This article is a round up of announced products, predictions and rumors on what we can expect from kids learning tablets and tablets that are targeted at children or have child-friendly features.
In general, kids' tablet manufacturers operate on a yearly cycle with products being made available in the fall so that they can be bought as gifts for the holidays. There are exceptions to this rule with some tablets coming out during the year.
The trend for the year seems to be more choice with a wider variety of models and form factors.
Updated with the new Ematic Funtab Mini 2
Learning TabletsFirst we'll look at kids learning tablets aimed at very young children. The two main brands in this category are the LeapFrog LeapPad and the VTech InnoTab. Last year both tablets released a version 2 of their tablet in time for Christmas, VTech also introduced the InnoTab 2S which added Wifi capability and the InnoTab 2 Baby which adapts the product for an even younger audience.
We are expecting new versions of the LeapPad and InnoTab tablets in 2013.
We already have some evidence that a LeapPad Ultra / 3 is under development which adds wifi and interactive features to the device while maintaining compatibility with the current range of games and educational titles.
Update: LeapPad Ultra announced with internet and 7" screen
Update: LeapPad2 Power available to order
In their annual report VTech indicated that they will be updating their children's educational tablets in 2013. We don't know if this will be an incremental update or something more radical. Adding features to the current platform seems most likely.
Update: VTech InnoTab 3 available to pre-order
Kids Android Tablets
Ematic FTABMP2 4.3-Inch 4GB Fun Tab Mini Touch Screen Kids Tablet (Pink/Purple)
@ Amazon BUY NOW
The Ematic FunTab Mini 2 is a kid-friendly tablet with a 4.3 inch screen that comes in purple/pink or blue/green colors.
It runs Android 4.0 and comes loaded with Zoodles Kid Mode which allows kids to access third party content for kids on the web.
The Ematic FunTab 2 has a recommended retail price of $69.99 making it a very affordable option. There are also apps for kids, interactive story books, video mail and a drawing app.
Fuhu nabi Jr. 5" Capacitive Touch Android Tablet for Kids
Fuhu had planned to release this tablet earlier, but it came out in spring 2013.
The Nabi Jr is aimed at kids aged 3-6 and has a kids app store and Wings educational software for Pre-K and K.
It runs Android and it's also possible to get the Amazon app store for the Nabi Jr.
Polaroid 7-inch Android 4.0 8GB Internet Kids TabletPolaroid also brought out a new kids Android tablet in Spring of 2013.
It's a 7" tablet with a tough case which comes with 10 interactive eBooks which include titles from Dr Seuss and Smithsonian which are very good titles to have. It's recommended for kids aged 3-14 but more likely to appeal to the younger end of that range.
The One Laptop Per Child project has a new tablet for 2013, the OLPC XO Tablet is an Android tablet made by Vivitar. It has a custom UI and a library ofcurated content.
There have been rumors of a kids Android tablet called the Fable from Isabella Products for several years, it looks like they might deliver the Fable tablet in 2013. Fable will have its own store VizitMe which will partner with children's digital content providers. Content will be approved before it gets added to the store. We don't yet know enough about this tablet to know if it will be a serious contender.
Oregon Scientific released the MEEP! kids Android tablet in 2012 which has a number of physical accessories as well as parental control, kids content and a coins system for purchases. The MEEP! got off to a rocky start with server and software issues. During 2013 it has upgraded to version 2 of its software. We don't know if there will be a new MEEP! tablet for 2013, but we hope that they will at least add new accessories to the range.
Kurio have a range of kids and family tablets. A new addition to the lineup for 2013 is the Kurio 4S Touch, which has a 4" screen and is designed for portability for older kids so they can take it with them.
Fuhu nabi XD 10.1" Capacitive Touch Android Tablet for Tweens
Fuhu have added a larger 10.1" tablet to their range, it was released in Spring 2013 and is available to buy.
We don't know if they will be upgrading the popular 7" Nabi 2 this year, it came out with an impressive technical specification which still looks good this year.
Other TabletsIt's also worth considering other tablets that are not specifically for children but are commonly used by children.
Amazon's Kindle Fire has proved very popular with kids in its basic and HD versions. Amazon typically announce a new range of tablets in the fall which are ready to ship in time for the holidays and we expect new Kindle Fire models for 2013. Since its original release Amazon have added more parental controls to the Fire and a subscription content service for kids. One rumor that is particularly interesting for kids is the possibility of a $99 Kindle Fire which is a very kid-friendly price point.
Last year we saw the release of the iPad Mini, a smaller, cheaper iPad with children as one of its main targets. An iPad Mini 2 looks likely for release in late 2013 with an upgraded spec and Retina display as possible features.
There are also lots more Windows tablets on the market this year that run Windows RT or Windows 8 such as Microsoft's own Surface tablet. These tablets are more expensive than others on offer, but may appeal if your child is familiar with Windows from school and wants to run Windows programs and use the tablet for homework - you can add a brightly colored keyboard to turn a Surface tablet into a touchscreen netbook.