A confusing Spotify speaker for kids

If the task was to create a fun speaker for young children, then Jooki got the job. This second-generation Jooki player from the company is easy to hold with minimal buttons. Moreover, at launch, it comes in an attractive blue and orange colorway. The issue here isn’t how it looks, it’s that the speaker is actually confusing to use for both kids and adults.

Usually, when I test children’s toys or devices, I help one or both of my children to install them, then let them use the product on their own for a while to observe it in the nature, so to speak. This time player Jooki got me and my daughter out right out of the box. Even plugged in for a while, it would shut down throughout the setup process, making it unclear what the problem was, whether it was power, connectivity, or a number of other potential problems.

After a successful connection and two firmware updates, the experience of using the speaker was very lackluster.

TL;DR

Advantages:

  • Easy-to-hold speakerphone with child-friendly buttons
  • Can connect to Spotify for an extensive library of songs

The inconvenients:

  • Complicated process to link a token to a Spotify playlist
  • Frustrating app experience and sometimes lacks instructions

Shop at Jouki.

The frustrating parts

Overall, Jooki Player is a good product. But it’s not as simple as it sounds (or could be), and that’s what’s most frustrating. This is partly due to the way Spotify allows devices to connect to its service, but not all of it. There are some redeeming qualities in the speaker, but I think it makes more sense to point out his missteps first.

The heart-shaped button turns the device on and off, while the left button skips tracks and the right button controls volume.
Tyler Hayes

The physical design of the Jooki Player is great for durability, but that same minimalism is hard to use. The device has several lights on the front in the form of the Jooki logo, side dots and a button with a heart on it. After several days, you can begin to understand the flashing language of lights. Out of the box, it couldn’t be less clear.

I didn’t realize, for example, what it meant when the heart glowed green then white, then turned red to red, then all the lights went out. Later I understood that it meant the battery was low. During my first experience, I thought that this light combination could indicate that I had entered the wrong Wi-Fi password, which I had typed wrong the first time.

That’s how I discovered that the app instructions were missing, or were missing when I went through the process, and weren’t fully updated to include this new second-tier Jooki player. generation. Eventually I figured out that my phone and the speaker need to be on the same Wi-Fi network to see each other. All of this may seem simple in hindsight, but when a child is staring at you waiting for their new gadget to be ready, nothing is obvious.

This brings me to physical controls. There are two knobs that turn, one for skipping tracks and one for volume, in addition to the knob with a heart on it. That’s it. After asking the speaker to play music, I handed it to my 9 year old daughter and asked her how to pause the music. She tried the heart button first, then the buttons. but she was as perplexed as I was at first. To pause the music, you must remove the token from the speaker. Returning the token will resume playback. Is it really bad design or not? I think that’s pretty smart, but it can be another element of frustration on top of the others.

One thing that I think is a real problem is using the speaker with Spotify. Without my knowledge of how Spotify works and the help of company representatives, I don’t think I would have understood everything. There’s a software button for Spotify in the settings section of the Jooki app, but that only opens Spotify – it doesn’t connect anything and doesn’t become linked. I’ve toured and toured with him more times than I care to admit.

Joeki player
The tokens for the Jooki player come in different colors, with hard rubber on one side and plastic on the other.
Tyler Hayes

For the speaker and music service to work together, you need to open the Spotify mobile app, select the speaker icon to send audio to another source, and then select the Jooki speaker. This makes it a destination for mobile app music for the specific playlist currently playing. Then you need to go back to the Jooki app and associate one of the tokens with it, which are different color combinations to distinguish the playlists.

It’s complicated in general, but especially for a product intended for young children. The big surprise comes once Spotify is connected. If you have the standard $10 per month Spotify premium subscription, only one device can play music at a time. It’s not specific to Jooki, but if someone uses Spotify to listen to music, you can’t listen to the service on your phone or another speaker.

If you want to stream music to multiple devices, you will need a family account for Spotify. I know this limitation very well from using Sonos speakers over the past decade. For example, if I drove to the store right before my kids went to bed, I couldn’t listen to the same streaming service in the car that they were using on their Sonos speakers in their bedroom.

There are other minor drawbacks, such as the order in which songs play in token-bound playlists. What is perhaps less minor is that the product did not reach the full 8 hours of battery life. Kids can plug it in and use it like that, but then it’s attached there. But, without stressing the point, I never found the Jooki Player to be a bundle and forget the kind of product, which is what most people looking at it are probably hoping for.

The good parts

The good news is that if you really need a device that young children are unlikely to destroy, this can still meet that need. Setup might not be intuitive for parents, but toddlers can probably handle the control buttons and tokens without much help.

Joeki player
The USB-C charging port is located on the top of the device.
Tyler Hayes

Even at 9, my daughter loved using the tokens to switch between different playlists. I put one in to play music she liked and one to play nature sounds like rain, the crackle of a campfire, and the crashing of ocean waves.

While I don’t think the Spotify operation is great here, it has the advantage of providing a huge library of songs to choose from. Here’s a tip for parents: almost all songs from shows and movies are available. Programming a playlist of songs from kids’ favorite shows can help make screen-free reading easier.

If you have ripped MP3s (or OGG audio files), you can load them directly to the Jooki player. There is 5GB of internal storage for adding audio content. The Jooki mobile app is still used to associate internal files with a token.

In the Jooki app, parents can choose to limit the speaker volume, which is a good idea to protect the ears and make repeating music less annoying for everyone in the house.

It’s nice that the speaker uses a USB-C port to charge. USB-C uses a non-directional plug, so it’s easier for kids to plug in than older standards like MicroUSB. Be aware that there’s no headphone jack on the speaker, but the company’s website says a USB-C adapter for connecting wired headphones will be available in the future.

Should you buy a Jooki player?

Joeki player
The entry level Jooki Player package comes with two tokens. Others can be purchased separately.
Tyler Hayes

All in all, the speaker and its token system are a great way to give young children a way to play music (mostly) independently. If it connected to Spotify more seamlessly and the software was more advanced, the Jooki player could be compelling enough for a narrow age window of kids and their parents. In the product’s current state, however, I don’t think the $112.99 starting price is a great value.

A kids’ edition of Amazon’s Echo Dot (without a screen) typically costs less than $50. There is a version of Lenovo’s smart clock that can play music and only display the time. Additionally, there are also kid-specific devices like Yoto Player and Yoto Mini that are more intuitive and have easier access to a variety of content. The Jooki Player could be a really solid product, but I think it needs to start by rethinking how its software works.

Buy from Jooki starting at $112.99.

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