As a father of two small children I will be faced with a parenting dilemma that my parents never had to deal with: at what age is it appropriate for my kids to have their own smartphone? Today, your kids have likely mastered your phone better than you have. And they will be quick to inform you how their peers already have their own phone, but giving them unlimited access to all a smartphone has to offer may be setting them up for a virtual world they are not yet ready to navigate on their own.
Enter the smartwatch. While you might associate a smartwatch with an accessory for your smartphone, there is a growing category of 4G LTE connected smartwatches designed for kids in the six-to-twelve-year-old age range. These devices can empower a child with a sense of independence, while giving mom and dad some peace of mind with an always-connected device that provides an age appropriate user experience.
Don’t confuse these kids smartwatches for toys though — they are powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear solutions that are found in the latest crop of Android Wear smartwatches.
Unlike a smartphone that tries to be all things to all people, the features on kids’ watches is tailored to address the specific needs of the parent and child relationship. This can include 3G or 4G LTE connectivity that supports voice calling and messaging, GPS for real-time tracking and setting up geofences, as well as family coordination features like shared calendars and task lists. This is all packaged into a small device that is designed to be durable, water resistant, and easy-to-use.
There are some examples of kid smartwatches in the US, like the popular LG GizmoPal 2 sold through Verizon, but to see the full potential of these kid-centric wearables you have to look to China. At Mobile World Congress Shanghai last month Qualcomm Technologies and Xiaotiancai, 360 and Readboy announced new 4G LTE connected kid watches using the Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform. While these may not be household names outside of China, they represent the top three manufactures of kids wearables in China.
The key to success with devices designed specifically for children, is to ensure there is an incentive for the child to want to wear the device. So this latest crop of devices launching in China are providing some unique user experiences like built-in personal assistants to help with homework, cameras to take and share images with family and friends, and learning apps that teach kids how to read and write in multiple languages.
While the fundamentals of parenting will never change, the tools we have at our disposal to help provide increased peace of mind when it comes to what is most precious continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Now if my own children would just slow down and not grow up so fast.