Fitbit Ace full review
Fitbit has an activity tracker specifically for kids (the Fitbit Ace), with special Family account features that bring children right into the Fitbit motivation game.
Until now children under 13 were not allowed to have personal Fitbit accounts for – as far as we can ascertain - federal privacy reasons. Now the minimum Fitbit age is 8 years old.
It’s not quite the total freedom many have been requesting for younger members of the family, but now parents can more easily (and legally) add their offspring. In the past parents were forced to set up accounts using false birth dates – not an ideal situation, but one commonly flouted.
Fitbit wants to tackle the rise in childhood obesity, caused as much by inactivity as poor diet. With kids spending too much time in front of screens (read our feature How Much Screen Time is Healthy) two out of three under 16s are largely inactive every day. Technology is to blame for much of this, so it's great that tech is now helping kids get more active,
Fitbit’s goal is for kids to rack up at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, which matches recommendations by the World Health Organization for children aged 7-17. With the Ace and the Fitbit app parents can set customizable daily step and active-minute goals.
It's important to note that Fitbit is deliberately not fixated on a child's weight. Indeed, it has removed the "Calories Burned" measure from the Ace's statistics, and you can't link the child account to the Fitbit Aria 2 scales.
As such, the Fitbit Ace is about exercise and activity rather than weight loss as a goal. This is deliberate - to not encourage children to be weight-obsessed, with its serious body-image disorder implications. With activity should come weight loss anyway.
Seeing how active your child is at school or anywhere away from home is fascinating for parents, too, and should offer insights into adding more activity into your child's routine. The fun Fitbit badges and challenges should motivate your child anyway.
And the sleep measuring functions of the Fitbit Ace are also important, too, as it's now seen as a major health core value, and vitally important to children as they study and grow.
Fitbit Ace price and release date
The Fitbit Ace costs £79.99 (US$99.95; €99.95).
While it may seem expensive, used correctly the Fitbit Ace should earn its dues by motivating your child to be more active and even try to improve sleep time, and you can't put a value on that.
If your child has a Fitbit Ace, then make sure you get one too as a parent, as you'll want to compete in activity challenges with your kids, and a healthy parent is the best role mdoel for a child.
Design not childish
The Fitbit Ace is really just an Alta with some of the health metrics removed (for sensible reasons) and a smaller, more secure strap for little wrists.
The Ace is available in two almost gender-free colours: Electric Blue and Power Purple. It’s not taken the route of adding Disney characters or superheroes, which many others (for example Garmin) push.
It’s a slim design that still allows for a clock face and stats displayed on the wrist - you can choose the on-screen orientation in either vertical or horizontal mode. The cheaper Flex 2 (£69/$59.95/€79.95) is slimmer still but has a much more limited display and no clock.
You tap the Ace's bright mono OLED screen to scroll through the available fitness stats (see below). Raising the wrist should bring up the clock face and initial step count.
We have found that the Alta and Flex's pop-in clasp is not as robust as a watch-like buckle, so are glad that for the Ace Fitbit went with the Alta HR-like adjustable buckle wristband than the less-secure pop-in Alta design.
The strap is definitely "small", so if your child has big wrists you might need to but an adult Small- or Large-size strap from the compatible accessories of the Fitbit Alta or Alta HR. The Small-size wristbands on the other Fitbits will fit most kids’ wrists so it’s not the case that the Ace is the only one that will fit smaller people. We recommend one with a watch-type buckle.
Fitbit Ace's best features
The Ace measures Steps, Distance and Active Time, plus basic Sleep monitoring.
As mentioned earlier, Fitbit has removed the calorie counting that you get with adult trackers. Children accounts also won’t sync with the Fitbit Aria 2 scales.
While childhood obesity is an obviously significant health risk, we think Fitbit is right to remove such metrics from the Ace as parents shouldn’t want their children obsessing over their weight in light of growing eating disorders that can wreck kids’ lives.
That doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t ensure their kids get proper dietary advice - just that kids could allow calorie and weight data to cause harmful anxiety.
Fitbit believes active kids should keep to a healthy weight but isn't interested in weight-loss being a primary goal that the kids are trying to achieve - it will be a by-product.
There are Reminders To Move, which prompt the user to get moving if he or she hasn’t shifted from their chair for 250 steps in each hour. This could be frustrating for Fitbit wearers stuck in the classroom: "Please, Miss. Can I get up and walk around a bit to hit my hourly goal?". But it will be a useful nudge during prolonged sessions of screen time, and the alerts can be customised around school times.
Fitbit Ace automatically recognizes and records exercises, so you can keep track of workouts without having to push a button. Kids are rewarded with celebratory messages and fun, collectable badges.
As with the Alta, the Ace can give notifications for phone calls when paired with a phone (but not text messages, as the Alta can) – handy to reach kids when they’re away from their phones (if that ever happens).
There’s no Altimeter to measure Floors Climbed (upgrade to at least the Charge 2 for this) and no heart-rate monitor (look for the Alta HR as the first to add this in the range).
Challenges and the Fitbit app
Fitbit says it wants to make fitness fun, but there are no childish games added – just the usual Fitbit Challenges and Adventures, which family members can compete against each other in.
Kids can take part in daily and weekend Challenges against family members. The new Family Faceoff (coming soon) is a fun, five-day step challenge that allows members in a family account to compete against each other and win a virtual trophy.
A feature missing at launch is the ability for kids to compete against friends - and an obvious sales trick for boosting Ace sales. Fitbit says this is "coming soon".
Privacy: the new Fitbit family account is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and other privacy laws, letting parents manage who their children connect with and what information they see in the Fitbit app.
The crown jewel of Fitbit is less the tracker itself than the ecosystem built around the excellent Fitbit mobile app that shows off all your stats in charts and graphs, and competition standings, and offers the chance to add individuals and groups in challenges and shared adventures. Ace automatically syncs to iOS & Android devices.
Fitbit has created two “Views” – one for parents and another for the child. Just like adults, kids can win badges and trophies as they hit their activity goals. These family views are just for Ace. Children under the age of 13 will be able to sign-up and use these settings and views with this tracker only.
Parents will be able to control who their children connect with when this feature becomes available.
We did find the switch from Kids View back to Parents View to be a bit cumbersome, and Fitbit should look at making the transition much easier for parents. But initial setup is pretty easy.
Kids and sleep are a tricky mix. Children start out stopping parents from getting much sleep, but later force mum and dad to pull them out of bed in the morning.
The Fitbit Ace will measure the hours and basic quality of sleep, which will be interesting for parents at least. More sophisticated sleep tracking requires a heart-rate monitor – so you’d need at least the Fitbit Alta HR or Charge 2 to get insight into Light, Deep and REM sleep stages. We love the Sleep Stages insights you get with the heart-rate monitoring Fitbits, but the basic stats here (times Asleep, Awake, and Restless) are still informative.
The Fitbit dashboard can recommend consistent bedtimes and wake times to help your child improve the consistency of their sleep cycle. They can even choose to be reminded nightly when it’s time to start winding down for bed, but actually getting kids to follow such rules is never easy.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night for kids. It doesn't mention how long parents should get!
Is the Ace waterproof?
The Ace is somewhat “water resistant” but not waterproof.
Having a kids’ tracker not be waterproof might be a risk, as children are more likely to get their tracker wet or jump in the bath or swimming pool without first removing it.
In our tests Fitbits can stand more contact with water than the company recommends (Fitbit says the Ace is sweat, rain and splash proof) so it should survive a dunking now and again, but it shouldn’t be worn when swimming and bathing, or dropped in the basin or toilet.
If you want a Fitbit that tracks basic swimming stats (duration, distance and lengths) you’ll need either the Flex 2 or one of the Fitbit smartwatches (Versa or Ionic) that are more waterproof (up to 50m).
As with the Alta on which it is based, the Fitbit Ace boasts a decent five-day battery life.
In my experience, kids will let the tracker run right down and only realise that it’s run out of juice as they’re leaving the house in the morning, so keep an eye on battery levels so you can charge during some downtime.
A low battery icon appears on the screen and no stats are shown when it’s super low on juice. The Ace continues to track your child’s activity until the battery runs out. You can check the battery level at any time on the battery screen on the tracker or in the Fitbit app. But you first need to turn on the battery screen in the Fitbit app, as, for some reason, it's not on Ace by default.
Fitbit Ace age range
8 is the new minimum age to use Ace, and all other Fitbit trackers remain 13+. While Fitbit has now relaxed its strict 13 age limit for this tracker, it is surely not blind to the fact that many younger children already have Fitbit accounts set up by parents.
Fitbit already has a small army of children using its adult-oriented products. My daughter has been using a Fitbit since she was 7, starting with a Flex and moving to Charge 2, Alta HR and now Ionic – although I think she’ll like the new Fitbit Versa.
Aged 12 she wouldn’t want to move to the Ace but a new user may start with one.
I see no problem with kids using any of the Fitbit activity trackers, and the Ace is maybe going to appeal to younger children, or at least their parents.
It’s not a childish design, and the price being £20 cheaper than the otherwise very similar Fitbit Alta is another plus.
For more help on the whole Fitbit range, read our product guide on finding the best Fitbit for you to buy.
Fitbit Ace: Specs
- Activity tracker compatible with iOS, Android and Windows Phone
- counts steps, distance, active minutes, basic sleep.