Most of the GPS watchphones for kids lack the design beauty, nor do they have great UI. My first experience with kids GPS watch phone was back in 2015. It was functional, but it did the job I need, which is to track my daughter. But now in 2020, I would think it’s a disservice for fashion-conscious young individuals to wear a blocky wrist device that looks literally like a tracker.
myFirst is a Singapore kids tech company owned by Oaxis Asia founded in 2010. They launched their first kids smartwatch phone in 2016 and has produced over a dozen products ever since, like kids cameras, drawing pads, drones, and audio headphones. Last month, they launched their latest next-gen kids tech devices: the myFirst Fone R1 and myFirst Headphones BC Wireless.
myFirst Fone R1 differentiates from the rest of the kids watch phones by offering some of the most advanced features taken from adult smartwatches. So besides being functional, it also looks contemporary. I have already shared a launch post on the Fone R1, but in this post, I will elaborate on the functions and share my experience. Here’s an unboxing video featuring my teenage daughter.
Round Face Design
I love the round face design. I have not come across any other kids watch phone with a round face, but I guess when you read this post, there might already be a new trend of this design available to children.
I also love the colour combination especially on this Lavender Purple (green-purple with white rim). myFirst designed this from scratch, so it is not an OEM knock-off. According to myFirst, the Fone R1 is rated IPX7 water resistant.
There are 3 different themes to choose from which changes the UI colour scheme, and each theme comes with 4 predefined watch faces. I like their watch face designs, and the traditional hand encourages children to read the clock face. The digital face is also available for some themes.
The UI is designed quite similar to most smartwatches in the market. The display is touch supported with swipe gestures. Swipe down from the top reveal the shortcut icons. Swipe from bottom shows the notification. Swipe from left shows the activity tracker, swipe from right reveals the carousel menu. The top-left button is on-off display, the bottom-left button is the back button.
Another great feature is that the watch strap is easily removable with quick-release mechanism, so parents can easily swap broken straps without requiring any tools.
Let’s talk about the most important feature that every parent needs on the child watch. The Fone R1 uses both 4G LTE GPS and Wi-Fi to track the child’s location. On the smartphone app, you can customise the following to make sure you track your child with ease:
- Set Safe Zones. You can define multiple geo-fencing zones and the period that they should be in and the radius of the zones from 200 – 2000 metres. Once they are outside, the smartphone will receive a notification alert. The setting is immediately updated to the watch, so you could even set ad-hoc geo-fences, say, when you are out with them at a shopping mall.
- Set Tracking Interval. You can define how often to retrieve the location, from 1 min to 1 hour. Note that if you set the interval too long, the watch will not be able to alert you on time if the child leaves the safe zone. Depending on how close you want to track your child, I would say a 10-minute interval is sufficient. You can also set the schedule to track, but only one schedule is available.
The nano SIM tray can be easily removed by finger nail. I asked myFirst the reason for this design as most other kids watchphones have screw to secure the SIM tray, and they replied that customers complained that the tray is hard to remove. My concern is that people will ill-intent can easily remove the SIM which disables the tracking capability.
The Fone R1 lets you communicate with your child in an interactive way. Messages appear like conversation list. You can send text message, emoji, voice clips. Your child can send voice clips, photos, and emoji.
You and your child can also make video calls from the smartphone app of up to 3 minutes per call. Voice calls will be received as normal calls from the phone. The watch also supports data roaming so you can still track your child when going for vacation.
The speaker quality is audible indoors, but not likely to be clear at openly crowded places like shopping malls. Using with a pair of kids headphones like myFirst Headphones BC Wireless is definitely highly recommended. Depending on network coverage, the video quality is quite good,
The child can trigger SOS to you by long-press the right button. It will send the child’s location immediately to your smartphone app and record a 30-second audio clip which will be sent to you after recording is done. The mic is quite sensitive and can pick up surrounding noises.
Restricted Calling List
The watch can receive voice calls from any phone, video calls and chat messages from the smartphone app. Rest assured that only pre-defined numbers can reach the watch phone. The child also can only call a fixed list of contacts defined from the smartphone app.
Prevent Shutdown, Remote Restart
In any case, myFirst implemented a few safeguards to ensure proper operation. First, you can lock the ability for the child to shutdown the watch when SIM card is detected. Second, you can remotely restart the watch in the event that you suspect the watch is not functioning properly.
Class Mode Locks the Watch
Probably the most ingenious feature of the watch is that you can lock the watch during specific times – up to 20 time slots can be defined. This means the child will not be able to receive messages, voice/video calls, nor can he/she play with the watch functions, except triggering SOS.
Simple Fitness Tracker
The Fone R1 lets you capture the child’s activity and syncs to the smartphone app. It captures distance, calories burn, steps, and stores them daily. There are no fancy charts, but a functional feature to see how active your child is.
Watch Removal Alert
The watch comes with a feature to alert the parent when the watch is removed from the wrist via the sensor. There is no heart-rate sensor, but I guess it’s not a critical feature on the watch phone.
The 2MP camera on the watch allows the child to take a photo and upload to the smartphone app or send via the chat message. Uploaded photos will appear on the home page of the app. I would wish the camera angle is wider so that the camera can capture the full face and also allows the viewer to see the surrounding better. It also does not support auto rotate.
The Fone R1 has a 4GB storage, or over 500 songs. You can upload curated songs or audio books to let your child listen. With that, there is no need for a child to carry a separate device to listen to music. The speaker is positioned at the bottom of the watch facing the child for best output. To upload, connect the charger to the USB port of the computer and initiate the transfer like an external storage device.
Set Alarm Remotely
One cannot forget the ability to set alarms on the watch. The best part of all is that you can set the alarm from the smartphone. So you can now conveniently set alarm to remind your child about any upcoming events, or simply to wake him/her up from bed. I like that the alarm is the traditional loud-beep style instead of the soft musical tone which is usually inaudible. The child can snooze the alarm by 5 or 10 minute.
Alarm can also be manually set from the watch by the child, but he/she cannot remove the alarm set by the parent on the smartphone app. Smart design!
The Fone R1 supports Bluetooth, so you can pair your wireless headphones to it. For safe listening, you should pair it with the myFirst Headphones BC Wireless which sends audio to the child via bone conduction, so that he/she can listen to music while being aware of the surrounding safely.
2-Day Battery Life
The Fone R1 is rated to deliver up to 2-days standby, 6-hour phone calls, and 10-hour music playback. It only takes about 90 minutes to charge the watch fully, so it is easy to get into a routine to let your child wear the watch whole day and then charge in the early evening before getting him/her to wear to bed.
I find that the UI is quite intuitive, but there should be a way to lock the “Settings” menu to prevent kids from accidentally change them. Similarly, the watch face can be changed by press-hold the screen.
There is also no wake-up gesture to turn on the display, like most smartwatches. It could be deliberate design consideration, but it would be good to have it as an option, just like other smartwatches.
And as for the SIM tray, I still prefer it to be less easy to remove. Perhaps myFirst can follow the use of SIM removal pin to eject the tray, which has become the standard for all smartphones. We need to prevent itchy-finger kids from easily removing the tray and losing the SIM.
Occasionally, I find that the Safe Zone notification was sent late. I was not sure why, but it’s probably a network issue. When I manually requested for location from the watch, it refreshed and then the out-of-zone warning came in. I guess like all mobile devices, we are all at the mercy of network reliability.
If you are looking for a good-looking highly-functional contemporary watch for kids which allows you to track them safely while having interactive communication with them, the Fone R1 is a fantastic product. myFirst has put in a lot of design thinking to develop this product. Retailing at S$229, it is reasonably priced for the features. In fact, I wonder if there is a market for this watch phone for other age groups, for instance, the elderly, people who needs supervision. After all, it is designed to be simple to use for kids. The black model will definitely work!
Available in 3 colours – grey-black, yellow-blue, and green-purple. Visit the official website for more information.
- Attractive round-face design
- Watch strap large enough to be worn by adults – up to 20cm circumference
- Location tracking with intervals
- Remote locking and restart of watch
- Built-in 4GB music player
- Supports Bluetooth
- Good UI to encourage communication via voice, video, text
- Up to 2-day battery life for low usage
- Fast charging
- Speaker quality not clear at noisy places
- SIM tray is too easy to be removed
- Proprietary charging cable