What does Fitbit have in common with the iPad? Simple, it has achieved that lofty position of becoming genericised. Not sure what genericised means? Then maybe you need to be heading back to school.
Because step into the playground and trademarks don't matter: all tablets are iPads, all smart speakers are Alexa and all fitness bands are Fitbit. The Ace is a bona fide Fitbit for kids.
Do we really need a fitness tracker for kids?
- Obesity rates are rising
- 60 minutes activity a day is recommended
The cynic might say that this is Fitbit "trying to catch them young". You'll pardon the seditious turn of phrase, but you know what we mean. While marketing products to children can be controversial, Fitbit at least has a plan.
Obesity rates in children are rising. In 2015/16 in the UK, 1-in-3 Year 6 children was recorded as overweight.
Take your pick for the reasons for this: a diet of processed food from freezer to sofa; the rise of never-ending TV; the lure of phones, iPads (Apple or not), and games consoles; the decline of physical education in schools; parental fears of everything outside. Everything gets the blame, fairly or not.
The government's recommendation is that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day and who likes to motivate people to be more active? Now we're back on script for the Fitbit Ace.
Fitbit Ace is basically a mini Fitbit Alta
- Two colours purple or blue
- Looks like a mini Alta
You can see what Fitbit's plan is: to encourage children to hit that 60 minute target and make sure they are active, rather than settling into a sedentary lifestyle in those early years.
The Fitbit Ace is essentially a mini Fitbit Alta, the company's fitness band that's a little more stylish than the entry-level Flex. That sees rubber strap meeting the central stainless steel unit with a small display on the top and a charging point on the rear.
It operates through touch on the OLED display, there are no buttons or controls to worry about - it's designed to be as simple as possible.
It's water resistant too, so it will survive the inevitable soaking in the rain or when washing hands, but it isn't designed for swimming, something to bear in mind. If those 60 minutes are spent busting out laps at the local pool, then the Ace isn't for you.
The battery life is stated at 5 days and having used various Fitbit bands in the past, we suspect this will hold true. In the brief time that we've spent with a pre-production Ace so far, we've not had the chance to test it.
The Fitbit Ace comes in two colours, blue or purple. Both are bright and we like the approach that Fitbit is taking. Rather than designing something that's childish, it's designed to be like the Fitbits that they will have seen on adults. While it might not have the immediate appeal of the rival Garmin Vivofit Jr 2 with character designs, there's less chance of the owner going off it because they no longer like that character.
Importantly the Fitbit Ace comes in a small size, so it's more likely to fit a child's wrist, aiming for ages 8+ years.
Fitbit Ace features and functions
- Sleep tracking
- Step tracking
- Activity tracking
The functions of the Fitbit Ace reflect those of Fitbit's other fitness trackers. The core hardware is an accelerometer, which detects motion. It's this that can track steps and activity, but there's no heart rate sensor. The accelerometer also detects sleep, by recognising movement associated with different sleep phases.
Sleep is hugely important in a child's development, being well rested is essential for school, as well as being important for general health, as it is for all people. The sleep tracking on the Ace will give you a better idea of how long you (or your child) has been asleep, bearing in mind that 10 hours is recommended for the ages that the Ace is aimed at, according to the Millpond Sleep Clinic.
Whether your child will be happy to sleep wearing a band and whether you're comfortable with that is a different matter.
On the activity front, setting goals is a key part in motivating kids and something that Ace will let you do. There are rewards and badges for hitting goals, although we've not yet had the chance to fully explore how these are implemented.
We also don't know at the time of writing just how accurate the tracking will be, but we'll be sure to bring you a full Fitbit Ace review closer to the device launch later in Q2 2018.
It's a family affair
- Parent and child apps
- Track progress
Children learn a lot from their family environment, so it makes perfect sense that Ace will help you become a Fitbit family. Buying a Fitbit to encourage a child to be more active isn't going to motivate them if you're still sitting on your behind eating pizza and playing Xbox. It's very much a family affair.
Parents will be able to keep track of how active kids have been, but there will also be the ability to set challenges around the family using the Fitbit app. There will be a parent's view and a kid's view, so those older kids with a smartphone can see information that's appropriate for them.
We've not yet seen all sides of the new software setup (and we'll update this when we do), but Fitbit has confirmed that you'll only be able to setup a family with the Ace, as it's the only way children under 13 can have their own account.
Importantly, Fitbit tells us that the information that kids get to see is appropriate for them - there's no talk of body fat or calories, it's all about activity and how active they have been, rather than focusing on the negative message of dieting, weight loss or obesity.
Having asked children in the target range, we can see that there is a desire for this type of thing. Fitness trackers - and Fitbit in particular - are a common sight in kid's sports clubs and not uncommon in the playground, as these accessories move from adults to their children.
Will they solve the obesity problem in children? With the highest levels of obesity being prevalent in more deprived areas, we're guessing that Fitbit might struggle to sell a £79.99 fitness tracker to those who might benefit the most from a more active lifestyle.
It would have been a little more poetic if Fitbit Ace was priced at the same level as a AAA console game, because it does feel a little expensive as it is.
The Fitbit Ace is available for pre-order now priced at £79.99. We will bring you a full review of the Fitbit Ace as soon as we can.