Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: A nice activity tracker for kids with great aspirations. However, it falls a bit short if the child doesn't have their own phone to manage the device and tasks with.
Great battery life
Good sunlight visibility
Fun encouragement to be active
Good size for small wrists
Screen is tiny
Activating the backlight is tricky
Can't complete chores on the device
Auto-sync is sporadic
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I have had the chance to review a few kid's smartwatches that I didn't feel my youngest was quite ready to assist with yet, but thankfully he is now prepared to help me with the Vivofit Jr. 3 review. Together we discovered that this small, kid-focused fitness tracker does more than just track steps.
It can help your child learn responsibility, not just by keeping track of the tracker, but by letting you assign chores and tasks to them. There is, of course, step and activity tracking and also sleep monitoring. With the Marvel Black Panther model we tested, there are Avenger-themed missions within the phone's companion app. As your child meets specific task requirements set from the adventure, they advance in the missions.
My youngest is five years old and very active, so he loved the rewards and seeing new daily records set. He also really loves helping around the house, so feeling like a big kid as he got chore reminders on his watch was really fun for him. However, it's not all great. Since he doesn't have his own phone, I have to complete many of the functions for him. Let me explain further below.
Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3: Pricing and Availability
First announced in October 2020, the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 arrived ready to help kids be more active. The current price still reflects the launch price of $79.99, though it has seen a few sales from time to time.
Along with three Garmin-designed themes, the fitness tracker first offered Disney Princess models with Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, and Rapunzel alongside Marvel characters Black Panther and Iron Man. Garmin introduced two Star Was versions in May 2022 with The Mandalorian and Grogu and a limited-edition Black Panther option in September 2022.
Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3: What I like
Both of my kids love to be active and are both a bit competitive. So, comparing step counts and activities has become a big deal in our house. The Vivofit Jr. 3 has been helpful in a few ways for my 5-year-old, especially since it does a far better job of tracking than the cheap pedometer he had before.
|Specs||Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3|
|Band fit||130-175 mm|
|Battery||Up to 1 year|
|Display||Sunlight-visible transflective 64-color memory-in-pixel 112x112 pixels|
|Memory||7 timed activities, 14 days of activity tracking data|
|Water resistance||5 ATM|
|Colors||Marvel Iron Man, Black Panther, Disney Princess, Little Mermaid, Digi Camo, Lilac Floral, Blue Stars, Star Wars Grogu, The Mandalorian, Black Panther Special Edition|
|Activities and Health Tracked||Steps, Distance Traveled, 60-Minute Activity Goal, Sleep, Chores, Rewards, Task Timers, Audible Alerts, Reminder Alerts, Toe-To-Toe Challenges, In Case Of Emergency|
The best parts of this watch are its durability and the fact that we don't have to worry about charging the device every night thanks to its year-long battery life. We live in the country, and my kids love exploring, and things can get banged up pretty quickly. The Vivofit Jr. 3 has done a great job surviving the trials of an adventurous boy, and since it has been raining lately, the 5 ATM water-resistance is a nice bonus.
Not only does the tracker keep up with the steps, but it also tracks activity time throughout the day. This is not only gauged on the device itself but also synced with the companion app on my phone. Since we were trying out the Marvel Black Panther edition (R.I.P. Chadwick Boseman), the activity levels also help the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy in their mission against Thanos.
Each time your child meets the 60-min daily activity, it progresses the device-themed adventure in the companion app. So, Avengers for Black Panther and Iron Man, Disney has Princess Adventures, and there are educational globe-trotting experiences for the Garmin-themed trackers. You also can choose the watch face and step tracking icon within the app. On May 4 2022, Garmin launched two new themed devices with Star Wars themes in The Mandalorian and Grogu. ContinuingOn September 1 2022, a new limited-edition Black Panther-themed device joined the team.
The display is upgraded over the prior generation to a 64-color transflective screen that looks great in direct light. The backlight can be activated for dim situations by pressing the side button for a second. Navigating the Vivofit Jr. 3 is done with a quick press of the button to cycle through time, steps, rewards, and more. You can also set up a screen to display In Case Of Emergency information.
We've had fun picture chore charts for our kids for a while now that help them remember things like brushing teeth, setting the table, feeding the animals, etc. By adding those things to the Vivofit Jr. 3, my son can be reminded of them without the need to look at the chart for what's next. I can also add a reward value to each chore in the form of a digital coin cashed in for prizes that I set up in the app.
Since it is designed for kids age four and up, the fit is excellent for little wrists. This, in conjunction with the rounded edges on top, helps the tracker not snag on shirt or jacket sleeves. My son said it was really comfortable and didn't even mind wearing it at night. He's even tuned sleeping tracking into a competition, trying to see if he can sleep better than the night before.
Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3: What I don't like
As a relatively basic activity tracker for a child, the Vivofit Jr. 3 does an excellent job. While at the same time, some fundamental functionality isn't quite right to make the overall experience better.
For starters, we found using the screen to be a bit difficult in general, even though it is easy to read in good lighting. However, because of the screen covering's concave nature and how small the screen is, half of the display can't be viewed if it isn't at the perfect angle. That is unless the backlight is activated, which can be tricky for a child.
Turning on the backlight requires holding the button for one second, then you can cycle through the screens. While that isn't all that difficult, the problem is that if it is held for 2-3 seconds, it puts the device into manual sync mode, which can be confusing and frustrating for the child.
Another frustration is that there is no way for the child to complete a chore via the tracker. When an assigned task goes off on the Vivofit Jr. 3, the chore's designated icon shows up and along with some beeping. My son presses the side button, and that makes it go away. If I don't see him do the chore or he doesn't come to tell me, he won't get credit for doing it.
If he had his own phone, he would be able to check off his chores in the app. It is possible to set the app to a kids-mode that would limit what can be done in the app, but my son doesn't have a phone, so I have to check it off for him.
It also seems that the automatic sync is a bit sporadic. I would notice that my app wouldn't update with my son's stats for upwards of an hour after he got home from school, and other times it would happen after a few minutes. This would mean that when my son would ask if he set a new record, I may have to ask him to hold the button to sync since the device hadn't done it yet.
Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3: Competition
The closest competitor to the Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3 is the Fitbit Ace 2. The Ace 2 can track steps, sleep, and encourage 60-minutes of daily activity with fun incentives for kids to work towards. Navigating through the backlit display can be done both by touch and with the physical side button. The Ace 2 is also swim-proof and durable in its all-encompassing silicone band.
You do miss out on setting up chores in the FitBit Ace 2 as well as a color display. There will also be the added responsibility of charging since the battery life maxes out at 5 days. The companion app has both a parent and kid view, should your child have their own phone, and since it's a Fitbit, the whole family can work together to stay healthy on the same platform.
An option that is a bit more advanced and maybe not for younger kids is the CoolPad Dyno. This is a full-fledged connected smartwatch that does more than just track activity. Since the device has an active data connection to either Wi-Fi or LTE, it can make calls and remotely sync data to the app. There are safety features built in that only allow calls and messages to be made with contacts you designate. There's even GPS geofencing to alert you when your child has entered or left predetermined areas.
There is a monthly fee for the data connection and daily charging, so that is something to consider. The CoolPad Dyno also doesn't have sleep tracking, and you can't do family challenges, but there is some peace of mind that you can safely keep track of your child with the built-in features.
Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3: Should you buy
You should buy this if...
- Other family members are in the Garmin ecosystem
- You want a fun way to encourage your child to be active
- You are trying to give your child a bit of independence in their responsibilities
- You don't want to have to charge the device all the time
You should not buy this if...
- Your child doesn't have a phone, and you want them to manage tasks on the device
- You want to do family fitness challenges and don't use the Garmin platform
- Your child gets easily frustrated when using small electronics
Creating a little healthy competition within the family can be great for everyone involved. It can help a young child get some encouragement by seeing the rest of the family trying to stay active.
This is a big win for parents and kids alike. Getting up to a full year of usage before the need to replace the coin-style battery is a wonderful thing. No more dead tracker midday because the user forgot to charge. Possibly worse is a lost proprietary charging cable leading to a useless tracker.
Sometimes a physical chore chart doesn't have the same impact as a beeping reminder on a child's wrist. The bonus of adding a reward system, as well as the idea of saving up those digital coins for a larger prize, can help a child learn valuable lessons.
The themes that Garmin has come up with for the Vivofit Jr 3 are so much fun. Whether you choose to go with one of the licensed options or one of Garmin's versions is true. Aside from looks, the accompanying adventures within the companion app help to keep kids engaged.
While the device and all of its features technically work whether the child using it has a phone or not, the inability to manage their own tasks on the tracker itself can be frustrating for all involved. Remember to tell the parent that they completed the chore may result in some lost rewards and, more importantly, the pride of telling Mom or Dad that the job is done.
Unfortunately, the device and companion app only sync with other Garmin devices. So you wouldn't be able to send the fitness data to another platform that the rest of the family may use instead of the Garmin option.
The small screen and button can be difficult to use, even for the smallest of fingers. You have to remember to only hold the button for a second to turn on the backlight; any longer, it jumps into sync mode, which can be annoying when all the child wants to do is check their stats. Activating the backlight is important because though the display is great in direct light, even the slightest shadow means most of the screen is no longer visible.
It's a suitable device for a young child who would benefit from a bit of independence and likes the idea of gamifying fitness. The fun challenges and rewards do a good job of encouraging children to be active. However, navigation on the Vivofit Jr. 3 can be frustrating for young kids. This mainly happens when trying to activate the backlight, as it can easily put the device into sync mode instead.
A fun way to get kids excited to be active
All in all, the Vivofit Jr. 3 is a good fitness tracker for a child. Kids don't need exceptionally accurate monitoring, but their devices need to do a consistent enough job so that the kids stay engaged and don't get discouraged. The fun themes for each device are also a great way to get kids excited to wear it, as are the app's adventures tied to the child's activity level.
The ability to add chores with a reward value to them is also nice. It's a fun way for the kid to earn a prize for completing tasks. My son gets excited when he sees how many coins he's earned and saves up for his favorite prize — a movie and sleeping with his big brother. However, the sometimes self-obscured display and difficult backlight activation method can be irritating to a child.
Even though kids are generally active, sometimes a bit of encouragement can help them sustain a healthy lifestyle, and the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 can make it fun. Plus, with the companion app, parents can help kids learn responsibility as well.