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Fitbit Ace LTE Kids Activity Tracker Announced: Initial Thoughts

Fitbit Ace LTE Overview.

Google/Fitbit has just announced the new Fitbit Ace LTE kids activity tracker. This new model takes their existing inexpensive $79 Fitbit Ace 3 activity tracker, up to a full-blown smartwatch-level device, based entirely on the Google Pixel Watch 2. Aside from the name, this thing is entirely different – both far more advanced and also far more capable. But of course, with increased demands comes decreased battery life – dropping down to less than a day from what was 8 days. Still, how and what Google/Fitbit is aiming for here is definitely interesting, and worth touching on. As you’ll see, the goal isn’t screen time – but actually the opposite.

Of course, Fitbit isn’t the only player in the market. At the name-brand level, they’ve got Garmin with their Garmin Bounce LTE tracker, and then arguably more importantly, they’ve got a gazillion other no-name kids’ activity trackers out there. These are often from telecom companies, or generic brands focused more on being a kid location tracker, than an activity tracker. Still, they are the primary competition of both companies.

In my case, I do have a unit for testing, but it’s waiting for me in America when I get there next week. Unfortunately, the Fitbit Ace LTE is only available in the US, and won’t initially activate in Europe (hence, my review-starting issue). Thus, my full in-depth review will come down the road, once it’s both (my) kids-tested and LTE-tested. As a parent of three young daughters who has subjected them to testing other kid activity trackers for reviews, I’m interested in their feedback.

Until then, I had an interesting chat with the folks behind it, including lots of geeky technical details I thought were interesting.

Screen First but Not Screen Time:

Fitbit Ace LTE Moovin and Glitterbomb Skate.

Fitbit’s product manager said they wanted this to be the “Tesla of kids smartwatches”, including both the looks but also that it’ll get “new and exciting features over time”. So, let’s dive into that a bit.

As one can see from the imagery, this is no longer a cheap $79 Fitbit revamped for kids. Instead, this new unit costs $229 plus a seemingly steep $10/month (or $120/year) subscription fee. But more than that, it’s also got a comparatively big screen on it, rather than the small LCD found on the previous Fitbit Ace trackers. This screen is actually a Google Pixel 2 screen, as the entire internals are also a Google Pixel 2 watch.

But Google/Fitbit says that the user interface that you or your kid uses is anything but Google’s Wear OS. Instead, it’s a fully custom experience from the ground up, specifically noting that it’s “Not an adult product that’s been locked down for children”, but rather built entirely from scratch for kids.

When the product manager responsible for the Fitbit Ace LTE started explaining the concept, they said it was a device focused on kids and gaming, my stomach turned. After all – isn’t the entire point of an activity tracker to get kids *OFF* screens? But, as they continued through explaining the device, it became clear that the screen was the carrot – and in order to actually use said screen, you got suckered into doing activity.

Daily Quests - Alerts.Daily Quests - Health.Daily Quests - Move Goal.

The Fitbit Ace LTE has essentially the following core features:

– Daily activity tracking with just four metrics: Light Activity, Moderate/Vigorous Activity, Steps, and Floors
– LTE connectivity, including indoor location with Google Maps support
– GPS internally for tracking location in conjunction with LTE
– An ‘arcade’ of fitness-first games that release quarterly with new games
– Targeted at ages 7 to 11 years old, but Fitbit says that can skew higher or younger depending on the child.
– Voice calling (including the ability to pair to headphones)
– Text messaging
– Ability to set up designated family/friends for contacts
– Ability for kids to set up/pair to kid-aged friends within the games (have to be in-person to pair)

When asked about whether it would support music onboard, they chuckled a bit, and said it’s not “currently” a feature, but that they “have an exciting roadmap of things to come” and that it’s an “exciting idea”.

Notably on the above list, they aren’t showing heart rate or calories. This is roughly in line with what other companies have done from a heart rate standpoint, in that kids’ heart rates are a bit crazy compared to adults, and tracking them doesn’t tend to have a ton of value. Instead, movement tends to be more valuable. Likewise, they didn’t want to show calories, as they don’t want kids pigeon-holed down the calorie counting game at this age.

Now, the main driving feature of this watch is the gamification of everything. Fitbit/Google was very clear this is a gaming-forward device, but at the same time, also clear that it was gate-kept by having to do activity to get points. Specifically, they wanted to encourage “interval-based gaming”. To that end, the unit has an arcade with 6 games built-in. The company says each quarter they’ll release new games, which they also said is included in your subscription cost. You can see one game below, Smokey Lake:

Smokey Lake - Start.Smokey Lake - New.Smokey Lake - Preview.

In this game, the child must use physical movements akin to casting a line for fishing. But the concept is similar in other games. In order to get another ‘move’ or unlock another aspect of the game, the child is told to go off and do something. That could be doing 5 minutes of jumping jacks, complete 3,000 steps, and so on. Thus, the maximum time period the child can play otherwise is only 2-3 minutes before they’re told to go do more activity for a while.

They noted they also have meditation games too, so it’s not necessarily all about tiring the kids out. Still, as Google noted, “the only currency in this game is activity and movement”. Also, while we’re at currency, Fitbit/Google stated numerous times that the unit will have “No ads full stop, not now, not ever.”

Likewise, from a privacy standpoint, Fitbit noted that Google isn’t leveraging any data from the device for advertising either. Further, Google purges all location data within 24 hours from their system, as well as all activity tracking data after 35 days from Google’s systems (thus, apparently, historical step tracking isn’t possible beyond that).

In any case, the next kid-focused feature is Eejie , which are simply pronounced “e-gee”, because apparently Google wanted to make the most impossibly Googleable and spellable thing ever. These are roughly akin to the Tamagotchi that you remember from your own childhood. You can ‘purchase’ things for it, via movement and activity. This includes building out rooms, clothes for it, and so on.

Bit Valley - Overview.Bit Valley - Soccer Room.Bit Valley - Friends.

Within this, there’s the ability for kids to have friends digitally in the app, but this can only be done in-person. Meaning, two kids have to physically pair their devices together in-person, with parental approval, in order to become friends. As a parent, I appreciate this.

All of the parent features are tracked in a dedicated app, including the location of the child. Notably, though, there isn’t any sort of geofencing option to automatically get alerts when a child leaves a certain zone. I find this arguably one of the most useful features of the Garmin Bounce LTE tracker that we mostly use, as I get alerts when the kids leave school, arrive at after-school care, get home, etc…

Fitbit Ace App.

Kids can communicate via live calling (via LTE or WiFi), as well as text messages and voice messages. On the parent side, this is exclusively done within the dedicated Fitbit Ace app on iOS and Android. Meaning, kids can’t send or receive text messages to regular phone numbers, only within the app. Parents can add trusted contacts to the app for communications, but those trusted contacts can’t see the location of the child.

When it comes to school time, the watch is locked down to disabling games and notifications, but they can call/message if they need to. Further, activity built-up during school time will be counted forward for accessing the games after school.

Interestingly, when it comes to goals, the device does have an activity goal concept; however, streaks can continue if a child is sick and misses a day. How much and what counts towards a streak is a bit fuzzy at the moment, but Google said they didn’t want to discourage kids for having a broken streak simply because they got sick.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the unit does not “currently” do sleep tracking. I note the “currently” side of things because they said the word and noted that “it is a feature we’re considering offering in the future”. Still, at present, the Fitbit Ace LTE actually rewards you for *not* sleeping with it. Specifically, Fitbit noted they don’t really want kids distracted by the screens, and actually reward kids for putting it on the charger at night (in terms of in-watch rewards). I appreciate this, as this is one area we initially struggled with our kids and the Garmin Bounce tracker, because you can’t set a different night-time lock (different than the school-time lock). Eventually, our kids shifted to just taking it off and charging at night, so as not to have bedtime distractions.

Prices, Specs and More:

Fitbit Ace LTE Hero.Fitbit Ace LTE Back Glass 2.

Let’s just go through a quick-hit list of price stuff, not price stuff, and anything else I couldn’t fit into the above.

– Price is $229, in two colors: Mild & Spicy. Spicy is the brighter one.
– Subscription cost is $9.99/month (or $120/year), inclusive of the LTE cost
– Annual subscribers get a free extra band ($34.99 normally)
– Early adopters get the annual subscription cost for $60 instead of $120, if before August 31st, 2024
– Device is based on the Pixel Watch 2 internally, including WiFi/GPS
– Google Wallet payments coming (NFC payments), but not at launch, in a future software update
– Device will have a “3 year+ support program” on planned software, with updates every 3 months for new games
– Battery life is 16 hours on a single charge
– Charging time 30 minutes for 11 hours of usage (60%), or 100% in 70 minutes
– Specifically designed and tested to go through the washing machine
– LTE only in the US, can use WiFi elsewhere
– WiFi Built-in (802.11 b/g/n WiFi 2.4Ghz)
– Requires Android 11 or iOS 15
– Display is Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Color OLED with 333ppi
– Water resistant to 50m/5ATM
– Built-in Microphone & Speaker
– Includes Accelerometer, Optical HR sensor, Altimeter, Magnetometer, Ambient Light Sensor, and Gyroscope

The bands are interesting in that they unlock additional features within the games, and additional characters. While the bands do cost money, kids can swap bands (even for a few seconds) to unlock those features on their watches. Meaning, if your kid’s friend has a different band, they can briefly connect the bands to each other’s devices, and then they’ll permanently get access to the characters of that particular band. The bands are $34.99.

From an availability standpoint, the units are on pre-order via Amazon and Google Store until June 5th. However, if you live near a physical Google Store, they will have some on-hand from today for immediate purchase.

As noted, I’ll start diving into the testing of this next week when I travel to the US for a whirlwind slate of meetings. After that, I’ll let my kids dive into what they think (as well as whether or not I think the benefits of the activity-driven arcade outweigh any added screen time).

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the full in-depth review!

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  1. Steven

    If they aren’t held hostage by their phones already, they soon will be

  2. youpmelone

    “Charging time is 11hrs in 30 minutes, or 100% in 70 minutes”

    I might need a coffee.

  3. Nathan B

    Is there any indication whether this is US only forever, or whether it will be available elsewhere (UK) in the future?

  4. Aaron

    100% agree on the Garmin Bounce geofence feature being super useful. I rarely want to track my kids but I often want to know when the leave/arrive at school or other places. A lot of popular kids smartwatches like the Ticktalk watch don’t have this feature.

  5. Rob

    So I can use the parent app to setup grandparents / aunts (phone numbers) as contacts and my kid can text/call grandma, but grandma doesn’t need the app (and can’t track the kid’s location)?

    I may dump our Garmin Bounces for this watch if this is true — my one complaint about the Bounce is there’s no way to have a contact who can message the kid without being able to track their every move.

    • Aaron Hagopian

      Unfortunately, looking at the google store listing, I’m reading it as the other family members need both a google account and the app to message / call to or from the watch.

      Call, text, leave messages. 6
      Add up to 20 family and friends. You control who they’re allowed to contact. 9

      6) Calling, messaging, and location sharing are dependent upon network connectivity and other factors and may not be reliable for emergency communications or available in all areas. Ace Pass required. Airplane mode disables calling, messaging and location sharing. Device is not capable of calling emergency services, another Fitbit Ace LTE device, or a phone without the Fitbit Ace app installed. Location sharing is available only for users with a supervised Google Account. To locate your child’s device, it must be powered on, recently active, and connected to the internet.

      9) Parent must set up contacts for users with supervised Google Accounts. Contacts must have a Google Account and the Fitbit Ace app on a compatible phone.

  6. Stephen Smith

    16 hours of life? The worst feature of the Garmin Bounce was its poor battery life. Kids don’t remember to charge daily (in my experience). These things need at least three days of battery IMO. One week would be optimal so you could make it through the school week without another meaningless task.

    • Agree it’s low. That said, if they gamify the ‘put it on the charger while you sleep’ thing properly, as they said they’re doing, it might work.

      But agree, as I sit here after dropping off the kids, their Bounces are sitting on the counter dead, charging last night forgotten.

  7. Jason

    Typo in the second last sentence Ray – “my kids”. Great article as always!

  8. KO

    > Meaning, kids can’t send or receive text messages to regular phone numbers, only within the app.

    This is a bit sad. I am looking at Apple Watch for kids as you can whitelist regular phone numbers for text/calls, which makes it much easier.

    Would also like to have google maps – Apple watch has maps support which is very handy. That would make the watch suitable for older kids who are out and about.

    Music Aka Spotify – Pixel watch supports this so this will likely come. Watch already has headphone support so why not?

    Gaming – looks like a lot of effort has gone into this, it’s not something I want.

    My kids main demand is: be able to text 2-3 friends, who won’t/cant install apps, call, music, maps in case they need to go A to B. This gets very close!

  9. I don’t need to track my kids, but they would like to be able to track their rides/runs, ideally in a kid sized device, rather than a big adult watch.

  10. fiatlux

    I must admit having very mixed feelings about the idea of tracking one’s kids, but my youngest son is now 20, so I guess it is no longer something I’d need to worry about 😉

  11. Michael

    This is great but why not in Europe with e-sim though ? Also Ray do you know how they are planning to enable payments ? Now you need an “adult” Google account, usually 14-16+ in Europe to be able to add a card

    • Generally speaking for wearables, they have different antennas/etc for US vs Europe. For example, with Garmin Bounce, you buy either a US one or a Europe one. Same is true for Apple Watch, Garmin FR945 LTE, etc… too.

      I’ll confirm on payments, but yeah, I’d assume it’s some variant of a tie from the adult Google Wallet ‘lending’ it to the kid.

  12. Louis

    The huge difference for me would be LTE reliability as the Bounce has been less than reliable for me and the people who got the watch (because my daughter got it and wanted to connect with her friends)