Pebble Gear is making big moves to the U.S.
The company, which offers Disney-licensed kids’ tablets and accessories for kids ages 3-8, has a mission of helping kids safely take their first steps into technology. With safety and fun as the top priorities, Pebble Gear’s tablets are equipped with a built-in safe browser, parental controls, and apps without in-app purchases or advertisements. The themed tablets are available in styles including Disney’s Frozen and Mickey Mouse and Friends, and Disney and Pixar’s Cars and Toy Story.
The Toy Book caught up with Marc-Alexander Knipschild, head of marketing at snakebyte group (parent company of Pebble Gear), about the company’s launch in the U.S., kid-safe tech toys, and the company’s upcoming plans.
Toy Book: How important is tech literacy for today’s kids? How do the new Pebble Gear tablets help them learn these skills?
Marc-Alexander Knipschild: Computers, gadgets, and digital technology have completely changed the way we function in our day-to-day lives. Tech is part of nearly everything we do; there’s no escaping it. Technology opens up the world to kids for learning, play, communication, and more, but families have serious concerns about how to navigate the digital landscape both safely and effectively. Tech literacy has become one of the essential skillsets children (and adults) must learn in order to feel both safe and empowered in an increasingly digital world.
Kids are more tech-savvy than ever before and looking to explore digital devices at far earlier ages. Pebble Gear has developed our tablets and technology in order to establish a framework for families to navigate the journey from toy to tech safely.
Pebble Gear tablets are designed to give kids a digital user interface that provides them with agency, letting them feel empowered while also ensuring that they are safe and protected against any potential online dangers. We have seen from our user groups that kids are able to independently navigate their way around the tablets with ease, all within the freedoms allotted by the super effective preset parental controls.
TB: Why is it important for kids to have a tablet that is specifically made for their user experience in mind?
MAK: Kids learn to make sense of the world around them and develop some of the most essential knowledge and skills through hands-on play. Recognizing the power of play and agency, we have invested millions of dollars on research and development, focus groups, and software development to provide kids with the engaging, interactive and fun user experience they want and need.
We set up a program called “Tiny Testers,” which really allowed us to understand what was important from the families’ perspective. Through this research, it became extremely clear that parents want to give their kids the freedom to explore the digital world but with the same protection they would give them in “IRL”. As parents ourselves, we know that kids aged 3-8 are super curious but don’t always know what safe fun and adventure looks like. In developing our tablets, we have created the tools parents need to create a “garden wall” to keep their kids safe while still allowing them to play freely in the digital playground.
TB: Safety is clearly a top priority for the company. Why can parents and caregivers feel good about letting their kids enjoy technology with these tablets?
MAK: We’ve made it our top priority to help kids take their first steps into tech while keeping them safe. Our design intention was to try to strike a balance between fun for kids and peace of mind for caregivers, so we came up with a few key safety nets:
- Parental controls: Parental controls are designed to be comprehensive, flexible, and easy to use. Adults have insight into which games and apps their kids are using most, can designate time limits, and can decide which apps can and can’t be accessed.
- Safe browser: Out of the box, the tablet has a safe browser designed to protect kids from anything parents wouldn’t want them to see. We have a selection of pre-authorized websites that are kid-friendly, fun and educational, but parents can add approved “safe sites.” We feel that these designated sites should be left to the caregivers rather than us, handing over complete control over what their children can and can’t access online. So, for example, parents can easily access YouTube Kids, but we enable them to make the decision when they feel their child is ready for access to this feature.
- No nasty surprises: All 500+ games and apps have been stripped of inappropriate content. They have all been hand-picked by our team of parents and developers. We are constantly analyzing which age-appropriate games and apps are the best on the market and work with game studios to bring titles that are 100% free from ads and pop ups, in app-purchases, and other hidden fees. Users get just the games and apps they know and love without the worry.
- No personal data collection: We respect your family’s privacy and have no insight into personal data or information.
TB: What type of content is available on the tablet?
MAK: Our own proprietary content platform, Game Store Junior, is the main engine that pumps out the fun and learning. Game Store Junior provides access to more than 500 apps and games that can be found in other well-known app stores, but we’ve removed the in-app purchases and ads. We have some apps that have already been downloaded more than 50 million times, providing countless hours of fun without unwanted interruptions.
The kid-safe browser also allows families to access external online content, including videos and ebooks, all pre-determined and pre-selected by the adults.
The tablets also come preloaded with games that we have developed in conjunction with Disney. Each tablet features three super cool skill-based, multi-level games, which allow kids to play with some of their favorite Disney characters. These games have been designed to match the Disney franchise theme of the overall tablet, providing a completely immersive Disney-themed experience.
TB: What made Disney the right partner to launch this new line with?
MAK: Family is the heart of Pebble Gear. We’ve drawn on our own experiences as parents to create the best tablet experience for kids taking their 1st steps into tech. Pebble Gear functions with some key values at the core of everything we do: fun, safety, education, community, inclusivity, and inspiration.
A partnership with Disney provided us with the ability to bring that extra special sprinkling of magic to our products. We love Disney. Our kids love Disney. We know that families all across the world hold Disney near and dear to their hearts. It was just a natural fit for what we wanted to create. Our main objective was to try to deliver a product that completely immerses users in the Disney experience, from powering up out of the box and through the entire user experience.
As you can imagine, Disney chooses its partners very carefully, and we feel so honored to work as closely with them as we do.
TB: What went behind the decision to expand to the U.S.? How have you been able to do it, and what were the challenges?
MAK: Joining the North American market has always been part of our global plan. We have seen enormous success in channels across Europe and Australia, giving us the confidence to know that now is the time to expand into the U.S. We have established sales infrastructure here already, so initial discussions with channel partners have been overwhelmingly positive. The reception to our soft launch this fall has us extremely optimistic and excited about our momentum moving into 2022.
TB: Can you share any plans or new licensing partners for 2022? What are your plans for the future?
MAK: We have some really exciting plans for 2022, and we will be outlining our roadmap to channel partners at CES (physically or virtually). In the meantime, it’s safe to say that we will be exploiting new franchises, screen sizes, and launching some extra cool accessories, too.
We are also seeing a regular flow of incoming partnering requests and have received some valuable feedback from our community. There are some brilliant concepts in the works as a result. Let’s just say that 2022 is shaping up to be very exciting for Pebble Gear!
TB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MAK: Pebble Gear is now available for sale in 10 markets across Europe and Australasia, and we have had consistently positive results. Whether on sale in stores, through ecommerce partners, or our own websites, the Disney brands, in combination with our safety messaging, are gaining real traction. Some of our retailer partners, trusting us with prime retail space for our multi-franchise displays have generated sales of seven tablets per store, per week, a statistic that is above industry standards. Additionally, we have seen accessory purchasing rates of 60%, which, in a self-service environment, is completely unheard of.