One of the many challenges you face as a parent is how to introduce technology to your child safely. You want to balance the time spent playing games versus learning, and you definitely want them to be kept safe from dangers on the internet. There have been many devices that have attempted to do this with varying degrees of success. Verizon Wireless has a very promising solution for you — the GizmoTab.
The GizmoTab is the latest tablet Verizon is selling at their stores, and is the same as their Ellipsis tablet, but with a little more on the software side. The GizmoTab is not a toy, nor is it an underpowered tablet only suitable for young children — it’s a fully fledged Android tablet. While handing over an Android tablet to a kid can be anxiety inducing, it does have its benefits — the interface is familiar and easy to use, the tablet can adapt as kids get older, and it’s a tablet that parents can use as well, making it a true family tablet. There’s no need to get a separate tablet for the kids, saving a good chunk of money for the parents.
So, how is the GizmoTab kid-friendly if it’s an Android tablet? For starters, it can hold up against the physical punishment kids can dish out. The first thing you’ll see when looking at the GizmoTab is the case. This rubber case is teal with yellow accents and is the first line of defense from accidental drops, which are certain to occur.
However, the more important difference is the Gizmo app. This app provides a safe environment for your child to learn and play. An account is required, but the process is made a little easier if an existing Google account is used. From there, unique profiles can be created for each child, and this is where the app gets very useful. Time limits can be set for each kid for use of the tablet itself and for time spent on games versus educational apps. In addition, kids can be rewarded with more play time by completing certain educational exercises first.
Once the app is set up, tapping the Gizmo app icon will bring up the tablet’s child-friendly environment. It’s a digital tropical paradise — a cartoony ocean scene with eight islands, each of which has different themes, mostly educational games. The center island is a hub of sorts — it takes kids to a cartoon town where they can create an avatar and walk around and interact with different characters and features in the town. We found a house where you can check for messages, another where you can access the camera and take pictures, and there were still many other areas of town to explore. Kids will have a lot of fun just walking around town and discovering new things.
There are over 100 applications to choose from courtesy of Verizon’s software partner, Fingerprint. We particularly enjoyed the 3D puzzle and matchstick games. The majority of games are targeted at the 3-8 age range, which makes this an excellent starter tablet for your little one. Leaving an app is easily done by tapping the back arrow in the navigation tray, which opens when dragging a finger up from the base of the screen.
One of the first things we look for when reviewing a tablet designed for children is how easy it is to get out of “kid safe mode.” Leaving this safe environment, intentionally or accidentally, could be potentially harmful to your child. We are happy to report that the GizmoTab is very secure in this respect. The primary way to exit the app is by entering a four-digit passcode (so keep this a secret). Another way some kids tablets fail is when they are powered off and on again, a distinct possibility as children will test all the buttons on the device. Fortunately, upon rebooting the tablet, it remembers that the Gizmo app was running and launches the kid-friendly environment straight away. Using the Android app switcher likewise has no effect, simply returning you to the Gizmo app.
Aside from the kid friendly features the GizmoTab is a nice basic tablet. It has a bright 8″ screen with an HD resolution (1,920 x 1,200). It has 3 GB of RAM with a 1.5 GHz processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 617) and the apps load quickly and run smoothly. The front camera is 5 MP and the rear one is 8 MP and can record video at 1080p.
We tested the tablet out by downloading Minecraft. It ran perfectly and looked great! We thought it was on par with more expensive tablets. Of course, the more apps you have, the more memory you need and the GizmoTab comes with only 16 GB of internal memory — half of which is used by the OS and the preloaded apps and games. You’ll likely want to buy a microSD card to provide more space for apps, pictures and videos. The tablet will support a card up to 256 GB.
There is a standard headphone jack and a microUSB charging port on the bottom edge. The power and volume buttons are on the top right. This is probably our biggest complaint with the GizmoTab: the buttons are rather awkward to press. This is most obvious when trying to take a screenshot by pressing the power and volume buttons at the same time — it’s not as easy as it could be. Certainly not a deal breaker, but something to be aware of.
Being that the GizmoTab is offered by Verizon, there’s the option to connect to their LTE network in addition to Wi-Fi. No need to worry about losing connection when you leave the house or while driving, situations that could cause some frustration for you and your child.