During my recent trip to the local electronics store to pick up some other activity trackers that I’ll be testing soon I came across something interesting. On the end-cap where the adult-sized devices reside was a rainbow of colorful little units called the iBitz Kids Activity Trackers. Using my phone to quickly visit the manufacturer’s website informed me that this might be a fun gadget for my six-year-daughter. At only $34.99 it was worth a shot, right?
Once home I started to charge up the Scosche Rhythm & Polar Loop Activity Tracker devices I purchased for myself. Luckily for my daughter the iBitz comes with a battery installed, no charging needed, and was ready to go right out of the box. Time to play!
WHAT YOU GET (IN THE BOX)
Beyond the device itself you get the two booklets shown, and a spare battery. While a CR2032 battery has a cost less than $1 new, it is still appreciated on a device that cannot be recharged to have this included. Not shown here is a sticker, which was on the back-side (clip) of the pedometer itself. Do NOT lose this sticker as it contains a string of characters you need during setup. (See also: GeoPalz iBits Setup Videos)
We already have an iPad Mini (2012) that my daughter uses for various entertainment and education purposes. After reading the instructions I download the iOS App (LINK) from the App Store to her iPad. From there you grab the device, run the app and follow the VERY simple on screen instructions.
Installation was so quick and easy that I didn’t even bother to take any photos for you folks here. You setup a username & password for the child-user, plus an “adult account” you must setup for administration purposes. You do need a credit card to verify you are an adult. You can also “remember me” (save password) for the kid, making future openings of the app easier.
USING THE APP
When I had originally researched the device from my phone at the store I had also found a few reviews for the iBitz. Most of them were from January 2013, apparently by folks who had seen the device at the CES trade show. Knowing those might have been early beta editions of the app/device, I looked for more recent ones. I managed to find one person’s review from August, and another personal review from October. Both of those reviews showed screen shots of a game you could play utilizing a virtual pet in the app.
So you can imagine my surprise when the iBitz PowerKey App lacked the game. I even went to their OFFICIAL APP PAGE but found no mention of the game. NOTE: If you want to see screen shots of the app scroll to the bottom of that official page and you’ll see about a dozen photos. I’m not going to bother to take my own shots since they are identical to that page, and their image carousel shows 95% of the entire app.
Image courtesy of GeoPalz, LLC
After finding that their page made no mention of the game/virtual pet, and the app appeared to lack it as well, I shot a quick email off to GeoPalz. Kudos to their customer service, who replied in less than 5 minutes! Their reply as follows:
We have recently updated the app to the design you see now. It is a rewards platform for families to manage together. Your child can still play the games through our website with their username just not directly through the app anymore. We don’t own those games and were finding them to be unstable causing our customers to have unsatisfactory experiences with them. We are continuously working with new partners to add more features similar to the Club Penguin relationship. We will update our users as new features become available.
Although the ability to create custom rewards in their system still exists (ie: 30 minutes of TV time, food, whatever you decide) or their Club Penguin integration, we do not use CP and had no real benefit from that. For us then the only real reward that seemed to make sense was that if our daughter is active enough she can get some extra play-time with the iPad. This actually makes sense to me, in that she can’t be a couch potato until she has proven herself active prior. Seems a fitting reward! You can also link to physical items from Amazon but I’m not sure that is the route we want to go just quite yet (our kid is healthy, so the tangible reward isn’t necessary).
WEB DASHBOARD (GEOPALZ.COM WEBSITE)
My expectations for the web portal is something simple. Obviously this wasn’t going to be the raw data someone like POLAR gives you, but it should be clean and colorful like the Fitbit dashboard my wife and I experience. Instead it looks like a cartoon TV show web site. Which, while fun, caused the data to become smothered and over-run with too much other excitement. Why overload the kid’s senses? This may be okay for kids 9+ but for my 6-year-old she was lost without a LOT of parental assistance.
Worse yet, the iPad Safari browser did not want to work. Clicking “login” in the top right corner took me to a text-only login page that never worked. I managed to find a way to login elsewhere that did work, but half the menus were not iOS-friendly. Obviously the site is meant to be accessed from a full computer, but that is something we haven’t really yet gotten into with our daughter (a Chromebook is on the list of “do wants” for her to learn more!)
My first reaction to the prizes they show (frisbees, small toys, etc) was “who is paying for this?” and it took me quite some time to find out they were free, other than the cost of shipping & handling. The prize “shelf” is displayed poorly, hard to understand. And while there are games online to play, I still felt these should be available on the iOS app.
The dashboard is not without some good features. The certificates you can print out will serve as good encouragement for my child, and the fundraiser concept is great! However the point to all of this is simple: in my opinion the dashboard should be mostly about the adults. Nowadays more and more kids live almost exclusively on a portable tablet device. I’d rather use the web dashboard to monitor my kids progress, and have them use ONLY the tablet for the FULL features (games, prizes, etc). There is definitely room for improvement in that regard here.
LIKES & DISLIKES
First off this device is small and simple. Perfect for grade school kids in that the lack of a screen also means she’ll quickly forget it is there. That is a good thing— it means she can have it clipped to her shoes without it being a distraction at school. It also means that she won’t be messing with it, and once the novelty passes it will just be a simple article of clothing.
I’m fond of the idea of rewarding kids for activity, but even more so that it helps make them aware of the benefits of good health. In that regard this device created conversation with my daughter and gave us a chance to educate her about health, food/diet and exercise. She was quite curious, and is excited to earn steps/points into the app. Her comment today was that the iBitz “gives [me] more energy” — and she is right, exercise keeps us energized! Good job, kiddo!
Overall the iOS app itself is basic, visually attractive, and simplistic. The interface is well designed for little fingers, although I found the buttons and interface not nearly as intuitive as it should/could be. And then the lack of the virtual pet game was a real let-down. I’m really doubtful that the current “rewards” program will have a long lasting relationship with my daughter, but the ability to make custom ones is nice. The app will need something new to engage her over time, so I’m really in hopes they can improve upon that in some way by bringing games/activities to the iOS app. And move more of the web dashboard into the app, eliminating any need to login via the website.
If you have a child who is less active than desired, this device is very nice. Physically it is the perfect size. However the app needs improvement (more depth/engagement with the kids). Even if your child is active enough, it is never too early to start talking about good health. And if this device kick-starts those discussions, then the price is FAR less than the long term value … and isn’t that really what being a good parent is all about?