PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
FITBIT ACE REVIEW: HANDS-ON
Fitbit has released an activity tracker specifically for kids (the Fitbit Ace), with special Family account features that bring children right into the Fitbit motivation game.
Until now children under 13 were not allowed to have personal Fitbit accounts for – as far as we can ascertain – federal privacy reasons. Now the minimum Fitbit age is 8 years old.
It’s not quite the total freedom many have been requesting for younger members of the family, but now parents can more easily (and legally) add their offspring. In the past parents were forced to set up accounts using false birth dates – not an ideal situation, but one commonly flouted.
Fitbit wants to tackle the rise in childhood obesity, caused as much by inactivity as poor diet. With kids spending too much time in front of screens (read our feature How Much Screen Time is Healthy) two out of three under 16s are largely inactive every day. Technology is to blame for much of this, so it’s great that tech is now helping kids get more active,
Fitbit’s goal is for kids to rack up at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, which matches recommendations by the World Health Organization for children aged 7-17. With the Ace and the Fitbitapp parents can set customizable daily step and active-minute goals.
FITBIT ACE PRICE AND RELEASE DATE
The Fitbit Ace is available for pre-order from March 13, 2018, and will ship in “late May”.
It costs £79.99 (US$99.95; €99.95).
It’s £20 or $30 cheaper than the Fitbit Alta (on which it is based; see below) but still £10 or $40 more than the Fitbit Flex 2. Read our Fitbit Alta review and Fitbit Flex 2 review.
Ace will be available in stores worldwide beginning April 2018, including Argos in the UK, and in North American retailers such as Amazon.com, Best Buy, Kohl’s, and Target.
DESIGN NOT CHILDISH
The Fitbit Ace is really just an Alta with some of the health metrics removed (for sensible reasons) and a smaller, more secure strap for little wrists.
The Ace is available in two almost gender-free colours: Electric Blue and Power Purple. It’s not taken the route of adding Disney characters or superheroes, which many others (for example Garmin) push.
It’s a slim design that still allows for a clock face and stats displayed on the wrist – you can choose the on-screen orientation in either vertical or horizontal mode. The cheaper Flex 2 (£69/$59.95/€79.95) is slimmer still but has a much more limited display and no clock.
You tap the Ace’s bright mono OLED screen to scroll through the available fitness stats (see below).
We have found that the Alta and Flex’s pop-in clasp is not as robust as a watch-like buckle, so are glad that for the Ace Fitbit went with the Alta HR-like adjustable buckle wristband than the less-secure pop-in Alta design.
The Ace is compatible with the same accessories available to the Fitbit Alta and Alta HR.
FITBIT ACE’S BEST FEATURES
The Ace measures Steps, Distance and Active Time, plus basic Sleep monitoring.
Fitbit has removed the calorie counting that you get with adult trackers. Children accounts also won’t sync with the Fitbit Aria 2 scales.
While childhood obesity is an obviously significant health risk, we think Fitbit is right to remove such metrics from the Ace as parents shouldn’t want their children obsessing over their weight in light of growing eating disorders that can wreck kids’ lives.
That doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t ensure their kids get proper dietary advice – just that kids could allow calorie and weight data to cause harmful anxiety.
Fitbit believes active kids should keep to a healthy weight but isn’t interested in weight-loss being a primary goal that the kids are trying to achieve – it will be a by-product.
There are Reminders To Move, which prompt the user to get moving if he or she hasn’t shifted from their chair for 250 steps in each hour. This could be frustrating for Fitbit wearers stuck in the classroom: “Please, Miss. Can I get up and walk around a bit to hit my hourly goal?”. But it will be a useful nudge during prolonged sessions of screen time.
Fitbit Ace automatically recognizes and records exercises, so you can keep track of workouts without having to push a button. Kids are rewarded with celebratory messages and fun, collectable badges.
As with the Alta, the Ace can give notifications for text messages and phone calls – handy to reach kids when they’re away from their phones (if that ever happens).
There’s no Altimeter to measure Floors Climbed (upgrade to at least the Charge 2 for this) and no heart-rate monitor (look for the Alta HR as the first to add this in the range).
CHALLENGES AND THE FITBIT APP
Fitbit says it wants to make fitness fun, but there are no childish games added – just the usual Fitbit Challenges and Adventures, which family members can compete against each other in.
Kids can take part in daily and weekend Challenges against family members. The new Family Faceoff (coming soon) is a fun, five-day step challenge that allows members in a family account to compete against each other and win a virtual trophy.
A feature missing at launch is the ability for kids to compete against friends – and an obvious sales trick for boosting Ace sales. Fitbit says this is “coming soon”.
Privacy: the new Fitbit family account is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and other privacy laws, letting parents manage who their children connect with and what information they see in the Fitbit app.
The crown jewel of Fitbit is less the tracker itself than the ecosystem built around the excellent Fitbit mobile app that shows off all your stats in charts and graphs, and competition standings, and offers the chance to add individuals and groups in challenges and shared adventures. Ace automatically syncs to iOS & Android devices.
Fitbit has created two “Views” – one for parents and another for the child. Just like adults, kids can win badges and trophies as they hit their activity goals. These family views are just for Ace. Children under the age of 13 will be able to sign-up and use these settings and views with this tracker only.
Parents will be able to control who their children connect with when this feature becomes available.
Kids and sleep are a tricky mix. Children start out stopping parents from getting much sleep, but later force mum and dad to pull them out of bed in the morning.
The Fitbit Ace will measure the hours and basic quality of sleep, which will be interesting for parents at least. More sophisticated sleep tracking requires a heart-rate monitor – so you’d need at least the Fitbit Alta HR to get insight into Light, Deep and REM sleep stages.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night for kids. It doesn’t mention how long parents should get!
IS THE ACE WATERPROOF?
The Ace is somewhat “water resistant” but not waterproof.
Having a kids’ tracker not be waterproof might be a risk, as children are more likely to get their tracker wet or jump in the bath or swimming pool without first removing it.
In our tests Fitbits can stand more contact with water than the company recommends (Fitbit says the Ace is sweat, rain and splash proof) so it should survive a dunking now and again, but it shouldn’t be worn when swimming and bathing, or dropped in the basin or toilet.
If you want a Fitbit that tracks basic swimming stats (duration, distance and lengths) you’ll need either the Flex 2 or one of the Fitbit smartwatches (Versa or Ionic) that are more waterproof (up to 50m).
As with the Alta on which it is based, the Fitbit Ace boasts a decent five-day battery life.
In my experience, kids will let the tracker run right down and only realise that it’s run out of juice as they’re leaving the house in the morning, so keep an eye on battery levels so you can charge during some downtime.
FITBIT ACE AGE RANGE
8 is the new minimum age to use Ace, and all other Fitbit trackers remain 13+. While Fitbit has now relaxed its strict 13 age limit for this tracker, it is surely not blind to the fact that many younger children already have Fitbit accounts set up by parents.
Fitbit already has a small army of children using its adult-oriented products. My daughter has been using a Fitbit since she was 7, starting with a Flex and moving to Charge 2, Alta HR and now Ionic – although I think she’ll like the new Fitbit Versa.
Aged 12 she wouldn’t want to move to the Ace but a new user may start with one.
I see no problem with kids using any of the Fitbit activity trackers, and the Ace is maybe going to appeal to younger children.
It’s not a childish design, and the price being £20 cheaper than the otherwise very similar Fitbit Alta is another plus.
The Small-size wristbands on the other Fitbits will fit most kids’ wrists so it’s not the case that the Ace is the only one that will fit smaller people.
Fitbit Ace: Specs
- Activity tracker compatible with iOS, Android and Windows Phone
- counts steps, distance, active minutes, basic sleep.
SHOULD I BUY FITBIT ACE?
Activity trackers are a great way to improve our motivation to get fitter, and so we’re delighted that Fitbit has relaxed its age limitations and recognised children as a core group that benefit from being more active, and getting motivation to make their lifestyles healthier. The Fitbit Ace is a great starter activity tracking wristband, and the family views and challenges bring the whole family together. Kids needn’t be restricted to choosing just the Ace, however, as the other Fitbits will work (and fit) just as well with smaller people – but the family settings work only with the Ace.