When it comes to adult fitness trackers, lots of exercise fanatics trust Garmin. Its latest kids’ offering – the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 – lacks GPS like Garmin’s adult version, but comes with lots of Disney features instead, which are sure to captivate kids.
We tested the Marvel edition, which looks like a regular watch with a square face, but like most of the best smartwatches for kids, it packs in lots of features to gamify exercise, which is a handy weapon in getting kids moving.
Sitting in the mid to high-end of the market, Garmin’s latest tracker is more expensive than the Fitbit Ace 2 and other big brands without adult offerings, but below Vodafone’s Neo, which is another Disney-centric smartwatch for children. But it stands out from the crowd thanks to its long battery life.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 3: Design
While its predecessor looks more like a tracker, Garmin’s Vivofit Jr 3 resembles a traditional watch (albeit in red rubber), with a square screen and a buckle fastening on the strap. It’s simple, if slightly wider than trackers similar to Fitbit’s Ace 2.
One of its standout features is its colour screen, which displays the time (d’uh), exercise stats and characters. We tested the red Marvel version, so we had superheroes on our screen, but there are other versions too, such as the Little Mermaid as well as one packed with Disney princesses and floral versions for parents that don’t want a movie tie-in.
The watch also lacks a touchscreen, unlike some cheaper options, instead of relying on a button to the side of the screen. Our mini tester was a bit taken aback by this, as it’s different to most kids smartwatches, but she got used to it quickly and the button does the job of cycling between screens perfectly well.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 3: Display
One of the tracker’s selling points is its colour screen. Its biggest rival – the Fitbit Ace 2 – only has a greyscale screen, but the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 has a 1.4cm square colour display of 112 x 112 pixels.
While this is an advantage and you can see colourful characters as well as all the essential stats, it is quite dark if you’re not in bright daylight. Our little tester wondered whether it was on, and we had to agree it lacks vibrancy and can be tricky to read in low lighting, especially in the evening.
Kids and parents who want a richer experience might prefer Vodafone and Disney’s Neo, which comes with an incredible round colour screen and animations, but that watch comes at a higher price tag and requires a monthly subscription, which may be a big turn-off for some.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 3: Functions
Like most fitness trackers for kids, there are functions for children and those designed to pleased parents. Let’s start with kids.
The watch is easy to navigate with a button by the screen, although having tested others with touch screens, our mini tester found it less intuitive. Like most trackers, this one counts steps and records activities as active time. It seems to be pretty accurate and the clear progress is pleasing.
This Garmin aims to gamify exercise. For example, once kids have logged 60 minutes of activity, they can access ‘adventures’ within the partner app on a parent’s phone. Our hard work was rewarded with a superhero ‘move’ in a video. It’s a great idea and at times the watch can be quite educational, which will please adults, but may not be as instantly gratifying for kids as seeing a graphic change on the watch itself, for example, because you do have to wait to get your hands on that phone.
If your kid has a competitive streak, this watch may really appeal to them. From collecting gems or coins by staying active, to taking part in timed activities and ‘Toe-to-Toe’ step challenges, it encourages wearers to work harder and they can even sync with nearby friends to compete in timed activities. Sadly, we couldn’t test this feature as it depends on a friend having this watch too, which might be a consideration if your child’s friends have smartwatches or trackers.
The gadget is packed with features to help parents out too. The accompanying app lets you view your kid’s activity and sleep, as well as see if they have reached activity goals. The watch also lets parents assign tasks and chores and set a reward, such as the promise of ice cream or a new toy, in exchange for a number of virtual coins. Our mini tester found this super motivating! You can also program the watch with your kid’s emergency contact information, which could be useful, although hopefully never needed.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 3: Battery Life
Battery life is perhaps the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3’s standout feature. Unlike many watches that require charging every few days – or just one day in the case of the Neo – Garmin’s latest offering lasts approximately one year.
While we haven’t been able to put this to the test (yet!), it’s a huge selling point for forgetful kids and parents who have enough on their plate without having to remember to charge yet more gadgets. The only glitch would be forgetting to charge your iPhone or Android smartphone – but let’s face it, that’s a regular annoyance anyway.
Of course, the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3’s battery will need to be replaced eventually, but then it’s a case of buying and fitting a cell battery, like with many watches. Just make sure those batteries stay safely out of little hands.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 3: Verdict
The Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 sits somewhere in the middle of the market for price and features - and it does everything quite well. Having a colour screen is a bonus, but it’s not crisp and clear; the watch packs in loads of features but lacks a touchscreen and it’s nicely built and looks quite attractive, but isn’t as sleek as the Fitbit or as impressive as Vodafone’s Neo, for example. In short, it lacks the ‘wow factor’ and may be a little middle of the road for gadget-fiends.
However, if you have a child who loves Marvel or Disney, or you really, really hate charging gadgets, this watch will be a big hit, and like Iron Man, will blow the competition away.
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