My Review of the Nabi Jr.
The Nabi Jr. in the box
Choosing to Buy a Preschooler a Tablet
Let me start off by saying that I love gadgets and it seems that my soon-to-be 3 year old inherited my love for all things digital. When I had my last HTC smartphone, he loved to grab it and play with it. Whenever my digital camera is out, he loves to look over my shoulder to see how it works. He was forever "borrowing"my laptop to type and play. Since I bought my Samsung Galaxy tablet last year he has used it more than I have, many times over.
On the Galaxy, he primarily plays Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride, Subway Surfers and Angry Birds. It's an entertaining selection but not particularly educational. After I saw how easy he taught himself to scroll through the menus and use my tablet, I figured that getting him his own tablet was the way to go. Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding educational games for 2-3 year old age group in the Android Marketplace. I installed some of his favorite books and a couple of educational games that I could find, but none of it really held his attention. I was also worried about the durability of a normal tablet with a preschooler. Overall, my son cradles the Samsung but there has been a time or two when his favorite game froze near naptime...not a good combo! I was also worried about spending a fortune on a tablet that was for someone as young as my son.
Being that Nick Jr. is my son's favorite channel and the Nabi time control commercials are in very heavy rotation on that channel, I began to get curious about the Nabi line of tablets. After a reading several pages of product reviews on the Walmart.com website and a few other sites, I saw that the Nabi and Nabi Jr. were rated well overall. I then went and visited the Nabi website after comparing the Nabi and the Nabi Jr., I started to think the Nabi Jr. was just right for my son.
The Nabi Jr.
Why the Nabi Jr.?
During my search for a tablet for my son, I looked at several: VTech InnoTab, LeapFrog LeapPad 2, Nabi Tablet, Nabi Jr. and the Kurio tablet. Some of these tablets looked great but required the purchase of additional cartridges every time we wanted to get a new game (when compared to the cost of new apps from the marketplace this was very expensive). Others wouldn't really "grow" with my child. Others were more expensive. Overall it looked like the Nabi tablets were my best option.
After arriving at this decision, I visited the Nabi website and the copy there really convinced me that the Nabi Jr. was right for my son. The biggest selling point for me was that the Nabi Jr. advertises a "personalized learning system that adapts to your child's skill set". This learning system, called "Wings", is advertised as teaching your child math, reading and writing. Add on the chunky build of the tablet and the included "drop-safe" bumper and I was sold.
A Few More Features of the Nabi Jr.
In addition to the "drop-safe bumper", the rugged build and the included learning system, there were several other specs that impressed me about the Nabi. Jr.:
- The size of the Nabi Jr. is perfect for little hands.
- The Nabi Jr. has many cool accessories available that I thought my son would enjoy, including glowing headphones that included noise-level safety settings.
- There is an 180 degree swivel camera built into the Nabi Jr. It really creates a clear, crisp picture.
- The tablet has Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) installed and can pretty easily install any app that I have on my Samsung Galaxy. This was good for the "grow with me" aspect that I wanted for the tablet.
- The tablet lists the NVIDIA Tegra 2 Processor, stereo speakers, Wifi, Bluetooth and 4 GB of built in memory (expandable up to 32 GB via MicoSD card).
- The package also included a charger, USB cable, quick start guide and a technical support card.
Contents of the Nabi Jr.
Wings displayed on the box
Buy Nabi Jr?
Nabi Jr. owners, would you buy another Nabi Jr?
And Now the Turn of Events....
Once I decided on the Nabi Jr., I planned to buy it for my son's one big Christmas purchase. I bought the Nabi Jr. on 12/5/13 (the cost was $99 at my local Walmart). A couple of days later I was able to sneak away from my son and open the box to test the tablet out. The tablet came with 20 free songs, 18 games and 18 learning apps. The sound that came from the Nabi Jr. sounded great and the display looked crisp. I did want to go ahead and put in my Google account info, install Fruit Ninja, set up the WiFi and charge the battery a bit so that my son could play with it right out the box on Christmas morning. WiFi was super easy to set up and the charge that I gave it actually held up until Christmas.
While setting up the tablet, I found that the Nabi Jr. had a standard browser and more apps once I signed into the parent mode. It could practically be used as a normal tablet when in parent mode! Couldn't get any better, right? So Christmas morning finally came and once my son opened the tablet he couldn't get enough of the tablet. He started off with Fruit Ninja, but then he started navigating to other games on his own. He was coloring, matching letters, counting, etc. I was really excited about all this until I steered him to the Wings app. We clicked on it only to see a "coming soon" screen. "What!?!", I thought. The website spoke as if the app was up and running and beloved by parents. The box has an entire side dedicated to the Wings app. Yet it's not actually functional on the tablet?
After my son put the Nabi Jr. down to play with some of his other toys I picked it up and figured that maybe the tablet just needed an update. It was easy enough to do, but it took about 20 minutes for the tablet to download and process. After the update I signed into Wings again to find that there was now a "sneak peek" available. This sneak peek allowed my son to play one round of 3 different apps, nothing more. At this point, I was really disappointed with the tablet since this was the primary part of the system that I thought would be most educational for my son. After Googling this specific issue and visiting the Nabi Jr. Facebook page, I found that they had been advertising this as a feature for over a year without actually having it available for consumers. Is this not a FTC violation, false advertising, bait and switch or something?
I also found on the Facebook page that one of the chief developers for the tablet had issued a public apology for not having the Wings system available on time. In the meantime, the company has not stopped advertising the Wings system as pre-loaded on their website or on the product packaging (as of 1/5/2014).
Further problems with the Nabi Jr. started to crop up also. Fruit Ninja would freeze up every other time he played a round. The parent mode on the tablet would stop responding frequently so that I would have to restart the tablet. Also, I found that the built in stylus was actually just a stick of "filler" plastic (to be removed and replaced when you bought the stylus separately). After Googling about the stylus, I found that Nabi originally planned to offer a stylus for the Nabi Jr., but then decided to not include it because it is a choking hazard. I have tried to find a stylus that fits into this custom sized space without success. It's like Goldilocks...this one's too big, this one's too small, too short, too long.
Even with all this I thought maybe we would wait a couple of weeks to see if any new updates would be offered. My son continued to play with some of the educational apps and used it every day. Unfortunately after only 10 days of regular use the Nabi Jr.'s charger no longer works. At first we thought that the tablet was completely shot, but I took the included USB cable and attached it to my laptop and saw that it was now reacting (although not charging since the provided USB cable is for data only). I visited the technical support section of the Nabi website to find instructions to call 1-855-ASK-NABI to find out about getting a replacement charger. After holding for about 13 minutes I was told to visit "nabitablet.com/charger" and fill out the form and one would be sent to me at no cost. I did as instructed and after I hit submit, nothing happened. I was sent to a graphic that said "We're committed to making things right by you" and nothing else (no confirmation email was sent, no estimated ship date or reference number, nothing). I am still waiting to see how this goes. In the meantime I have tried to use my Galaxy charger, but the Nabi never reacted to it.
One other thing that I learned about he Nabi Jr. is that the advertised 4 GB internal memory is in reality only half of that. About 2 GB is actually available to be used out of the box and if I were to purchase a MicroSD card for it, it would not increase space for apps (only for photos, videos, etc). You're limited to 2 GB total no matter what for apps, so choose wisely.
False Advertising on the Nabi Website
Would I Buy the Nabi Jr. Again?
With all that it offers vs all that it actually provides, would I buy the Nabi again? Absolutely not. In fact I am arguing with myself about returning it today and getting another tablet for my son instead. There are cool things about the Nabi Jr., but I believe that the company that produces them is either crap or that they simply released this product waaaaaay before they should have. With the false advertising still in place on their packaging and in the media, I am unsure which they are. Either way it's not good for the innocent end users and the hard-working parents that paid for something that they couldn't actually get. Too many bugs and too many broken promises. Save your money and get an iPad or something equivalent and invest in a great cover/bumper and product insurance. Nabi Jr. is a solid dud.