Bottom line: The Gabb Watch is a no-frills connected smartwatch for kids that offers to call and text without the worry of distractions of games and social media. The parental companion app means you'll be able to locate your child and make sure only approved contacts can communicate with your child. As it is now, the Safe Zones feature is inconsistent, which ruins an excellent safety option.
- Easy to use
- No extra stuff
- Geofencing is available
- Customizable tasks and rewards
- Carrier locked to Verizon MVNO
- No Wi-Fi
- Geofencing can be inaccurate
As a parent of a young child, letting your child grow and explore their independence is tough. It's a delicate balance of letting go and holding on to protect them. One way to help satisfy both of those desires is by giving your child a phone, but that introduces a whole new set of issues to contend with. This is where getting one of the best kids smartwatches can come in handy — and the Gabb Watch was designed for this niche category.
My 9-year-old and I have been using the Gabb Watch for a few weeks, and we've come to enjoy what it offers. He gets to feel a bit more grown-up because he has a "cool smartwatch" to use, and my wife and I can have some peace of mind knowing that we can still keep an eye on him if we need to. The Gabb Watch is a no-frills connected smartwatch that brings some great safety features that parents will love, but does so in a device that kids will enjoy too.
Gabb Watch: Price and availability
Gabb Wireless announced that Gabb Watch was for pre-order on June 30, 2021, and it was available at the end of July. The watch sells for $99.99 on the Gabb Wireless website and is only available in one color — black. However, Gabb Wireless does sell accessories for the watch, such as different colored watch bands.
Gabb Watch: What's good
When my son and I opened the Gabb Watch box, we both recognized the device as being very similar to the Gizmowatch 2 that we reviewed in 2020. As it turns out, ZTE manufactured both the Gizmowatch 2 and Gabb Watch, and after using the latter for a while, we found that the two watches were more alike than just in appearance — in a good way.
Gabb Wireless is a company that specializes in making connected devices for kids. While this is the first smartwatch from the brand, they have been making smartphones focused on teens for a couple of years now. Gabb Wireless is a Verizon MVNO, with data plans starting at $9.99 per month for the watch. The company's standard approach is to strip away as many distractions from its devices as possible, while still providing an enjoyable user experience. That applies to the Gabb Watch just as it did to their smartphones.
|Dimensions||1.71 x 1.77 x .53 inches|
|Display||1.4 inches, 300x300, 303PP1|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2500 32-bit, Quad-core 1.2GHz|
|Water and Dust resistance||IP67|
The Gabb Watch has an unassuming design, and thanks to its low profile and rounded edges, it won't get snagged on jackets or shirtsleeves. Overall, the watch is plenty durable. My son is not the most careful with his things, and they can get pretty dinged up; yet even with running around playing outside and climbing all over things, he didn't manage to put a dent in it. It certainly helped that the Gabb Watch has built-in dust and water resistance.
Its display is colorful and bright enough to be seen in most lighting conditions. There are two buttons on the side. One button acts as a back button to exit an app or a home button to return to the main screen when scrolling through pages on the watch. The other doubles as the power and display-off button.
In terms of its apps, the Gabb Watch has very few — and that's good for limiting distractions. Directly to the right of the main page that displays the time is the call page so your child can call their allowed contacts. Next is the call history page, followed by the messages page for sending texts.
A gadgets page has a button to display the QR code for pairing to another MyGabb app on a phone, a timer, alarm, and stopwatch. The only non-utility app on the watch is the GabbGo app, where kids will find step tracking, tasks, and the only game on the watch — a Tamagotchi-style digital pet.
Initially, there is only a cat and dog to choose from, but by earning coins from completing tasks you set on the MyGabb companion app, your kid can unlock more fun pet options. The pet has to be cared for by feeding, washing, and playing with it. My son enjoyed the game, and funnily enough, he did a better job of remembering to feed it than he did for our real-life pets.
After the gadgets page is the settings page, with options to set the watch's screen out time and brightness, the volume, ringtone, and a few others, the settings page is also where your child can change the watch's theme. My son was disappointed that there were only two choices available — Bright Star and Happy Sun. But like he said, "it's better than nothing."
In terms of communication options, there are phone calls and messages. Calling is pretty straightforward, with contacts being set by the parent; the same applies to whom your child can message. Messaging is restricted to some kid-friendly emojis, voice messages, and pre-set texts. There are twelve pre-set messages available, but you can add or remove ones you don't want with an optional max of 20 messages.
As mentioned before, the MyGabb app is where parents will manage and communicate with the watch. In it, you'll be able to call or message your child or trigger it to ring if it's been misplaced in a messy kid's room. You can also put the watch in silent mode — either manually or at set periods — locking the GabbGo app from being accessed.
In the app, you can also see how many steps your child has taken and set a step goal. You also get the ability to create tasks and reminders for your child, with the digital coins for the GappCo app as incentives.
But possibly the most essential features for parents in the app are the location and Safe Zones. At any time, you can locate the Gabb Watch using its built-in GPS, and you'll be able to see where your child is on a Google Maps-powered map. You can ping the watch's location every 10, 15, 30, or 60 minutes, either all day or during a custom period.
One of my favorite features of a smartwatch designed for kids is geofencing. On the Gabb Watch, this feature is called Safe Zones. This allows you to set a specific radial area at a location such as your home or your child's school. Whenever the watch exits or leaves that area, you'll be alerted. Geofencing is an excellent feature that can give parents great peace of mind. However, it was a bit glitchy on the Gabb Watch — more on that later.
I know that the idea of location tracking on a kids smartwatch can be a touchy subject. But when the company that offers it has a proven track record and complies with the necessary child protection policies, it's a feature that can ease a lot of concern.
In the MyGabb app, you can also set an SOS contact for the watch. While the Gabb Watch isn't 911 compatible, your child will be able to call the person designated as the emergency contact quickly. This is done by pressing and holding the back button for 10 seconds. Should there be an unsafe situation, your child won't have to fuss with swiping around on the watch display to call for help.
Gabb Watch: What's not good
When a product aims for simplicity, the fewer things that can go wrong — especially on a connected smartwatch made for kids — the better. However, there are a few areas that I would like to see fixed on the next Gabb Watch, should there be one, and one that I hope can be fixed on the current version.
One aspect of the Gabb Watch will be perfect for some people but an issue for others: its restricted cellular network. Gabb Wireless is a Verizon MVNO and is the only provider of the watch, as well as the only option for cellular service. So if you happen to be in an area with poor Verizon coverage, the watch will be essentially useless.
Another downside to poor cellular connectivity is that it will drain the watch batter faster. The 500mAh battery does fine at getting the watch through a day without much worry — so long as it's in a good coverage area. The Gabb Watch lacks Wi-Fi, and if Wi-Fi was available, so could Wi-Fi calling. This could be helpful in situations where Verizon coverage is lacking both for communication and battery life.
But perhaps the biggest issue I had with the Gabb Watch was the inconsistency of the geofencing. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad the watch has the feature. However, it was really inconsistent. I would get notifications all day saying that my son had left school, then minutes later, he was back. When I'd check to see the location, it would sometimes be a few hundred yards away from where it was supposed to be. Other times it'd be miles away.
As a parent, this is very frustrating. While I had low concern on a typical day that my son was in any sort of danger, the fact that I can't trust the Safe Zone is not good. I did reach out to Gabb Wireless about the issue and was told, "We are currently working on software updates to improve these location capabilities." and that "Some of the natural GPS drift is coming into play, and we are working to bring it in line with expectations we have for the device."
While the feature isn't performing very well as it stands right now, it is great to see that the company is admitting an issue and trying to resolve it. Because when something called Safe Zone doesn't adhere to the name, it's almost better that it not exist at all.
Gabb Watch: Competition
There are a lot of kids' smartwatches out there, but few are trustworthy and actually good. But that doesn't mean that there's a lack of competition. One alternative option is the previously mentioned Gizmowatch 2. If you want a simple, easy-to-use smartwatch for your child that has the safety features a parent needs — it's worth a look.
This watch is nearly identical in design, and the software is just as simple. The Gizmowatch 2 is a Verizon exclusive and can only be purchased there at $100; however, you can put it on a payment plan if you'd rather not pay the full retail upfront. You won't find any games on the Gizmowatch 2, but the geofencing feature works perfectly.
If your child is a bit older and you feel they are ready for a few more features, then the TickTalk 4 is a fantastic option. It is an unlocked device that can be used on carriers other than Verizon. The TickTalk 4 has a bulkier design, but it makes good use of that space. You'll find two cameras packed into it, not only for taking pictures and videos but also for video calling. There's also GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even free iHeart Radio Family available.
The TickTalk 4 is a full-featured watch and a companion app with lots of great options for parents. From location tracking to setting reminders, there's plenty of helpful features parents will love. However, one thing that is missing is geofencing. While you can see the location history of the watch and where it is currently, you won't be able to set up a geofence. The watch is also more expensive than the Gabb Watch, with a $190 price tag.
Gabb Watch: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You want a basic connected smartwatch for your child.
- You want a watch with geofencing capabilities.
- You want a parental companion app that gives great insight into your child's watch.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You live in an area with poor Verizon coverage.
- You need to rely on geofencing accuracy.
- You want a watch with a camera and lots of features.
The Gabb Watch is a solid option for parents looking for a connected smartwatch that will not be a distraction. In areas where Verizon has good coverage, the watch is a great communication device. The addition of location tracking and geofencing is helpful for a worried parent. However, in its current state, the Safe Zone geofencing feature can be inaccurate and actually cause stress.
3.5 out of 5
While some kids or parents might be let down by the lack of extra features like cameras or more games, the Gabb Watch leans into it. The limited set of bells and whistles is welcomed in a world with so many distractions already out there. Being able to call or message your child, whether for something important or not, can go a long way in easing a worried mind. It's also a lot of fun to get silly messages from your child.
The Gabb Watch has all of the necessary safety features a parent could want. You can feel comfortable knowing your child is safe, thanks to location tracking, the parental companion app, and geofencing. But the inconsistency of the Safe Zone feature can sour the benefit of geofencing if it's something that you'll need to rely on. In the end, the watch has plenty of promise for parents who want a basic connected watch for their child.
Bottom line: The Gabb Watch offers a safe way for you and your child to communicate without a lot of distraction on the device. The location tracking and geofencing are great for parents, even if the Safe Zones feature is currently inconsistent.
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