Fitbit Ace LTE hands-on: Wearable gaming to make exercise fun (but not too fun)

Google has introduced its latest wearable for kids, the Fitbit Ace LTE, merging a gaming system with an activity tracker. This “first-of-its-kind connected smartwatch” is designed to transform exercise into play, encouraging kids to lead more active and independent lives. Think of it as a simplified Nintendo Switch turned into an activity tracker for children aged 7 and up, featuring safety and connectivity options.

The core idea is to motivate kids to stay active in exchange for progress in onboard games. Additionally, parents and trusted contacts can stay connected with the wearer through the new Fitbit Ace app on iOS or Android, enabling them to set playtime, monitor activity progress, and send calls or messages. Kids can respond using the watch’s onscreen keyboard, microphone, or choose emojis.

Hardware: A Simplified Pixel Watch 2

The Fitbit Ace LTE features a simplified version of the Pixel Watch 2 hardware, making it responsive. It uses Gorilla Glass 3 for durability and shares 5 ATM water resistance with its adult counterpart. Google includes a protective case with each Ace LTE, ensuring it’s lightweight.

Visually, the Ace LTE has a “squircle” (square with rounded corners) OLED display with two large buttons on the right side, differing from the circular face of the Pixel Watch 2. The Ace LTE also comes with a narrower band, each embedded with technology that recognizes when a new strap is attached, unlocking unique content.

These interchangeable straps, called “Cartridges,” enhance the gaming experience. Each new strap triggers an animation displaying the bonus content, including new backgrounds and items for the Tamagotchi-like pet called “eejie.” The straps also introduce cartoony strips, “Noodles,” which track the wearer’s progress toward daily goals.

Gaming System for Activity Motivation

The most intriguing aspect of the Fitbit Ace LTE is its wearable gaming system. The home screen shows the time, a Noodle activity ring, and points collected. A “playlist” on the left side offers daily quests similar to iOS or Android games, where completing targets within a set timeframe earns rewards.

These rewards are used to enhance the digital pet, “eejie,” which thrives on daily activity. The more kids move, the healthier and happier their eejie becomes. Kids can earn arcade tickets for new outfits or furniture for their eejie, making the device engaging and rewarding.

Social Interaction and Gaming

When multiple Ace LTE wearers meet, their eejies can visit each other, leaving emoji messages. The social component adds to the fun, provided enough friends have the device. The Fitbit Ace LTE also hosts a library of games, including a fishing simulator, a Mario Kart-like racer, and a room escape game, each encouraging physical activity.

Encouraging Healthy Gaming Habits

Google emphasizes the importance of balanced gaming and physical activity. The Ace LTE encourages movement by integrating it into game progress. For instance, in the fishing game Smokey Lake, players must walk a few hundred steps to “buy bait.” This “interval-based gaming” ensures that kids engage in 60 to 90 minutes of daily activity, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

Privacy and Safety

Google has designed the Ace LTE with privacy in mind, ensuring only parents see a child’s location or activity data, which is deleted after 24 hours and 35 days respectively. The device has no third-party apps or ads.

While the primary focus is on activity, future updates might include sleep and health tracking. However, the current version lacks sleep or stress tracking capabilities.

Availability and Pricing

The Fitbit Ace LTE is available for pre-order at $230 on the Google Store or Amazon, with delivery starting June 5. An additional $10 monthly subscription for the Ace Pass plan includes LTE service (via Google Fi), access to Fitbit Arcade, and regular content updates. An annual subscription offers a collectible Ace Band and is discounted by 50% until August 31, making it approximately $5 a month.

Update, May 29, 3:15 PM ET: Clarified that the Fitbit Ace LTE’s hardware is a simplified version of the Pixel Watch 2 and does not support sleep or stress tracking.

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