Review: Spacetalk Adventurer smartwatch for kids will give worried parents peace of mind

The device designed for children has impressive features, but can it stand up to scrutiny?
The device designed for children has impressive features, but can it stand up to scrutiny? Photo credit: Newshub

Smartwatches have never been as affordable or as varied as they are now and I only have to think back to what an obnoxious child I was to know just how much I'd be bugging my parents for one if I were at school.

Enter the Spacetalk Adventurer, designed to give parents the control over the device they need while giving the kid a piece of cool tech to show around the playground.

It's available via Spark in Aotearoa and designed to offer peace of mind for parents who want to make sure their children are safe. But there is a slight problem...

As someone who has grown-up kids who are, like, WAY too cool to be tracked by their old man, I had to ask my partner to try it out instead.

Thankfully she has small wrists, liked its retro-design and - as she never voluntarily ventures far from home - was happy for me to know where she was while I was at work. Phew!

So how did it perform? We've been trying out the Spacetalk Adventurer for a few weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

The Spacetalk Adventurer has plenty of functionality and, on the face of it, seems to offer exactly what I'd want from such a device. 

It's a smartwatch that doesn't need to be paired with a mobile phone - it has its own SIM card and 8GB of internal memory to store photos and videos, along with a tough 1.4-inch Gorilla Glass OLED display.

Setup and control comes via a separate app as well as on the watch and it was relatively easy to get it configured once I'd worked out some of the less than intuitive ways of accessing features.

It looks good, although it might be a little bulky on the wrist of a very young child - but the strap fixes securely and I'm confident it's not going to slip off while they run around playing.

One of the great things about technology is the ability to personalise it, and if you want to get your child to buy into wearing something like this instead of sulking because you're not buying them an Apple or Samsung smartwatch then you're in luck.

There are plenty of ringtones to choose from, even if some of them are a little bit dated. I settled on 'Big Easy', a jazzy number that sounded like it belonged in a Pixar movie or a Parisian cafe.

There are just three options for watch faces - two digital and one analogue - but thanks to the ability to set wallpapers using photographs and images, configuration options are effectively endless.

The Spacetalk Adventurer smartwatch
Photo credit: Newshub

Ultimately, however, this is about providing specific functionality - the ability to make and receive calls, sharing GPS location data and messaging - but retaining control over who and how that happens. This watch does just that and does it well.

You can specify who the wearer can contact and even when they can do so - school mode allows you to choose exactly which functions are available and when, so you can ensure they're not distracted in class.

The calling and texting capabilities work just fine - although I'd suggest setting up frequently used messages as auto-reply options. This will be one of the most useful things you can do for your child.

The free texting option is there, but it uses a style of selecting letters - multiple taps on the same key to choose which of the three letters on that key you want - that hasn't been used for what seems like forever. Kids won't have a clue!

The 5MP camera enables sharing of photos and videos with trusted friends and family and works as described, but the quality isn't great. Stills were a little bright and washed out and videos will be fun things to watch once, but won't be saved or shown on a big screen.

Then there's the stopwatch functionality, weather forecasts, fitness tracker (including heart rate monitor) and a configurable emergency button that allows a message to be sent to a designated person or authorities with one tap - it all adds up to a fun package that does more than you might think.

The bad

I didn't test the safe zone functionality - which allows you to define places and get notified when your child arrives and leaves the zone - as I had some trouble in the app setting one up.

I suspect this might have been due to my desire to run beta iOS versions that can sometimes lead to things like this.

It surprisingly also doesn't do video calls which I would have thought would have been brilliant functionality to provide.

That aside, there are three things any prospective purchaser needs to know about.

The first is the charging dock, which is powered by USB. There is a magnet in there to keep the watch on the dock - but it's too weak. It's way too easy to knock it off slightly, leading to an uncharged smartwatch and, probably, panicky parents.

Even putting it down on a surface can cause it to be dislodged.

That's important because battery life is okay, but not great. There is advice in the app on how to maximise the battery power, but you're going to need to experiment to get it right.

If you've got a kid that looks at the watch occasionally and only uses it in an emergency, then it'll get them through the day easily. But if your kid goes to before- and after-school care and is going to play with the device a lot, it's likely going to run out of battery before it comes home.

Regardless, you are going to have to charge this every night and make sure it's doing so somewhere it can't be dislodged.

The other thing that had me frustrated was the responsiveness of the screen. There were times when it was fantastic - using the stopwatch and typing messages didn't provide any issues - but other times it was very slow, particularly when switching between functions.

The Spacetalk Adventurer smartwatch
Photo credit: Newshub

A number of times it was so slow that it would select a function other than what I wanted due to being pressed multiple times.

Combined with the lack of intuitiveness compared to the smartwatch software I currently use, it means you're going to have to spend some time teaching your kids how to use this.

I just hope they're not as easily annoyed as I am!

The verdict

Despite some flaws, there's lots about the Spacetalk Adventurer that really appeals to me. In particular, I think of those times when I had to pick up the kids from school but was delayed by traffic.

In those circumstances, undoubtedly I was more perturbed by it than they were. They were too young to have a mobile phone and there was no way to get hold of them to let them know I would be a few minutes late.

Something like this watch would have been ideal. And the kids would have loved the process of choosing the colour of the watch and setting up the alarms, the ring tones and the wallpapers to suit their personalities.

Yes, it's expensive at $369.00 for just the watch - that's before the monthly cost of $7.99 for the data plan and $6.99 for the app access.

But if you're considering spending a few hundred dollars on ANY device for school-aged children then I'm going to suggest you can probably afford it.

In my experience, things get broken, smashed, lost and written on a lot - so how long it lasts is going to come down to your children and how much you trust them.

But the peace of mind that could come with something like this? For some, that'll be priceless.

Newshub was supplied with a Spacetalk Adventurer watch and data plan for this review.