Xplora XGo2 hero

Hands-on review: Xplora XGO2 children’s smartwatch

Image credit: Xplora

Lockdowns are easing, Summer's coming: let your children roam free in the open air, with smart new wearable tech for them and peace of mind for you.

Children are excellent little mimics. Whatever Mum or Dad has, they want the same. Smartphones, tablets, fitness bands, smart watches. If they see a parent playing with something, naturally they want something similar of their own.

Norwegian company Xplora has been developing child-specific wearables for several years now. We (with a little help from a small friend) took a look at the company's latest smartwatch, the XGO2.

This is in fact a GPS smartwatch and it's that aspect which enables the most important parent/child safety features. Accordingly, you will need to insert a pay-as-you-go SIM card to enable your mini-me to get the most out of it.

The GPS enables tracking and location functionality, so a parent can always check where their child is via the free Xplora app. The watch wearer can also hit an SOS button at any time to immediately notify their chosen emergency contacts of their location. The XGO2 actually blends multiple services (GPS, Wi-Fi and location-based services) to most accurately identify the location.

Further parental controls in the app include optional 'Safety Zones' around key locations such as home and school, whereby the watch automatically sends an alert if the child leaves these areas, and 'School Mode', which restricts the watch functionality to, well, just being a watch, with all calls and messages temporarily suspended. This mode can be scheduled in advance to mirror school term times. Watch location pings and the SOS function remain active regardless, for safety. In terms of data handling and privacy, the XGO2 is also fully GDPR compliant.

Parental concerns suitably assuaged, what appeal does the XGO2 hold for our diminutive darlings? After all, they're the ones who are going to be wearing the watch. Does it offer enough to get them excited?

Running on Android 4.4, the XGo2 has a 1.4in. capacitive touch colour LCD screen, with a resolution of 240px x 240px. Powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core ARM Cortex A7 frequency, 512MB RAM and Spreadtrum SC9820E chipset, the watch is snappy and responsive, with no discouraging lag in response to inquisitive taps and swipes.

The 700mAh battery provides a claimed 72 hours of standby battery life, although once this watch is on an excited child's wrist, you can expect battery life to be a little more like half that with real-world use. In our test period, recharging every other day was an easy, reliable pattern to fall into. The XGO2 ships with a Pogo Pin contactless magnetic charger, much like an Apple Watch. Nice.

The XGO2 features Wi-Fi as well as 4G, 3G and 2G connectivity and is also IP67 water-resistant (fine for rainy days and messy plays, but not swimming).

Xplora XGo2 steps inline

Image credit: .

With a SIM card installed, the wearer can make and receive voice calls - and talking on a wristwatch still feels deliciously futuristic - using pre-saved numbers only, specified and controlled by a parent in the app. No unsolicited, spammy calls can get through.

Text messages including text, emojis, images and voice messages can also be sent and received. There is a 0.3 megapixel camera at the top of the front watch face and 4GB of internal storage, so plenty of room to store photos. With that resolution, the quality of the images is obviously not going to be amazing, viewed from an adult perspective, but it's something that most children don't care about. They're more excited about being able to do this kind of thing at all, and the thrill of seeing their own face/the cat/Dad's nose appear on the watch screen makes them giddy with delight. The fact that their first smartwatch can also be their first digital camera is doubly delightful.

One huge positive for many parents is that the XGO2 does not feature any social media and none can be installed, which will no doubt come as a blessed relief. Additional features on the XGO2 include a torch, calendar, alarm and stopwatch.

Some early reviews of the XGO2 have carped on about the chunky nature of the watch body. It is indeed a pretty solid hunk of plastic. In our opinion, this is actually a boon for a child's watch and is presumably a deliberate design choice on Xplora's part. Anything designed specifically for a child typically exhibits robust build quality to withstand the types of daily bumps and knocks it can expect, given the carefree, effervescent way in which most children tend to barrel through their days. Children aren't ready for the anxiety of worrying about treating gadgets with extreme care. They want their new digital friend to accompany them through every adventure without complaint. Children are also not as impressed by the small and the sleek, which tends to be a style that appeals more to adults. For kids, chunky is funky.

The final attraction with the XGO2 is the rewards-driven step-counter and activity monitor. To encourage children to move around more and lounge around less, the watch features a step counter that logs daily progress, with clear visual feedback in the familiar 'ring' style of Apple Watch's 'Activity' app.

The wearer is rewarded with 'Xplora Coins' for every 1,000 steps taken, which can then be 'spent' on the Goplay gaming platform. It's harmless fun and good motivation for any child that likes to connect hard work with a reward. Merch and games branded with children's favourites such as Peter Rabbit, Dr Who and Tom & Jerry (a T&J pinball game is one example reward available) await the more animated active participants.

Competitively minded youngsters can also challenge for pole position on the app's activity leader board - going up against other wearers in the world - and a top three placement could land a decent tech prize, such as Bluetooth speakers, kids' tablets, instant cameras and drones. Not too shabby - and it all helps to keep your child active.

All in all, the XGO2 is a solid smartwatch choice for children up to 'big school' age and also a neat parental response to being pestered to have their own phone. A smartphone handset poses far more issues around privacy and price - and is eminently more lose-able than a wrist-worn device. The XGO2 offers a sensible but fun technological first step for the child, with unobtrusive but reassuring safety and security controls for the parent. Win win.

The Xplora XGO2 is available in black, blue, green or pink.


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