Hands On with Xplora Kids Smartwatches
A really important segment of the mobile market is devices for young kids. Mobile technology provides communication and safety features that feel essential, but how young is too young for a phone? That's where kids' smartwatches come in. They have all the features parents want, with none of the drawbacks of giving a young kid a full-on smartphone. Xplora is making a big push in the US market, with a few new models to choose from. We checked out the two models available this holiday season: the XGO3 and X5 Play. Read on for a hands-on tour and our first impressions.
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The idea of a kids "smart" watch is pretty simple: provide essential communication and safety features, and as few distractions as possible. You can of course track location, and communicate (call or message) with approved contacts.
Xplora also includes a camera, so your kid can communicate visually. I think this is important. What if your kid gets a scrape and you want to see how bad it is? Your kid can show you.
The X5 Play and XGO3 are roughly similar in size. The "big" difference is price, but it's actually just a $20 difference.
Both are very comfortable to wear thanks to a soft rubber strap. That's obviously important if you expect your kid to actually wear it all day. They are large and plastic, but most kids aren't demanding titanium with a premium feel. They are light, which again, is critical for all-day comfort and less grumbling from the wearer.
The XGO3 is the cheapest in the lineup at $130 (currently on sale) or $150 (normally). One standout oddity is the micro-USB charging port on the back. This does mean you can use a standard charger if you lose the included one. But I think some people might find this annoying to use after a while.
The X5 Play runs $150 (currently on sale) or $170 (normally). For that, you get a slightly larger, better display. You also get a much more pleasant-to-use snap-on charging connector.
There are also important software features added with the X5 Play. It has a whole extra screen with four extra "apps", like music player and SMS. The cheaper XGO3 can only message with the app for parents, while the X5 Play can send standard text messages (to parent-approved numbers only, of course.)
I found the interface delightfully intuitive and easy to use. Just tap on things, swipe up/down to scroll, and swipe right to go back, exactly as you'd expect.
The messaging app can also do emoji and voice messages, so your kid can communicate however they prefer.
What Xplora wants you to know is what the watches can't do. No social media, no internet, and no games. (Well, except the step counter that gives you points, which you can redeem in the company's off-watch game system.) They're pretty locked-down, and that's intentional. You can lock them down even further (to just an SOS function) in "School Mode", controlled via the app for parents.
The app for parents (for both iOS and Android, of course) looks fairly straightforward. It has all the necessary functions, and step tracking.
I think the X5 Play is an easy choice over the XGO3. The difference in price is small, and I definitely prefer the POGO-pin charging and extra flexibility of SMS messaging.
My only hesitation is that they've already announced the X6 Play and X6 Pro. The screen, battery, and camera are improved, and they have more physical-activity sensors. They are higher-end watches starting at $199, and the X6 Play won't be available until "late 2022". (And the X6 Pro, not until 2023.) But if you have an older, more discerning kid, they might be worth the wait.
Motorola has a new $500 phone and it's kind of a big deal. While Motorola has been successful with more affordable phones lately, not since 2017 have all of the big three US carriers offered a Motorola phone over $400.
There have been a number of "smartwatches" for kids in recent years. They all have GPS and let you keep tabs on your kid's location, and offer some limited forms of communication.
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