During this unusual time, a lot of amazing entertainment and educational resources are being thrown at parents. And, of course, Amazon is jumping on that train, too.
From now until April 15th, new subscribers can purchase three months of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited for $0.99 or one year for $19.99, a $50 savings. The year-long membership also comes with a free annual subscription to HOMER, a popular beginning reading app, which normally costs $44 annually.
So is Amazon FreeTime Unlimited worth your time and money, and more importantly, how long will it keep children satisfied? We’re taking a deep dive into Amazon FreeTime Unlimited to get your questions answered and give you a better look at the subscription service.
What is Amazon FreeTime Unlimited?
FreeTime Unlimited is geared specifically toward kids ages 3 to 12, offering access to tons of child-friendly shows, films, games, apps, and books from brands like Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS and more. This access, however, doesn’t need to be unlimited. In fact, Amazon is pushing FreeTime’s parental control software as one of its biggest selling points. Here are some of the most popular features:
- Create separate content profiles for each child. This is great if you have older kids and preschoolers using the same tablet.
- Parents can set usage time limits for each profile.
- Your child cannot exit an app without a password, limiting unapproved access to the internet.
- In-app purchases are disabled.
- Parents can restrict access to certain categories, like games.
- Parents can set educational goals to unlock additional content.
What Type of Content Does Amazon FreeTime Unlimited Offer?
As a mom of three, I like the FreeTime Unlimited app, but it could use a major overhaul to take it from a good app to a great one. When you launch the app, you are bombarded with hundreds of digital book and movie/show titles. I appreciate the wide variety of e-book options, especially since the library is closed. However, it’s also a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re expecting a child to navigate it.
If you know the book topic you want to read, the search is the best way to track it down. For example, when I looked up “Titanic,” I was impressed by the number of children’s book titles that popped up. However, how you would have seen these books outside of using the search function is beyond me.
If Amazon categorized its books and allowed users to organize their digital library, it would be a better and more user-friendly experience. Similarly, if parents were allowed to hide certain titles, that would be ideal.
All the selections I have seen are family-friendly, but it would be nice to cut down on the clutter that my children wouldn’t use. For example, my book-loving seven-year-old doesn’t want or need access to hundreds of books in Spanish or preschool-level shows, yet they clutter up her home page.
Amazon does try to keep up with current popular book and show titles. I was happy to find the following types of e-books in the app:
- National Geographic Kids nonfiction reads
- Nancy Clancy detective series
- Harry Potter series and Pottermore add-ons
- A to Z Mysteries series
- Geronimo Stilton series
- Classic picture books like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
- PBS shows like WordGirl, Martha Speaks, Kratts Creatures and Peg + Cat
- Amazon Prime shows like Tumble Leaf, Jessy the Nessy and Creative Galaxies
You can also add purchases from your existing Audible, Amazon Prime and Kindle accounts.
How Do Parental Controls Work on Amazon FreeTime Unlimited?
The app boasts awesome parental controls, but how do they play out in real life? I appreciate that all of the content is family-friendly, but the parental controls do not work as seamlessly as they say they do.
The pros of the controls are that you can turn off internet access and set educational goals that limit entertainment until reading limits are fulfilled. Setting this educational goal clears up the child’s home page of show options.
However, children can still search for a show and watch it. This has been more of an issue for my middle child who is prone to getting sucked into pointless videos.
What Devices Work with Amazon FreeTime Unlimited?
While it’s most frequently associated with the Kindle Fire, FreeTime Unlimited is actually compatible with a number of devices, including:
Echo: With the Echo Dot, kids can access hundreds of hours of fun and educational content, including ad-free radio stations and playlists, hundreds of Audible books, and a growing list of premium kids’ skills on compatible Echo devices. Plus, the Echo Dot Kids Edition includes one free year of FreeTime Unlimited, a kid-friendly case, and a two-year worry-free guarantee (just like the Fire Kids Edition Tablet).
Kindle: With the FreeTime Unlimited subscription, kids can access thousands of books like Harry Potter, Pete the Cat, and Curious George. Kids can also view their reading progress for each book, track accomplishments for each day, and earn achievement badges for reaching milestones.
Fire: With Fire tablets, kids get access to more than 15,000 popular apps and games, videos, books, and educational content. The Fire Kids Edition Tablet includes one year of FreeTime Unlimited, a kid-proof case, and a two-year worry-free guarantee.
Android and iOS: With Android or iOS mobile devices or tablets, kids get access to popular videos, books and educational content from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, Disney and more.
Perks of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited
FreeTime Unlimited boasts plenty of features that both kids and adults can appreciate:
- Endless fun for kids: Your little ones can explore the ever-growing library of FreeTime Unlimited books, apps, videos, Audible books, skills, music and more.
- A hands-on parent dashboard: Go to Amazon’s Parent Dashboard to remotely set educational goals, time limits, pause a device, or view your child’s activity.
- A kid-safe browser: FreeTime Unlimited’s kid-friendly browsing experience blocks inappropriate content.
- Offline access: Does Amazon FreeTime work without wifi? Yes and no. You’ll need an internet connection to download any content onto your devices, but you can access your downloaded library completely offline.
- Zero commitment: You can cancel your free trial or monthly subscription at any time by simply visiting parents.amazon.com.
How Much is FreeTime Unlimited Without a Sale?
The cost ultimately depends on whether or not you’re a Prime member, and whether you pay on a monthly or yearly basis.
Here’s the complete price breakdown:
Amazon offers its FreeTime Unlimited service to Prime members for $2.99 per child or $6.99 per family. Non-members will, of course, pay a bit more. If you have more than one child, opting for a yearly family membership is a good way to save, with Prime members paying just $83 per year for up to four children. Non-members pay $119 for a yearly membership.
The cost of FreeTime, while admittedly not that steep, does add up — particularly for Prime members, who are already shelling out $119 a year. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check for a possible promotion or coupon Amazon might have available before committing.
That said, if the price tag is a non-issue for you, your kids may very well enjoy the handheld entertainment that FreeTime Unlimited provides, and you’ll enjoy knowing that they’re only getting the safe and responsible content you allow.
Discounts and Deals on FreeTime Unlimited
At the time of writing, you can purchase three months of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited for $0.99 or one year for $19.99. And as mentioned above, the annual subscription will come with the reader app HOMER for free.
If you miss out on this deal, Amazon regularly offers new members a free one-month trial of FreeTime Unlimited. Just be sure to double-check your monthly statements. Slickdealer Dextar “noticed a Free Time Unlimited monthly charge” even though he “hadn’t had it for a year.”
To sweeten the deal even further, the retailer throws in a year of FreeTime Unlimited with the purchase of a new Amazon Fire Kids Edition Tablet or Echo Dot Kids Edition (regularly priced at $99.99 and $79.99, respectively). You just have to ask yourself if you’ll be willing to pay for FreeTime once the promotional period ends.
Slickdealer Reviews of FreeTime Unlimited
We’re nothing if not loyal to our community, so we wanted to find out what Slickdealers have to say about the program. After searching our forums, we came across a few comments from our community members that are definitely worth sharing.
Some have griped about using the FreeTime app, which is said to be frustrating (and not super user-friendly) for both parents and kids. For example, user Restless24 had trouble getting past the setup in FreeTime mode, writing, “It’s frustrating and confusing to simply find season 1 of Dora on Prime video without getting lost in 500 different Dora apps.”
Slickdealer ryanaugust echoes the same, adding that their 8-year-old got so frustrated navigating the app it was easier to have him navigate through the regular Fire interface and use parental controls from there to monitor him.
And while the well-meaning child restrictions are great in theory, other Slickdeals parents had some complaints. “FreeTime can be frustrating. I stopped using it because my kids were frequently being locked out of performing tasks that needed a password,” writes DanD5325.
Slickdealer Jottrn2 says that “A big storage card is going to be necessary for FreeTime. It also tends to slow down this already sluggish tablet. I went in and blocked all apps… to reduce what is available for them… a 45-minute process that would have been much easier if Amazon FreeTime started instead with a blank slate and allowed the parent to ADD what they want instead of hiding thousands of apps they DON’T want.”
Slickdealer siratfus agrees, adding that “If you have kids, get the 32GB. The 16GB version will be sluggish once you load it up with apps, especially if you put an SD card and install apps on it.”
How to Cancel Amazon FreeTime Unlimited
Once your free trial is finished, Amazon will automatically charge your credit card each month for your FreeTime Unlimited plan. So if you wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Wait, when does my Amazon FreeTime expire again?” and accidentally let a new monthly charge go through, don’t worry. Once you cancel, Amazon will issue a refund of the most recent charge.
You can cancel your FreeTime subscription at any time and at no cost by following these steps:
- Launch the Amazon FreeTime app.
- Select the “Settings” option below your saved child profiles.
- Click “Unsubscribe from FreeTime Unlimited.”
Is FreeTime Unlimited Worth It?
Whether or not you opt for Amazon FreeTime Unlimited will depend on your individual needs. If you have younger children below the age of 8 or so, and can grab the app for less than $2 per month, then I think you will get your money’s worth, especially if you are interested in using the HOMER app currently offered with the deal.
However, FreeTime just isn’t likely to hold the interest of older kids for very long. And if you end up having to pay the full price of $83 to $119 per year, you might want to pass.