Sunday, June 23, 2024

Fitbit just launched a new smartwatch unlike any it’s made before

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Official product render of the Fitbit Ace LTE.Fitbit

It’s been nearly two years since Fitbit launched its last smartwatch models: the Fitbit Sense 2 and Fitbit Versa 4. Although we’re still waiting on successors to those, Fitbit has just announced another smartwatch joining its wearable lineup — and it’s unlike any watch we’ve seen from Fitbit before.

Contents

  • Fitbit’s new approach to activity tracking
  • Parental controls, specs, and more
  • Fitbit Ace LTE price and availability

The new watch is called the Fitbit Ace LTE, and it marks a couple of “firsts” for Fitbit. Not only is it the first kid-focused smartwatch from Fitbit, but it’s also the first Wear OS Fitbit smartwatch.

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Fitbit’s new approach to activity tracking

A Fitbit Ace LTE with its Noodle activity ring on the home screen Fitbit

Health and activity tracking on the kid-centric Fitbit Ace LTE is quite a bit different from any of Fitbit’s other trackers. Rather than harping on kids to take a certain amount of steps per day or to burn a specific number of calories, the main activity goal is a “Noodle” — an activity ring on the home screen that “records kids’ movement and celebrates with a fun animation when they reach their Move Goal.” As per recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Move Goal is “at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.”

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Fitbit has also put a lot of thought into how kids are engaging in exercise/activity. Instead of tracking a 30-minute strength-training workout, kids are rewarded for their activity through video games on the watch. The Fitbit Ace LTE comes with a handful of games that Fitbit describes as “interval-based gaming.”

Games from the Fitbit Arcade, plus activity challenges Fitbit

Each game can be played in quick bursts, and they all require physical activity. For example, Pollo 13 is a Mario Kart-like racer in which you turn the kart by moving your hands around to navigate the course. To advance to the next level, your kid needs to do other activities throughout the day — such as walking, playing hide-and-seek, etc. There’s also no sleep tracking on the watch. Instead, Fitbit rewards kids for charging their watch overnight while they sleep.

Speaking of rewards, they are a big part of the Fitbit Ace LTE. Every kid with the watch gets their own “Eejie” character — a customizable avatar that gets “more healthy and happy” when your kid reaches their movement goals. As kids play and complete the fitness games, they unlock arcade tickets they can use to get new clothes for their Eejie, plus new items for their Eejie’s virtual home in Bit Valley. The character and home customization stuff feels like it was ripped straight out of Animal Crossing, for better or worse.

Parental controls, specs, and more

Fitbit Ace parent app Fitbit

Getting a smartwatch for a kid isn’t something to be taken lightly, and Fitbit says it’s been thinking about this a lot. If a parent buys their kid an Ace LTE, the watch is set up and managed through the new Fitbit Ace companion app. Through the app, parents can see their kid’s real-time location, send/receive texts and phone calls, see their kid’s movement activity, and automatically disable games and notifications when their kid is in school.

For kids, they can only call/text their parents or other trusted contacts that their parents have approved. The real-time location of the Ace LTE is only sent to parents via the companion app, with Google’s cloud only used to transfer the location data from the watch to the app. That data is also automatically deleted after 24 hours. Furthermore, kids’ activity data is removed from Google’s servers on a rolling 35-day period.

Fitbit also emphasized that there are no third-party apps on the Fitbit Ace LTE, that there will never be ads on the watch, and that kids’ health data will never be sold or used by Fitbit/Google in any way. Although Wear OS is at the foundation of the Fitbit Ace LTE — and this is technically the first ever Fitbit-branded Wear OS watch — Fitbit describes the Ace LTE’s operating system as “bespoke” and doesn’t necessarily see it as a “Wear OS watch”; it’s its own thing.

Since calling, texting, and location sharing are such big parts of the Fitbit Ace LTE — and as the name implies — the watch comes with LTE connectivity as a default feature. It has the same internals as the Google Pixel Watch 2, which means a Snapdragon W5 chip. Gorilla Glass 3 covers the OLED display, the watch is water resistant up to 50m, and it has 16-plus hours of battery life, with a 30-minute charge taking it from zero to 60% (or 70 minutes to go from drained to 100%). The watch also has NFC, and although it’s not functional yet, Fitbit says Tap to Pay is coming soon to “help kids learn about spending.”

Fitbit Ace LTE price and availability

Fitbit

The Fitbit Ace LTE is available for preorder now. The watch costs $230 and is available in two colors: Mild and Spicy. Mild includes a black/dark gray watch band, while Spicy has a light gray/purple one. Additional watch bands are available for $35, and each one unlocks exclusive Eejie and Bit Valley items once connected to the Ace LTE.

Furthermore, the Fitbit Ace LTE — like so many other fitness trackers — comes with a subscription. It’s called the Ace Pass, and it enables LTE connectivity, access to fitness games, parental controls, and new games/content updates. The Ace Pass costs $10 per month or $120 per year, and if you buy the annual plan, you get a free watch band.

On the one hand, it does seem like Fitbit thought of everything with the Ace LTE. The hardware looks good, the gamification of fitness is a solid idea, and the apparent focus on safety/privacy is reassuring. On the other hand, a $230 price tag — plus a recurring $10-per-month subscription — is a fairly steep asking price for a kid’s watch. It’s certainly a novel idea, though, and it’ll be interesting to see just how big of a success (or not) the Ace LTE ultimately is for Fitbit.

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