At under $200, the Pebble Gear Disney tablet could be the easiest tablet for parents, even if it lacks some of the things that make other tablets worth it.
Keeping the kids entertained isn’t always easy, and sometimes the books, toys, balloons for Keepy Uppy, and watching the TV just may not cut it. Worse, if your children see you using your iPad, there’s a good chance they’re going to want to play, too.
You know how it goes if you’re a parent, because the moment they see that phone or tablet come out, they’re probably going to want to play it, too.
While it’s possible that you might give in and buy them a tablet, it’s also possible that you might have held back. After all, tablets aren’t cheap, and apps and games cost money. Everything adds up and you need to factor in the whole parenting schedule thing where you limit their time on the tablet.
But what if a tablet not only covered the parental controls, but also the tablet price and the cost of downloads overall? And what if it came with Disney stuff because kids like that, too?
You’d have what Laser is bringing into Australia with the Pebble Gear Disney tablet, which offers an intriguing idea for parents looking for a quick fix for their kids.
What is it?
There’s no shortage of cheap Android tablets, but they typically are just that: a cheap tablet running a relatively stock version of Android asking for you to login and download apps and games from the Google Play Store. They’re similar to an expensive tablet in that they talk to Google’s ecosystem in the exact same way, even if they don’t come with the same features.
That may not be ideal for parents, though. While Android has changed a lot over the years, and setting a phone or tablet up for kids is actually easy to do, you still need to approve purchases through a parental account and teach the children to use whatever the tablet’s launcher is. If you have savvy kids, stock Android can be easy, or you can alternatively grab a launcher of another kind, though that might require some skills on the part of the parent, as well.
If you’re looking for a tablet for kids, finding a tablet that’s simple, easy, and feels like it has been built for kids isn’t actually easy. Consumer electronics rarely have kids in mind, and may need some tweaking to get to this point.
But Pebble Gear’s take on the tablet is a little different, and works less like another el-cheapo Android tablet and more like something made for purpose.
Simply put, Pebble Gear’s Disney tablets are 7 inch tablets made with kids in mind, arriving with Disney content and an easy-to-use app ecosystem for kids and parents alike.
What does it do?
And like other tablets, the Pebble Gear is designed to run apps and games made for Android, even arriving with a few out of the box, though this isn’t like another budget Android tablet.
You’ll find a dual-core processor here under a 7 inch screen alongside 16GB storage, a microSD slot, a mediocre 2 megapixel rear camera with a 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera, and a version of Android, though it doesn’t really matter which version, because you won’t be using it like a standard Android tablet.
Rather, Pebble Gear has skinned it to be very different, with a home screen that offers shortcuts to categories of apps — games, books, media, learning apps, and a special store — and that’s largely it.
Does it do the job?
Go through the setup, and you’ll quickly see why the tablet is so different, asking you to select times for your children and to passcode protect the parental settings, which will designate the apps they can use.
That alone makes this Disney themed tablet very different, but so too does the store, which may look a little like the Google Play Store, but is something else entirely.
There’s no email here, no calendar, and no access to the standard app store on Android devices. Rather, the Pebble Gear tablets link you specifically to Pebble’s own app marketplace GameStore Junior where everything is free for the first year until it’s not, with no ads or extra downloads that cost you extra.
In short, Pebble Gear’s Disney tablet is clearly focused on kids, but also built for parents tired of spending a little extra on the apps, games, and downloadable content every child seems destined to access on their tablet.
What does it need?
While the Pebble Gear tablet is actually a neat option for kids, it doesn’t come without its fair share of problems, and worse, you might not realise it until you’re a year in or have read this review.
One is that because the tablet doesn’t work like a standard Android tablet, you don’t actually own most of the apps the same way you might with a proper version of Android. While Google would normally tie your ownership to your specific Google account, there’s no Google Play Store on this thing, with the only store the GameStore Junior service.
For the first year, those apps are free, but after that, you need to play 40 Euros to get access for a year for any new apps you want to grab.
You still should have access to the titles your tablet came with, and some of these are only found specifically on your tablet — princess books on the Frozen tablet, Toy Story books on the Toy Story tablet, and so on — but any new apps and games you want to install will require a new subscription.
Laser tells us that anything you download is yours even after the subscription is over, so if you nab some ad-free games on the store before the 12 months is over, you’ll keep them forever on this specific tablet.
However anything you want beyond the year is extra, and incurs an extra cost, because this isn’t your standard Android tablet. And that means if you buy these Disney tablets thinking you’ll get all the Disney you can muster forever for the sub-$200 price, you may also want to factor the extra subscription each year.
And you’ll want to simply because you can’t side load apps, either. Not that you’ll probably want to, as this is focus on kids, but it’s pretty much the apps and games from the GameStore Junior store, a limited safe web browser that forces you to whitelist websites you like… and that’s it.
Bizarrely, there was only one app we wanted to sideload, mostly because it’s the one app that should be on a Disney-themed tablet, but wasn’t: Disney+.
There’s a lot of Disney on the Frozen tablet we played with — from simple spotting games, lots of little books, avatars, a few backgrounds, and even some classic Disney games such as Ducktales and Where’s My Perry — but not arguably Disney’s most popular app, Disney+. That means there’s no obvious way to watch Disney movies, TV shows, and shorts on a device that seriously would be ideal for it.
You may even find the Disney tablet crashes without reason, which it did for us more than once. The GameStore can crash and the tablet itself will crash, popping up with an error message and restarting itself. It’s not a dire problem, but it’s one that can dent the experience of owning a tablet.
What surprised us most?
Despite those niggles, the thing that surprised us most about the Pebble Gear Disney tablet was how parent-focused it was.
From the get-go, you’ll program in the times you want your kids to be able to play with the tablet, but the software goes deeper than that.
There’s a coloured ring around their avatar that changes colour based on how much time they have left. You as a parent can add more time when the tablet is being unlocked, and you can dive into the parental control settings and not only set which apps they have access to, but how long they’ve used the apps for and which apps they can look at.
The browser is very tightly controlled from the beginning, and you’ll need to whitelist any websites that aren’t Disney or a handful of others, but it’s there if you need to.
Is it worth your money?
However, priced from $159 to $189 depending on when you get it, the Pebble Gear Disney tablets may well be worth it if you’re after a set-and-forget approach to kids tablets for games and books.
Granted, this isn’t an entertainment-focused tablet at all, and any hopes of running Disney+ or Netflix will be dashed, as neither is supported here. However if you’re looking for apps and games meant to engage in a tablet that isn’t thoroughly expensive, we can see the point.
Worth noting that this the Pebble Gear Disney tablet is about $300 below the cost of a new iPad, and while that’s a saving, Apple’s iPad is vastly superior in what it can do. The current eighth-gen iPad is clearly a better tablet with a greater supply of apps, support for Apple’s video game subscription service Apple Arcade, and just about every music and video streaming platform around.
The Pebble Gear tablet is downright limited in comparison, with nowhere near the amount of apps, and not a single music and video service to speak of. It is not remotely the same tablet, but it does come with upsides, including not having to buy a single app or game for the first year, plus having the easiest setup for parents and kids.
Yay or nay?
Despite what it doesn’t have, the Pebble Gear Disney tablet is a neat idea for parents. Found in Australia ranging for under $200, it takes the budget tablet and gives it a reason for existing: rather than just getting yet another cheap Android tablet, you’re getting one made for a purpose, with families at the fore.
This isn’t a fast tablet, mind you, nor is it a great one. But if you’re looking for something that fills a gap and gives kids a screen to play on — specifically, a screen that isn’t your phone or tablet — the Disney tablets from Pebble Gear might just be worth checking out.