Amazon Glow Review
This smart new device will make you love your kids' screen time
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What if you could make screen time an interactive and relationship-building experience that would make far away family and friends feel like they were sitting right across the table from you? The Amazon Glow (available at Amazon for $299.99) is a kid-focused entertainment system that aims to do just that. You may not be able to give a hug to your loved ones, but your kids will be able to experience the next best thing with the Glow’s innovative approach to video calling.
An interactive entertainment system that connects to hundreds of Amazon Kids+ games, puzzles, books, and activities, the Amazon Glow utilizes a touch-sensitive projector and projection mat, as well as the downloadable Glow app, to bring two households together to engage in fun, kid-friendly, app-based activities.
We tested the Amazon Glow for two weeks and found it to be a clever device that really did deliver on its promise of being an entertainment system that transforms video calling into interactive play. Our 8-year-old son is at the older end of finding something like this fun, but he still had a blast testing it out. The device isn’t without its flaws, however.
About the Amazon Glow
Dimensions: 5.6” x 5.4” x 14.2”
Projection mat dimensions: 18.2” x 12.1” x 0.04”
Finishes: Black matte
Weight: 57 oz
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 5.0
Glow app compatibility: Android 8.0+, iOS14.0+, 2021 Fire HD 10
Features: Microphone, profile camera, speaker, projector, privacy shutter
Best for ages: 3 and up
User manual: Amazon Glow
What is the Amazon Glow
Amazon Glow is a tabletop, kid-friendly entertainment system that makes video-calling interactive with a projector device, a camera, a touch screen, and a touch mat. This video calling device projects games, books, and activities from your Amazon account onto a touch mat on one end, while on the other end family and friends can use their phone or tablet to interact with your child with an easy-to-use app.
The Glow comes with a full-year subscription to Amazon Kids+, which is a good thing because the device only works with Amazon Kids+ content. It is not compatible with content from any other platform.
What we like about the Amazon Glow
The real question you want to ask right now is, "Is it fun?" And, my answer is, "Yes! It's loads of fun."
My son tested this product out with me when I was outside of the home and with his grandfather who lives five hours away. The novelty of the Glow was addictive and shows no signs of wearing off. While it didn’t feel like Granddad was in our dining room, it did take their hangout to the next level. I also loved that it made video game-style play really simple for anyone to take part in, no matter what their level of technical ability.
My father-in-law reported having a ton of fun playing with our kid and our son didn’t want the play sessions to end.
It’s easy to use
Everything about the Glow and the app is intuitive. It took us maybe 15 minutes at home to get the hang of things and it took our son’s grandfather no time at all. He basically downloaded the app, called our son, and playtime was on!
Kids like instant gratification and grandparents just want to talk to their grandkids. No one wants to deal with technical troubleshooting, so we appreciated that setup was fast, simple, and intuitive on both ends.
There’s lots of content
For the younger kids, there is a ton of content to be found on the Glow. They can access hundreds of apps created by Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, PBS, and more. There are also loads of fun activities to interact with.
As kids get older there are fewer games that they can play, but my son enjoyed drawing with me and playing chess with his grandfather. He was also thrilled to find that some of his favorite book series, like Dragon Masters and Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior, could be found for us to read together.
It can be used for independent play
The Glow is a bit of a beast of a device that takes up lots of space on your dining room table (or elsewhere), so it’s nice to know that it’s still fun to use even when a call isn’t coming through.
While our son definitely preferred the interactive play he got to engage in on the Glow, he still asked to play on it when there was no one to call and he had a lot of fun doing so. He liked practicing chess, drawing, reading, and playing one-person games, and he particularly liked scanning in toys and implementing them into his drawings with the fun Glow scanning feature.
Much of the content on the Glow can be found on any tablet where Amazon Kids+ can be downloaded. During our testing our son enjoyed practicing his chess moves, drawing through some of the apps, and looking up favorite book series to read. Sure these things can all be done on a tablet as well, but it’s nice to know that the Glow is not simply a huge black brick taking up space when not being used to make calls.
It makes privacy a priority
The built-in parental controls are one of the best features of the Glow. Children may only contact those friends and relatives that are parent-added to an approved contact list. Also, a parent’s dashboard on the app allows them to monitor and review all of their child’s activities on the Glow device. The built-in camera includes a closable shutter so parents can ensure privacy between calls.
You only need one Glow
Family members only need the easy-to-download app, which is supported on Amazon, Android, and iOS devices. They simply call in through an app-based video call and they can immediately chat with and get to playing with your kid.
What we don’t like about the Amazon Glow
You can only use one Glow
While this wasn’t specifically an issue with my family, I can see it being a bummer when families want to connect cousins of the same age. A Glow can only connect with the app but cannot connect with another Glow, so if Grandma and Grandpa get each grandkid a Glow the kids can only play with each other if one acquiesces and uses their tablet or their parent's phone. I sense a lot of family arguments until Amazon wises up and fixes this in an upgrade.
It’s big and immobile
You may not be old enough to remember the ridiculous cell phones of the 80’s, but the Glow has a reminiscent shape and size. It’s large and kind of unwieldy and there is no real place for it when it’s not in use.
The Amazon Glow is nearly 4 pounds, stands over a foot tall, and requires a plug-in at all times. To be honest, it’s kind of a beast. On one hand, if your child has a designated space to put the Glow, it’s a nice, stationary, video station. On the other hand, if you don’t have a designated spot, it takes up a lot of space and we struggled with what to do with it when it wasn’t in use.
For our family, the size was fine when we were actually using it, but it never felt like there was a good place for it when we weren’t.
There aren’t many options for older kids
The Amazon Glow bills itself as an interactive entertainment system for elementary-aged kids, but we see our 8-year-old losing interest in it by the time he’s 9. That’s a shame and something we’d love to see Amazon address.
At 8, leaving him alone to play Minecraft or Roblox always feels a bit tenuous. While there are options for chess, checkers, card games, and a few arcade-style games, I’d love to see the Glow have more stuff for kids mid-elementary-age and older.
There are still some bugs to work out
Overall things worked well, but we did notice that a couple of the games were glitchy. What was more frustrating, however, is that for some of the graphic novels the images were so low-quality that we couldn’t even read them. Hopefully this will be worked out in future Glow models.
Should you buy the Amazon Glow?
Even though it still has some bugs to work out, we thoroughly enjoyed testing out this fun, kid-friendly device.
We live far from family and are always looking for ways to stay connected. We find that phone calls feel strange to kids today and video calls are always interrupted with kids wanting to use filters as a way to liven things up.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how much your child adores their grandparents, cousins, aunts, or uncles, kids just don’t like talking about their day. We loved that the Amazon Glow allowed our son to connect at his level and can see it being a device that truly contributes to fostering a sense of closeness to families who live far from each other.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.