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Garmin Vivofit jr 2 review

Garmin's second-gen fitness tracker for kids still keeps things fun

The Garmin Vivofit jr 2 is the company's second generation fitness tracker that's back once again to get kids to keep active. Just like Garmin's trackers for grown-ups (Vivofit 4 or the Vivosport) it covers the basics like counting steps and monitoring sleep. The approach to those features is done a little differently for minds with shorter attention spans.

Garmin aims to gamify the experience and it's done that in a number of ways. Kids can earn virtual coins for real rewards or progress in an app based game by hitting daily activity goals. But it's not just about entertainment. Garmin wants parents to benefit from convincing their little ones to wear a Vivofit jr 2. So you'll have the ability to set reminders to brush those teeth before bed or remember to do those weekly chores.

In a bid to make Garmin's fitness tracker for kids all that more appealing, it's teamed up with Disney to offer Marvel, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Star Wars themed bands. So the hope is some familiar faces will help keep it around those wrists for the long haul.

Read this: Best smartwatch for kids

Priced at $80, the Vivofit jr 2 actually costs more than Garmin's budget option for adults, the Vivofit 4. While that's cheap in serious fitness tracker realms, that's still a decent sized investment for a lot of parents. So the question is, is it worth spending almost $100 on a fitness tracker that may or may not keep your kid away from the iPad and out into the garden for a run around?

To find out, I enlisted my six year-old nephew to put it to the test. Here's how living with the Vivofit jr 2 played out.

Garmin Vivofit jr 2: Design and comfort

garmin vivofit jr 2 review

If Garmin's trackers for adults are about keeping things sporty, the Vivofit jr 2 is all about fun. Size-wise, it's a bit bigger than the Vivofit 4, but there's no way you'll get the two mixed up. This wants to stand out with its colourful silicone bands. As mentioned, you've got your pick of Disney, Marvel or Star Wars looks. My nephew was instantly sold on The Resistance band he got to wear and it wasn't long before he was running around the house doing his best Finn impression.

These bands are available in two styles. The stretchy kind that my nephew tried out, which aims to accommodate wrists up to 147mm for ages 4-7. The other adjustable bands fit wrist sizes of 130-175mm for ages 6+. I was requested to help him put it on most of the time, because that watch-style buckle can be a bit tricky for smaller hands. The band doesn't sit too tightly around the wrist as you can see from the pictures but I had no complaints about how it felt to wear or any issues of irritation. Once it was on, it was there for good.

The bands are interchangeable with optional bands available for a pretty pricey $27.99, so perhaps pick wisely from the start and make sure they definitely want to be stuck with a Captain America band and not a BB-8 one.

garmin vivofit jr 2 review

The band holds in place the fitness tracker module, which sits inside of a polymer casing that houses a pretty decent 11mm x 11mm, 88 x 88 pixel colour display. There's is a backlight and overall has more in common with Garmin's budget trackers as far as screen visibility is concerned. It's good enough, just not the best out there. There's no touchscreen support here, which makes a lot of sense as it would simply be too small a screen to swipe and tap on. Instead there's a big physical button to switch between data screens and when held down reveals additional features like timers, medals and the stopwatch mode.

As is standard with all of Garmin's wearables, this is suitable for the pool. It's been slapped with a 5ATM waterproof rating, which means it can withstand a swim or running in the rain and will live to track another day. What I really like is how securely the module is held in place inside the strap. It's clearly a deliberate move that replacing or switching up bands requires an adult to reduce the risk of losing that important tracking hardware.

Garmin Vivofit jr 2: Fitness tracking

Garmin Vivofit jr 2  review

So what exactly can you do with the Vivofit Jr.2?

Actually, as I found out a decent amount. There's just the solitary accelerometer motion sensor to track movement to count steps and to unlock sleep monitoring. Garmin also includes its useful Move Bar to display when periods of inactivity have built up. A nice touch is the fact that the tracker can store four weeks of data, so if you don't get into the habit of syncing data to the companion app everyday, you do have a decent buffer before you really do need to sync.

Essential reading: Putting three kids smartwatches to the test

On the tracker itself, there are screens dedicated to the time, calendar, step count total, tasks/chores to complete and how many moves you've unlocked in your compatible game. Each version of the tracker offers its own unique step count icons and games. In the case of the Star Wars one, you'll see a stormtrooper alongside your day's steps but you can unlock additional icons depending on fitness tracking progress. Completing daily 60 minute activity goals unlocks moves in the BB-8 adventure: A Star Wars story game (more on that later).

Garmin Vivofit jr 2  review

A secondary menu is where you'll find the pairing option, timer, stopwatch and activate the Toe-to-Toe challenges. This is a timed step challenge that lets users challenge friends or themselves to keep moving.

The challenge idea is a nice idea, but as I found out with my nephew, he needed some assistance to use it and this can be the case with some of the more advanced features that lie within the Vivofit Jr.2. They will need a helping hand.

As far as what my nephew enjoyed or used most, he liked to keep things simple. It was all about steps and he even began challenging friends at school to step races. But he wasn't using the features best designed for this, simply because it was too fiddly for him to set up himself. That is one of the issues with some features that would be considered basic features on Garmin's fitness trackers for adults. For a child, they are still complex or just too much of an effort to use.

Garmin Vivofit jr 2: The app

Garmin Vivofit jr 2  review

There's a lot more to the Vivofit jr 2 both for kids and for parents once you delve into the free companion Vivofit jr. smartphone app (iOS and Android). If you're already a Garmin Connect user, you'll be able to log in using your existing details to make the setup a little easier as well.

It's here where parents can take control of settings like adding multiple profiles, syncing and reviewing data. But there's the opportunity to open up the access to the kids as well. That's through a Kid Mode that gives limited access to once they tap in a passcode to get inside. This will allow them to complete their game adventures and tick off chores.

Once you've paired the device, it's time to set up a profile, which includes selecting an avatar, taking a photo or picking something from your camera roll. The Vivofit jr app is a something of a departure from the look of Garmin's Connect app. It's brighter and far more streamlined. On the main screen is where you'll see a snapshot of activity minutes, rewards, chores and settings. There's also a Leaderboard tab where you can see step counts for all users assigned to the account (including adult step count scores).

Garmin Vivofit jr 2  review

In the Activity section you can view active minutes, steps and hourly activity. Total amount of sleep is also included in a separate screen. In the rewards section, it's here where you can create a physical reward (e.g. bike ride, buy a new game) along with how many virtual coins required to unlock an award. While it's not a new feature to the Vivofit jr range, there's not too many trackers that offer something like this that's simply executed and is actually a really nice, motivational feature to have.

Garmin Vivofit jr 2  review

Garmin Vivofit jr 2  review

There's also Chores where you can assign daily or on a particular day that when completed earn virtual coins. Those coins that can come in handy for getting your hands on those rewards. These chores include things like making sure they're brushing their teeth in the morning and evening, doing homework or feeding a pet. You can also create your own chores and when these are set, create reminders that buzz the device with an alarm, flashing up an icon to nudge the wearer that they still need to complete that chore.

Garmin Vivofit jr 2
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The last thing to talk about is the Adventure mode. This is the themed adventure that you can only progress by completing the daily 60 minute activity goals. For the Star Wars version, you must tackle adventures on the planet Jakku alongside BB-8. As much as my nephew is a huge Star Wars fan he did however quickly lose interest in completing this Star Wars adventure in less than a week. Given he could (try and) grab a phone to play a proper game, I could see why that would be the case.

Garmin Vivofit jr 2: Battery life

garmin vivofit jr 2 review

Something you do not need to worry too much about is battery life. There's no charging cradle or dock to misplace, thanks to the fact this tracker is powered by a standard coin cell battery. That should offer up at least a year's worth of tracking before it needs to be replaced.

That coin cell battery is stored inside of the tracker's plastic body, which is held in place with four screws, which means it'll need an adult to get anywhere near it.


Garmin Vivofit jr 2
By Garmin
The Garmin Vivofit jr 2 may well be a fitness tracker for kids, but it needs a grown up on hand to make the most of its best features. It does the basics well and I did find my nephew got into the idea of racking up those higher step count scores. Whether he will stick to it long term, I'm not so sure – just like any other kid, he can quickly lose interest in things. Its real charm is in the unique features like creating chores and the rewards system – these features need adult involvement to make sure they're put to good use, but they can be really rewarding. Until Fitbit decides to join the fitness tracker for kids game, Garmin's Vivofit jr 2 is your best option. It's not perfect and it might be a little pricey for some, but it's as close to the complete package as you can get right now.

Hit
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Nice Disney-themed designs
  • Chores and rewards system
Miss
  • Quickly lost interest in adventure game
  • Some features need an adult to set up
  • Not the brightest display


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