Vodafone Neo smartwatch: Colourful, simple but a bit pricey

A good compromise for those who are on the fence about a smartphone for a child

Vodafone Neo smartwatch

Product name: Vodafone Neo smartwatch

Price: €199.0

Where to buy: eshop.v.vodafone.com

Website: www.vodafone.ie

Thu, Nov 4, 2021, 05:27

   

The Neo isn’t like most of the smartwatches I’ve become accustomed to reviewing. It’s a little chunkier and more colourful, for a start. It doesn’t track my heart rate or my breathing, and it won’t connect to my phone to give me notifications on my wrist.

What it will do though is let me stay in touch with my seven year old without having to hand over a mobile phone.

In case it isn’t obvious, the Neo smartwatch isn’t aimed at my age group. It is designed for children and their parents to provide a point of contact and a way to track every thing from their current location to their activity levels during the day.

Aimed at children aged six to nine years old, it is colourful and cartoon themed, with a number of Disney- and marvel-themed characters to choose from to personalise the watch. Each of the characters have custom animations, – Elsa will throw some ice magic around, for example.

Controls are straightforward: two buttons and a touch-sensitive screen so you can scroll through the menus.

Vodafone Neo smartwatch
Vodafone Neo smartwatch

The watch comes with two straps: one that holds the watch straight on your wrist and a second that puts it at an angle. It’s designed to make it easier for your child to see the watch face. It’s also a sturdy strap, and it’s not easy to pull it off your wrist, which may be a concern for parents. The watch isn’t cheap, so you don’t want them to lose it within days of getting it.

Set up is fairly simple. The Neo smartwatch has a Vodafone sim built into it, so all you need to do is activate it. You do that through the Vodafone Smart app, and it takes – usually – less than 10 minutes.

This is where coms people may trip up. You’ll need to be a Vodafone customer to set up the app. That is because all these smart devices – the watch, the luggage tracker and so on – work on a subscription basis. You’ll need a Vodafone account so it can be charged the appropriate fee, but it’s easy to get around – access to a prepaid Vodafone sim card will do.

Speaking of subscriptions, how much will the Neo cost? You get the first 12 months free, and after that it is just under €10 a month. It may seem steep, but if you were handing over a smartphone to your young child, you would have to keep it topped up with credit each month – plus you get the 12-month period free of charge.

Once everything is up and running you can set up the list of contacts who can communicate with your child through the Smart app – again, provided they are Vodafone subscribers. Those contacts can message or call the Neo; everyone else is blocked.

It’s a reassuring point for parents who may be concerned about handing over a phone to their child; not only is it less likely to get lost or stolen, there are tight controls over who can communicate with the child. You can also set up “quiet time” to ensure your child isn’t chatting at all hours of the day and night.

There is a built-in camera so your child can take a couple of photos, although they won’t rival your smartphone. Those appear in your app too, giving you full visibility over everything your child does with the watch.

Another useful feature is that it pinpoints your child’s location, so if they aren’t where they are supposed to be, you can quickly find them through the Smart app – or find the watch’s location at least.

The activity tracker also shows how active your child is, and when they were last active, so if you have concerns about their physical activity during the day, you can keep a close watch on it. I found this less appealing, as it felt bit too much like I was hovering.

Battery life was decent too, although, like most of these watches, it has a proprietary charger. It just feels like it is begging to be lost, so keep a close eye on it.

The good

This is designed with children in mind. It is sturdy, it is well designed and it has a touch screen that little hands can manage. The cartoon animations are a nice touch, and were definitely a bonus for my test audience. Being able to limit communications with non-approved contacts was vital, and the lack of general internet access was another bonus.

The not so good

The €10 a month charge after the first year of use may put some people off. Also, you need access to a Vodafone account, although a prepaid sim will do the job.

The rest

The watch strap is sturdy, although the material may not suit all little wrists. A calendar and weather information is also available on the watch, so you can teach your child a bit more independence as they get older.

The verdict

A good compromise for those who are on the fence about a smartphone for a smaller child.