For parents, I think the most terrifying thought has to be losing your child, and though most parents do their best to make sure they know where their little ones are at all times, you can’t always be with them, but what if you could–in a way. That’s where products like the Xplora 3S come in. These smart devices for kids are essentially partially two-way smartphones which allows a parent to keep tabs on their younger ones, as well as to communicate with them.
As usual I’ll provide you the manufacturer specs of the device, then we’ll get into more details about what it’s like to use it.
- Chipset – MT2503A/E
- OS – RTOS
- Network – 2G
- Frequency band – GSM 900, 1800
- BLE – 4.0
- Display – 1.33” IPS
- Screen Resolution – 240 x 240
- Camera – VGA
- Storage – 160 MB
- Waterproof – IPx67
- Battery – 520 mAh
- Stand-by (days) – 5 days
- Continuous call (hours) – 7-8 hours
- Dimensions (body)(mm) – 56.5 x 42 x 14.2
- Weight – 50g
- Sensors – G-sensor
- Sim – Nano
When you first receive the Xplora 3S, you’ll need to set it up first before giving it to your child. You’ll also need a Nano Sim on a network capable of 2G over GSM 900 and 1800 bands. It being 2G is one of the few limitations of the device since that type of signal decays under unfavorable conditions and may not be strong enough in areas with little to no 2G network coverage. With the current cellular industry standard being 4G, 2G implementation seems like a strange fit for a device that you’d want constant high-quality access to. All that being said, these are limitations that should not be as much of an issue in more populated areas where there are likely to be more cellular towers. The Sim will of course need a data plan, and also should not have a pin code on it. Once you have a proper Sim, remove the cover for the sim tray, place it upwards in the cover, then put the cover back on and firmly close it. You can then power on the device by holding the power button on the side until the device turns on.
The Xplora 3S works with a companion app which you’ll need to install on your phone via the Google Play Store or Apple App Store depending on the model of phone you own. With the app installed and the Sim in the watch, you’ll need to make sure it has good coverage, then follow the instructions on the app to verify your phone number, create an account and activate it via the QR code on the watch. With all that setup, your Xplora is ready for action. The setup process may be a bit complicated for less savvy parents, but most should find it simple enough. The main issue we had during setup was related to the country code section being blank in a way that doesn’t clearly indicate it needs to be set.
With a recommended age between 3 to 12 years, it should come as no surprise that it’s safe for use in and around water. This means the child can play, take showers, or go swimming without needing to remove it. It’s also comfortable enough for all day use, although it may cause some irritation of the skin depending on the sensitivity of your child’s skin. If your child has sensitive skin then you should only have them use the watch when they are away from you. If skin sensitivity is not an issue for your child then they can wear the device for as long as they wish.
As for its construction, the watch is mostly plastic with silicone bands and a soft texture on the underside. Being plastic, it does scratch easily, however it is rugged enough to survive most activities a child would get into. After almost a year of regular use, there has been no noticeable degradation to performance, just a few scratches on the face.
Battery life during practical use is about 3 days on standby, while under moderate use you can expect approximately 2.5 hours. The app will also notify you when the watch needs charging as well as other data including who the child has communicated with along with their most recent location.
From our experience the GPS feature may not be the most accurate so keep this in mind and properly test the watch in controlled situations before relying on it for such data. This shortcoming is related to your mobile carrier and the updates you have installed to the watch. I recommend installing every new update to avoid unwarranted anxiety attacks from the watch misrepresenting the child’s location. In our tests we had one situation where the child was at school and the watch showed his location as being in another location in the opposite direction. This situation was also exasperated quite a bit due to him being in class and thus unable to answer incoming calls. For such a situation, it’s important to work out an alternative means of communication for you and your child. What we’ve resorted to is him using certain emojis to confirm certain things. That way he won’t get in trouble for using a phone in class, but can confirm his status.
After updating the watch shortly after this occurrence the issue was eliminated, so again I encourage that you always update the watch.
It should also be noted that the watch doesn’t give real-time GPS updates, but rather periodic updates. You can enable tracking mode for more frequent location updates, however that feature does rapidly drain the battery.
The Xplora 3S is able to communicate with 12 numbers (50 contacts after update) which the parent will manage from the app on their phone. The child can call any of the programmed numbers as well as send emojis, pictures, and voice messages, however they are unable to send actual text messages. For the programmed numbers, they are the only numbers allowed to call or text the watch. All incoming and outgoing communications can also be easily monitored via the app on the parents phone. It’s also possible to set appropriate times for it to send and receive communications.
As mentioned before it is possible for the watch to send pictures to contacts. These pictures are taken from the camera on the side of the watch. The quality isn’t much to write about, but for a kid it’s sufficient enough in brightly lit settings.
Should the child feel in danger, they can press and hold the power button for 5 seconds to initiate an SOS, then the watch will send an alert to your phone along with a picture as well as their last location. The geolocation capabilities also provide parents with an unobtrusive means of locating their children at any given time, whether by checking the parental app, or receiving notifications whenever the child enters or leaves a ‘safety zone’.
Safe zones can be setup for locations like the child’s school, home, friend’s house or maybe a neighbourhood park. Should the child leave or enter any of these locations then the watch will notify the parent. There is also an alarm feature which allows you to set alarms to remind your little ones to do the things they almost always forget to do.
Similar to when smart phones broke onto the market and changed the world of communications, I believe devices like this will do the same for child safety. Today we live in a more digital world so the need for products like this has become more and more important. As I see it the Xplora 3S is a product that will pave the way for a whole new market. It’s functional, neat, robust, and offers most of the features a parent and child would want in a product like this, especially given its competitive £129.99 price tag.
That being said, if you want 4G support for much more accurate and readily available GPS information you’ll need to consider the new, Xplora 4.
The Xplora 3S used for this review was provided by its manufacturer, Xplora.