Why You Should Trust Us
In conducting research for this guide, I spoke with more than a dozen parents in person, and surveyed another dozen via social media, about their childrens cell phones and smartwatches. I also convened a handful of my daughters friends to solicit their opinions. In addition, I interviewed a technology analyst to get a sense of the market, as well as representatives from several device manufacturers. To see whats available to the brick-and-mortar shopper, I visited my neighborhood AT& T, Verizon, Best Buy, and Target stores. I also read online reviews, blog posts, and reports on kids smartwatches and basic phones.
Just like training wheels, these devices may be too limited for some kids or families.
As a longtime technology journalist, I have reported on mobile tech trends for the San Francisco Chronicle and CNBC.com. I am also the author of Wirecutters guide to the best apps to manage a kids smartphone and advice on how to set up a tablet for kids. Finally, as a parent of an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old, I have a personal, vested interest in researching and picking a device that doesnt distract them with endless games and apps but allows me to keep tabs on them as they increasingly venture out on their own.
Withings Scanwatch: The Best Health
The Withings ScanWatch isnt a smartwatch in the true sense, but this list wouldnt be complete without it. First off, its a gorgeous piece of technology melding classic analog watch aesthetics with modern technology. Its thick with health tech, including medical-grade ECG and SpO2 sensors. These power the ScanWatchs atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea tracking two features that some men might consider indispensable. As a hybrid smartwatch, the ScanWatchs battery life is the best of all the devices on this list, lasting a month between charges.
While its a wholly polished experience, the ScanWatch lacks the app support and large digital display of its actual smartwatches contemporaries.
- Small display limits smart features
- Few advanced fitness features or insights
Check out our full review to learn more about the Withings ScanWatch.
For Traditionalists: Lg Watch Urbane
What makes it awesome: It looks like a classic timepiecenot a superhero gadget.
Even your parents would appreciate the Urbanes leather band and silver- or gold-toned finish. But while it might look old-school, it runs Android Wear with Wi-Fi connectivity, has a plastic-OLED display, and boasts 4 GB of memory. So its eons ahead of your pops wristwatch.
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Xiaomi Mi Band : The Best Budget Fitness Tracker For Men
Finally, what if youre limited by a slim budget? The Xiaomi Mi Band series has long been the cheap fitness tracker of choice, and the sixth edition continues this tradition. It now includes an SpO2 sensor, an even larger display, and plenty of basic sport tracking modes.
Thanks in part to these upgrades, the Mi Band 6 doesnt last as long between charges as its predecessor, while its sleep tracking credentials and Android app still leave plenty to be desired. That said, youll struggle to find a better fitness band at this price point.
- Battery life takes a hit with advanced features
- Heart rate sensor struggles with high-intensity workouts
- Sleep tracking can be off
- Xiaomi Wear app still needs work
- No NFC, voice assistant outside China
Check out our to learn more about the Xiaomi Mi Band 6.
You Need An Android Device To Use The Lte Features
As noted in the original announcement, you can buy this watch and use it like any other Wear OS smartwatch even if you use an iOS device.
But if you want to utilize the LTE features you need to pair it with an Android smartphone. Which makes this a little less useful for iOS phone owners. That also suggests that Fossil and/or Verizon may be trying to attract the Android crowd specifically for this device.
With the LTE engaged, you can use the Fossil Gen 5 LTE for up to 20 hours. Or you can let it sit for up to three days in standby. Though if youre letting it sit for three days on a regular basis, you may not have much use for a smartwatch.
Since this runs on Wear OS it works with features and services like Google Pay, the Play Store, Spotify music control and more.
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Fitbit Charge : The Best Fitness Tracker For Men
Want a pure fitness-first tracker with limited smartwatch features? Few devices can come close to Fitbits Charge series. While the older and cheaper Charge 4 is also a viable contender for this crown, the Charge 5 brings a larger, color AMOLED display and an EDA stress monitor to the table. Youll also get an SpO2 sensor, heart rate monitor, and excellent sleep tracking consistent with other Fitbits.
Sure, Charge 5 doesnt necessarily have a feature set to match its lofty price tag. It sacrifices an altimeter and battery life over its predecessor two factors that make it less attractive to men who regularly hike or run.
However, if youre looking for something sleek that doesnt occupy much space on the arm, the Charge 5 is the ticket.
Check out our to learn more about the Fitbit Charge 5.
Best For Photographers And Video Creators
- Solid performance for the price
- Excellent battery life
- Good audio and call quality
- All networks bands for global usage
- Cameras struggle in low light
- Not waterproof
- Three levels of feature restrictions
- Lacks band 71 for T-Mobile
- Long-term support not guaranteed
We put dozens of phones a year through rigorous testing in PC Labs to find out which ones live up to their ad copy and which are just phoning it in. If you’re buying a phone on Verizon right now, these are the best you can get.
Verizon fell to third place in our Fastest Mobile Networks results, but that could just be a blip. The carrier is retrenching before a big rollout of C-band 5G in 2022, which could help it catch up to the performance of T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G network.
At the moment, Verizon’s “5G UW” is an odd beast. It’s thunderingly fast, up to three gigabits per second, but generally only available in parts of some city centers. You can check its availability on Verizon’s coverage map. The carrier’s “nationwide” 5G is slightly faster than its 4G network, but not enough to really matter.
Speed probably isn’t why you’re coming to or staying with Verizon, though. The carrier’s comprehensive nationwide coverage, including in rural areas, is legendary, and our Fastest Mobile Networks drive test bore out that reputation.
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What About Privacy Concerns
Constantly monitoring kids and tweens is a thorny topic, with some child-development experts noting that tracking young children may disrupt trust between parent and child and thwart developing independence. Privacy advocates also worry that the more everyone is exposed to constant surveillance, the more everyone gets used to it. Monitoring your kids might seem innocuous, but arguably its also adopting a worldview about privacy and opting them into it, something that could have a lasting effect on their ideas about anonymity and autonomy. If you do decide to enable location tracking, dont do it secretly. Instead, have a conversation with your child and let them know youll be monitoring their whereabouts.
As for the data these devices collect, children do have some specific online privacy protections under the Childrens Online Privacy Protection Rule , which limits the type of data a company can collect about a child under 13 years old, how a company uses the data, and how long a company keeps the data. But device makers can skirt these sorts of protections by assuming that the parent, not the child, is the customer. In doing so, they can collect and use as much data as they like from the parents account, just as they would with any other app.
If you do decide to enable location tracking, dont do it secretly. Instead, have a conversation with your child and let them know youll be monitoring their whereabouts.
What To Look Forward To
We have not yet tested the Xplora X5 Play, a kids smartwatch that was first available in Europe and is now available in the United States. Like the TickTalk 4, it is not tied to a specific carrier, so you need to purchase and install a SIM card on your own.
We are still looking at the Pinwheel, a new smartphone for kids similar to the Gabb Z2. It comes with built-in parental-control software and a curated list of available apps that kids can download, including Facebooks Messenger Kids, WhatsApp, and the meditation app Headspace .
We also plan to test Imoos Z6, which, like the TickTalk 4, offers video calling and requires you to purchase and install a SIM card on your own.
Gabb Wireless recently introduced the Gabb Watch, a kids smartwatch, which we plan to test.
Founded in 2020, Cosmo Technologies offers the relatively inexpensive JrTrack 2, which connects to its proprietary network.
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Setting Up The Care Smartwatch
I took the watch out of the box and plugged it in right away to get it fully charged.
While it was charging I downloaded the Verizon Care Smartwatch app to my smartphone. The set up was very quick and seamless.
The main watch wearer should download the app as well as caregivers and anyone that wants to send and receive texts with the wearer.
Once the app is downloaded its easy to add contacts, set reminders/alarms, set steps, etc. The app is also where you can see call made and received, the wearers location, and the battery life left on the watch.
A Reliable Flip Phone: Alcatel Smartflip
Communication: voice and text
Monthly service fee: varies monthly and prepaid plans available
How it works: Flip phones are meant primarily for making phone calls and receiving texts. We found that its nearly impossible to pick the best flip phone for kids, as the options vary by wireless carrier, and the availability of a particular model changes regularly. In general, the markets emphasis on smartphones means that there isnt much availability or customer support for basic phones these daysalthough retailers and wireless carriers feature dozens of smartphone options, they usually offer only one or two basic phones at most .
That said, the relatively inexpensive Alcatel SmartFlip, which is also sold as the Alcatel Go Flip 3, is a basic-black, clamshell handset that is reliable, still available, and designed to run on current 4G networks. We found that the Alcatel phones did well on the basic tasks of calling and receiving texts . Our phone calls were clear, and we found text messages easy to read on the 2.8-inch screen. Despite not having a touchscreen, this flip phone is simple to operate, with large buttons and straightforward navigation. If possible, opt for an unlocked phone, which gives you flexibility in selecting a wireless carrier. We did not test the Alcatel Go Flip 4 or the Alcatel Go Flip V, which are similar but do not include the same preloaded apps.
Warranty: Alcatel offers a limited one-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
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Do These Smartwatches Also Work With An Iphone
Most smartwatches that work with Android will also work with an iPhone. However, you might lose out on some functionality, and there are a few that won’t work at all, such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. For the best results with an iPhone, stick to an Apple Watch.
- Not limited to an Android phone? Try our best smartwatch ranking
Our Hack For Historical Location Tracking
Theres no built-in report on the GizmoWatch 2 that shows your childs location history or traces their steps. But you can set up the next-best thing: time-based notifications.
For example, you could set up the app to tell you where your child is every 30 minutes between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., every single day. Or, you could just focus on the times when your child is traveling to and from school, sports practice, a friends house, etc.
On the app, youll see a full list of your childs locations during these scheduled check-ins. Its not minute-by-minute historical tracking, but its pretty close.
The only downside is that youll drain the GizmoWatch 2s battery life with more frequent check-ins.
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The Best Verizon Flip Phone
Verizon still has a selection of voice phones, which it calls “basic phones.” Many of these are off-brand devices that were custom-built for Verizon they’re inexpensive, but most of them aren’t very good.
Yep, we still review flip phones
The primary exceptions are more expensive: the Kyocera DuraXV Extreme and the Sunbeam F1. The DuraXV Extreme is rugged and loud the F1 comes in three feature-restricted versions for folks who really don’t want web browsing or email on their phones. Both are good choices.
If you need more help buying a phone, check out our story on the best cheap phones for our favorite low-cost picks. While you’re at it, take a look at our lists for the best phones on AT& T and T-Mobile, and head over to our Readers’ Choice picks for 2021’s top mobile carriers.
Why Only 10 Contacts
So, some people might not love this feature but as a caregiver, it is a godsend.
A quick history on my parentsthey are older, mom has had numerous strokes/medical issues that have made some things difficult for her to understand and remember, scam artists, LOVE to try to scam senior citizens.
Now, here is why only 10 contacts are so great. The only people that can call the watch are the 10 listed!
No more political calls.
No more weird/random calls.
The only people able to dial the watch are the 10 that are set up in the contact list on the app. Thats it. No one else. Not even if they have the number.
No more calls from my Dad telling me his power is going to be shut off in 30 minutes if he doesnt pay the bill over the phone immediately. No more sales calls trying to get my parents to buy something.
Now, the only people that call are their loved ones so they dont have to be anxious or worried about who is calling.
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For Health Nuts: Fitbit Surge Fitness Super Watch
What makes it awesome: Its like having a personal trainer without the expense.
While you work out, you can instantly see stats on your activity . Other features? Round-the-clock heart-rate monitor, sleep tracker, GPS, calorie counter and water-resistance.
The above content is provided for information purposes only. All information included herein is subject to change without notice. Verizon is not responsible for any direct or indirect damages, arising from or related to use or reliance of the above content.
How We Reviewed The Verizon Gizmowatch
For our Verizon GizmoWatch review, we talked to Verizon and downloaded copies of the user manuals. We read what other parents were saying in dozens of reviews and used our industry knowledge of other kids smartwatches to put the GizmoWatchs features into context. Learn more on the SafeWise methodology page.
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Verizon Is Selling The Fossil Gen 5 Lte In Two Different Colors
Whether you muster the courage and the strength to head into a Verizon store physically or order online, you can pick up the watch in two different colors. Thats assuming the retail locations have any in stock to begin with.
Even if local carrier stores dont have them though, you can still get the watch online right now. Verizon has both the Black and Pink models of the watch available. And it retails for $349.99.
If you dont want to pay for the whole thing outright, Verizon will let subscribers attack the watch to their bill and break up the payments. This amounts to $14.54 a month for two years before its officially paid off. Though, at any point you could just pay the remaining balance, too.
Sos Calling In Disney Edition Only But Not To 911
One feature missing from the GizmoWatch 2 is an emergency/SOS button. The Disney Edition does have a recessed emergency button on the side. Kids can activate it by pressing and holding for five seconds, then swiping on the touch screen to place the call.
You can set up only one contact as the designated emergency number. If youre not available, the phone doesnt cycle through to a back-up number. Your child would have to manually go through their contact list and place another call.
Neither GizmoWatch can place calls to a number not in the contact list, including to 911. You also cant make 911 an approved contact. This isnt unusual for a kids smartwatch, but if its a dealbreaker for you, check out the TickTalk 4.
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Fitbit Sense: The Best Fitbit Smartwatch For Men
On paper, the Fitbit Sense is the best Fitbit smartwatch for men. Its loaded with sensors, including a skin temperature monitor, an EDA sensor to measure stress, and an ECG for heart health. On top of this specialized tech, youll also find an SpO2 sensor, heart rate monitor, and Fitbits stellar sleep and daily activity tracking. Its an impressive smartwatch for men intent on improving their overall fitness step-by-step.
However, the Senses biggest threat is arguably its cheaper sibling. Its debatable if its fancy tech is worth the premium compared to the Versa 3. You might lament Fitbits half-baked smartwatch features compared to its peers, too.
- SpO2 tracking requires a dedicated watch face
- EDA and ECG sensors need refining
- Fitbit OS still needs work
Check out our full review to learn more about the Fitbit Sense.