communication. For example, parents can use the kitchen Echo Dot to announce suppertime through the Kids Edition model. It only supports a two-way conversation through two Echo devices.
Pricing and Amazon Kids+
The Kids Edition currently retails for $60. The fourth-gen Echo Dot sells for $50, while the clock-based model is $60.
The Kids Edition includes a year of Amazon Kids+ and a two-year, worry-free guarantee, making it a better deal in the long run. As previously stated, Amazon Kids+ grants access to thousands of books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games, as well as parental controls. Children can access Amazon Kids+ content across multiple devices, too: Fire tablets, Kindle, Android devices, iPad, and iPhone.
Amazon Kids+ is available on existing Echo devices, but you’ll need to pay a fee to do so:
- One child: $2.99 per month for Prime members; $4.99 per month for non-Prime.
- Up to four: $6.99 per month for Prime members; $9.99 per month for non-Prime.
- Up to four: $29.99 for three months.
- Up to four: $69 per year for Prime members; $99 per year for non-Prime.
The included year of Amazon Kids+ equals around $100 in savings. When the free year ends, you will need one of the subscriptions listed above to keep using the same Amazon Kids+ features.
If you already have a subscription, then activating the Kids Edition will cancel that current subscription and replace it with the free year starting right away. That means it’s better to wait until your current FreeTime subscription is about to expire before getting a Kids Edition if you want to save money.
Both the fourth-gen Echo Dot and the new Kids Edition have bundling options, which means you can include additional devices for a discounted price.
The Echo Dot and Echo Dot Clock can each be bundled with an Amazon Smart Plug for $10 more, costing $60 and $70, respectively. Meanwhile, the Kids Edition can be bundled with the Echo Glow, a multicolor smart lamp designed for children. It raises the overall price to $70. These bundling options may be subject to change, though.
The Kids Edition comes with a two-year, worry-free warranty, compared to a 90-day limited warranty on the fourth-gen Echo Dot. With the Kids Edition, if your child breaks the device (or it stops working during those first two years), Amazon will send you a new one for free.
Which device is better?
That depends. For young children who want a smart speaker, the Echo Dot Kids Edition will provide some added peace of mind over the fourth-gen Echo Dot. However, keep in mind that the device’s designation as a Kids Edition does not guarantee your child’s safety or privacy. As we discussed above, this is a cloud-connected device, just like the regular Dot smart speaker.
The Kids Edition is also tailored toward younger children as opposed to teens or adults, so that’s also something to consider when choosing between the two devices.