I Never Thought I’d Get My Kid a Smartwatch, but the Google FitBit Ace LTE Provides Surprising Peace of Mind

Let’s talk about the Eejie in the room

google fitbit ace lte, reviewed
  • Value: 16/20
  • Ease of Use: 18/20
  • Functionality: 17/20
  • Aesthetics: 18/20
  • Effectiveness in Getting Kids Off the Couch: 19/20

TOTAL: 88/100

As parents, we’re constantly reckoning with technology: Screens are an omnipresent part of our lives—we’re always connected—and we want our kids to be prepared for the modern world, while also limiting their exposure to it. At what age should a kid have a cell phone? When should they join social media, if ever?

Even a smartwatch can be polarizing. When I spoke to half a dozen parents for this story, they were all intrigued by Google’s latest venture, the Fitbit Ace LTE, a smartwatch and activity tracker for kids. It had a Tamagotchi-like character to care for, and games that could get kids off the couch, as well as a location tracker and way to make emergency calls (to a maximum of 20 numbers, all pre-approved and set up by the parent on the account). All those bells and whistles are appealing to kids and adults—what a time to be alive!—and yet, there was pause.

“Are we trading TV and tablet battles for another form of screen time?” one parent asked me.

“It sounds cool, but how fast would my kid break it—or lose it?” another said.

“Could it possibly be worth the price?” (At a cost of $230, plus a monthly Ace Pass data plan, which costs $10/month.)

And, across the board: “Do kids even need one?”

To that last question, the answer is no—no one really needs a smartwatch, just like you don’t need a red light therapy mask or a new Stanley tumbler. But as PureWow editors vetted products for the upcoming Happy School Day Awards, we realized this buzzy watch deserved a closer look. And we’re glad we did. Here’s the good, bad and everything in between—from the perspective of a parent and kid.

testing the google fitbit ace lte watch outdoors
candace davison

How the Google Fitbit Ace LTE Works

Setup is easy: As a parent, you’ll need to download the Fitbit Ace app. From there, when you turn on the watch, the app will detect it, and you can pair the two. The app guides you through each step, from choosing a monthly or annual Ace Pass subscription plan to connecting to wifi (note that this wifi is only for texting, calls and games—there is no actual internet use on the watch). The Ace Pass is crucial though, because that’s what provides the 4G LTE connectivity (you can’t use your cell phone carrier’s data plan for this), access to Fitbit Arcade and Bit Valley (aka the games and Tamagotchi-like components) and calling, messaging and location-sharing features. (At $10 per month, the Ace Pass isn’t cheap, though now through August 31, you can buy an annual subscription for half the price—$60 instead of $120.)

What I Like as a Parent

what the google fitbit ace app looks like for parents, from making calls to checking a child's movement and location

1. The Cell Phone-Free Connection

I was content to have my daughter use a standard wristwatch, but what I really liked about testing the Fitbit Ace were its messaging and location-sharing abilities. Through the app, parents can connect the watch to up to 20 phone numbers of people they trust, and kids can send text messages (via a tiny keyboard that pops up on the screen) or make calls as needed. With a flurry of after-school activities and shuttling from one place to the next, this feature can come in handy.

2. The Game Limitations

Even handier, however, is the “School Time” feature, which pauses the games and other special features—so it’s essentially a plain ol’ watch, with the ability to make emergency calls/texts if needed—during classroom hours (or whatever timeframe makes sense for your family). Maybe it’s the result of living in a post-Columbine, Amber Alert world, but being able to make emergency calls (without having a cell phone) to a limited number of people I pre-approve, in addition to being able to pop into the app to see my daughter’s location, gives me peace of mind. You hope you never need it, but you’re glad it’s there.

While the games within the app—which range from pretend fishing to racing space chickens in bathtubs (really)—are designed to get kids moving (waving their arms to cast a reel, for example, or steer the tub), you have to hit certain movement or step goals to unlock them in the first place. And even then, it’s just five to ten minutes of play at a time.

3. The Privacy Features

There are no third-party apps or ads allowed on the watch, and only a parent can see the real-time location. That data, according to Google, is deleted after 24 hours as well.

a screenshot of what location tracking looks like on the fitbit ace app

4. The Ability to Track My Child

Checking to make sure your kid made it from school to piano practice (or wherever they're headed) is incredibly straightforward. When you pull up the Fitbit Ace app, you'll immediately see a dashboard for your child's watch that allows you to click one button to call them, send a text, see their movement for the day, adjust their pre-approved contacts or locate the watch (and, assuming they're wearing it, them).

If you click "locate device," you'll immediately see a map that pinpoints the watch's location, down to the street address. You can also click a "directions" button to pull up Google Maps and provide turn-by-turn navigation to get there.

What My Kid Likes

eejie on the google fitbit ace lte

1. The Eejie

The what? An “Eejie” (EE-gee) is a character, much like a Sim or Tamagotchi or Gigapet, your kid designs and customizes. The more the watch-wearer moves, the happier the Eejie gets. And, as they play games and hit goals, they’ll earn tickets they can use to buy clothes, accessories and furniture to decorate the Eejie’s world (known as Bit Valley). My daughter loved swapping out her Eejie’s hairstyles and outfits; I loved that there are no in-app purchases. You can only buy things using tickets. 

2. How Comfortable It Is to Wear

While there are multiple watch bands you can buy to customize your look, it really comes down to two styles: a Velcro closure and a polyurethane style with a hook and loop closure. Both are one size fits all and are easily adjustable, making them easy for kids as young as five to put on themselves (though the watch is recommended for kids 7 and up). At 1.6 by 1.8 inches, the watch face is large enough to be easy to read but not too bulky for little wrists.

google fitbit review cat whip
candace davison

3. The Activity Tracker, aka Noodle

As your kid wears the watch, their activity is tracked via a “noodle” or band that gradually encircles the home screen. The design varies, depending on which watch you have, and on my daughter’s, it was a blue cat with soft serve on its head named Cat Whip. The more she moved throughout the day, the longer Cat Whip got. Once she hit her movement goal for the day, the cat hurls ice cream into a cone and turns rainbow colors—and my daughter couldn’t. Shriek. Louder. The first time it happened. Turning Cat Whip rainbow became her obsession, prompting walks to the library, park and playground that she’d typically request we drive to instead. Win.

What My Kid Doesn't Like

Daily Quests Move Goal

1. The Eejie

My daughter soon developed a love-hate relationship with her Eejie. Namely because, after going a few days without wearing her watch, she returned to a skeleton of an Eejie walking around. Suddenly, I had flashbacks of the Tamagotchi I neglected as a kid. “How do I make it go back?!” my daughter fretted. (Fear not: It comes back to life once you get moving again.) Suddenly, the pressure of keeping a digital being alive made her want to ditch the watch completely. This is how I know we’re not ready for a kitten, BTW.

What I Don’t Like

1. The Eejie

Honestly, the Eejie component feels like an unnecessary addition. It’s fun, sure, but my daughter and her friends were happiest simply watching the activity tracker grow as they ran around—and sending me emoji-laden texts to decipher. Caring for the Eejie and its home in Bit Valley soon felt more like a chore than part of the fun; a way to keep you engaged in the watch, when you really didn’t need to be. You could still enjoy the games without the Eejie, and I found myself wanting to disable it.

One Word of Caution on The Durability

As part of testing, the FitBit Ace LTE was dropped from heights of three and four feet on carpet, hardwood floors and concrete. The screen—which is made of scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3—was banged and rubbed against a wood table and metal railing, and subjected to full-time use by an actual kid in classrooms and on playgrounds for three weeks.

It’s also handled handwashing and splashing at a pool without issues—reassuring, considering it’s been dubbed water resistant up to 50 meters.

Overall, I found its durability impressive—it wrapped testing with a minor scuff on the screen—but on a race out the door one morning after testing wrapped, we dropped the watch on a concrete driveway, cracking the screen. The watch didn't have its included protective bumper on it at the time, which I highly recommend using. (In my experience, cracks only seem to happen when a watch or device falls right on its edge. Had the bumper been on, I doubt this would have happened. It should also be noted that my family is rough on technology. We are the people who need extended warranties, insurance and the like.)

On that note, damage from "drops and tumbles" aren't covered under the warranty, but you can purchase Preferred Care through the brand for two years of protection, providing additional peace of mind.

the google fitbit ace lte game in action

The Bottom Line:  

The Google FitBit Ace LTE is a fun, effective way to get kids moving, though I’d welcome a simplified version that helps kids engage with the real world more—and less with their Eejie. That said, it’s surprisingly durable (provided you outfit it with the bumper, as intended) and offers great peace of mind for parents who want to be able to reach their kids—without giving them a phone.

How I Tested the Google Fitbit Ace LTE

After interviewing six parents on their concerns and considerations regarding smartwatches for kids, I focused on evaluating the watch based on its ease of setup and use, wearability (in terms of its weight, adjustability and overall comfort); effectiveness both as a watch, activity tracker, communications tool and way to encourage movement/play; aesthetics and durability.

I had my daughter wear it for three weeks, taking it to school, dance practices and playdates. Separately, I conducted drop and scratch tests to further test its durability, as well as submerged it in water. 

candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, cookbook author

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...