Tech for your connected self

Fitbit Ace review

Fitbit's first fitness tracker for kids is a solid addition to the family

The Fitbit Ace is a fitness tracker for kids. Well, kids aged eight and above. All other Fitbits are currently designed for ages 13 and upwards. The company has ventured into the world of wearables for children after its own research discovered that 85% of parents they spoke to were interested in getting a tracker for their kids.

That's there where the Ace comes into a play. A fitness tracker that looks exactly like the one grown ups wear, but with more basic features (step counting, sleep monitoring) and a bigger emphasis on collecting badges and taking part in challenges as incentives to stay active and healthy.

The Ace is priced at $99.95, putting it in direct competition with the Garmin Vívofit Jr.2, which is aimed at children aged four and above. That also means it's not too far off the price of a Fitbit made for adults like the Alta.

So has Fitbit managed to make a fitness tracker that kids will love? I enlisted my eight-year old niece to put it to the test. Read on to find out if the Ace was a hit or a miss.

Fitbit Ace: Design and comfort

Ace review

When I first saw the Ace I felt like it was a bit of a cop out. Essentially it looked like Fitbit decided to use whatever Alta stock they had left over, throw on a smaller, adjustable strap and turn it into a kids wearable. What I later realised after handing it over to my niece was that there was a bit more to it than that. She has always told me that she wants a Fitbit just like mine, so being able to wear something that looked a lot like my Alta HR or had similar features to my Versa was actually exactly what she wanted.

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There's no snazzy, outrageous designs here, just your choice of purple or blue silicon bands that hold the core of the Ace in place. It's a one size band (125mm-161mm in circumference) and according to my niece was easy to put on (but hard to take off), comfortable to wear and crucially didn't cause any of the skin irritations that we know Fitbit bands have had a problem with in the past.

One thing she did complain about though was the fact she couldn't go swimming with it. The Ace is sweat, shower and rain proof, but Fitbit, if you're planning on making an Ace 2 Kalina wants to go swimming with it, just to let you know.

The OLED screen is identical to the one on the Alta and Alta HR, but with one big difference; there's no screen swiping to be done here. It's all in the taps. It's taps to wake up the screen and to skip through the data screens. There's no physical button as an alternative way to interact with the Ace, although maybe it might have been a nice inclusion on this occasion. Based on my niece's experience, getting that tapping right was tricky and frustrating at times.

Fitbit Ace: Getting set up

Ace review

This might be a fitness tracker for kids, but to get things up and running it definitely needs some adult assistance because it's not the most straightforward. If you already own and use a Fitbit wearable, then you'll need to head to the Fitbit app on your phone, tap the icon in the top right hand corner to enter the Account page and from there you will be able to proceed setting up an Ace for Kids account. You need to set up a Family account before you can create a child account and also assign a Guardian for the accounts. The Guardian is able to manage and create child accounts.

Ace review

To create that child account you'll be prompted to use the password assigned to your Fitbit account to proceed with the setup. The same concept is used to switch between adult and child profiles as well once you're all set up. Before proceeding, Fitbit does a pretty good job of talking about privacy. This will no doubt be an area of concern for most parents and Fitbit ensures that it explains exactly what happens with this data.

When we spoke to Fitbit about this, it told us that the Ace is 100% compliant with all child privacy laws including the Children's Online Privacy Act (COPPA). In the privacy information rundown, you'll see that activity data and profile info will only be visible to other members of the family account and any friends that have been approved by the Guardian of the family account. Fitbit also includes links to its Children's Privacy Policy if you still want the full lowdown of what it does with that data.

Ace review

From there, you'll be asked to enter data including height, birthday, first name and a username that doesn't hint at your child's name. You'll then be given a choice to pair the Ace tracker to your phone or the child's phone. If you choose to pair with your child's phone they will have the additional feature of being able to view call notifications on the Ace. In the case of my niece, she does not own a smartphone, so if she wanted to look at her data, she had to ask me to have a look on my phone and in fairness, it wasn't really a problem.

Fitbit Ace: Fitness tracking features

Ace review

As mentioned, the Ace aims to strip back the fitness tracking experience, but not so much that the user doesn't get to tap into the core aspects of using a Fitbit. Packed inside the wearable is a 3-axis accelerometer to track motion and a vibration motor to support the same kind of reminder and silent alarm support you get on other Fitbits. There's no heart rate monitor on board, but then that's not all that surprising. The Ace has enough memory to save seven days of motion data and 30 days worth of daily totals. So if you do forget to sync daily, you have a decent buffer.

The Ace counts steps and active minutes, which Fitbit says constitutes 10 minutes of continuous moderate-to-intense activity. It'll also track data related to hourly activity, which looks at hours where the user has managed to complete at least 250 steps. From the app you can set up custom step and active minute goals too.

This kids tracker will also automatically log sleep with similar data served up inside of the Fitbit app showing sleep duration, sleep breakdown and sleep quality. Adults can set up sleep schedules, adjust sleep goals and set reminders to go to sleep. You don't however have the more advanced trends and insights that you get on other Fitbits. Data appeared reliable, particularly for sleep (see screenshots below). What a life it is to regularly get 8+ hours of sleep a night.

Ace review

As far as giving kids a motivational push to stay on the move is concerned, Fitbit lets you set up step challenges against other family account members and approved friends, which unsurprisingly proved popular. When a goal has been hit, a small animation appears on the screen to signify the achievement and there's also those Fitbit badges that can be earned but only viewed inside the app.

For my niece, it was all about the steps. From day one and with the head start of getting up way earlier than me, she was running around the table to get her step count up. She was also eager to show me how many steps she had done at the end of the day. It can feel a little basic on the motivational side of things, but actually keeping things pretty simple appeared to have the desired effect. Maybe it would be nice to see a bit more of a take on what Garmin has done with its kids' fitness tracker, like the chores and rewards system.

Overall, the Ace had the desired impact of getting my niece away from her tablet watching YouTube videos and running around racking up those activity minutes.

Fitbit Ace: The app

Ace review

The app where you can view all of the Ace's data is the same Fitbit app that is used with Fitbit's other wearables. The difference being that once a child account is set up, you'll now get a Parent View (the normal Fitbit UI) and a Child View and only the adult can switch between the two views.

From the parent view you can view all of the activity data as well as see average step counts. You can also view the badges they've earned and trophies they've won in step challenges, plus you can send personal messages (as well as cheers and taunts) that are viewable in the Kid View.

The Kid View is by no means limited. The layout is largely the same with access to the dashboard, the same Fitbit Challenges available to adult Fitbit users and a friends section to see how your seven-day step scores compare to others. From the accounts page you can adjust exercise, activity and sleep goals. You can take control of push notifications and information that's shared, whether that's personal info or stats.

Fitbit Ace
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For an eight-year old, a lot of this information wasn't all that relevant or that important, but I can appreciate that slightly older kids might have more use to explore a lot of what Fitbit has included in this view. It has the feel of the full fat Fitbit app and, much as with the look of the hardware, it's clear Fitbit wanted to mirror the experience as much as it felt was necessary.

Fitbit Ace: Battery life

The Fitbit Ace is capable of delivering up to five days battery life depending on usage, which is a couple of days short of what an Alta or Alta HR serves up. Based on my niece's experience, 5-6 days is about what she got before we had to go hunting out that proprietary charging cable. It takes around two hours to get from 0-100%, so it's not the speediest of chargers, but that's pretty much in line with how long it takes to power up an Alta or a Charge 2.

Ace review


Fitbit Ace
By Fitbit
As a first attempt at a making a fitness tracker for kids, the Fitbit Ace does a solid job. The decision to design a wearable for an age group slightly older than we anticipated appears to have paid off as far trying to make the experience feel as close as possible to what you get with a Fitbit for grown ups. Getting set up and reviewing data certainly needs a helping hand, but the stripped back data and a familiar design are big positives. There's definitely room to improve how Fitbit can keep kids moving, but the biggest compliment I can give it is that my niece doesn't want to take her 'proper Fitbit' off.

Hit
  • Comfortable design
  • Clock can be portrait and landscape
  • Kid-friendly Fitbit app
Miss
  • Not waterproof
  • Sometimes hard to turn on
  • Tricky to take off


1 comment

  • Extraneus says:

    I for one am grateful for not having to endure yet another spiderman- or elsa-themed children's gadget...! 

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