I’m a convert to smart watches; I love being able to see what’s happening from my wrist without needing to pull my phone out all the time. But what if you don’t have a phone? What if you’re a young person who is still learning how to look after technology (and personal belongings), but you (or your parents) want to be able to get in touch more easily?

Kids smartwatches are one answer, and while they’re not for every kid, every parent or every family, they have a place.

We’ve already reviewed a few such products for kids in recent years, with the help of my son, and while smartwatches for adults are definitely a more polished, fashionable experience, smartwatches for kids have come along quite a ways. The first watch we reviewed – the original Alcatel Movetime family watch – was a fairly chunky affair with relatively limited features.

Fast forward just a few years, and we’ve got watches for kids that rival the features of many smartwatches designed for adults, with appropriate restrictions and limitations in place to keep kids safe in a connected world.

What is the imoo Watch Phone Z1?

imoo’s Watch Phone Z1 is a more affordable option to some of its more feature-rich smartwatches, but it offers just the right balance of connectivity to keep your kids connected and safe, without exposing them to unnecessary risks.

Designed for kids 5 through 12, the Z1 has a built in phone function to call numbers on a pre-definied list (e.g. mum, dad, brothers, sisters etc), and to exchange text / SMS messages with those numbers too.

You might think a phone on a kids wrist is a bad idea, and you might be right – but there’s important protections here. If anyone else were to get ahold of your kid’s number, they can’t call – the watch silently drops calls not on the approved list. Better still, your kid can’t just randomly call whoever they like – number not on the list, no calling.

There’s also a location tracking feature – which you can’t disable, per se – which allows you to check where you kid (or more realistically, your kids watch) is when they’re not with you. During a lockdown (as we have in Sydney at the moment) this feature isn’t especially useful, but it can be handy to find a watch that’s been taken off because it was annoying and since can’t be found.

There’s also handy features to make the watch ring loudly if your kids misplace it (which they will), but make sure you find it before the battery goes dead.

On that note, the battery does last a couple of days, which is an improvement over previous generations which were a little battery thirsty. I suspect the Z1 does this by being relatively sparse on features – besides calling, messaging and location tracking, it doesn’t offer too much more.

This, of course, is a good thing. The last thing young kids need is to be distracted by an always present digital tool, and while it’s handy to be able to keep in touch with kids venturing out and about, and vice versa if they need you, you don’t want them sitting there playing games with it all day. That’s not what being a kid is about.

It is for this reason that the imoo Z1 is among my favourite kids smartwatches that I’ve come across; while it offers the connectivity that we occasionally need, it doesn’t offer all the silly extra features, apps and games that frankly I don’t want my son spending much time on. I want him to be able to get in touch if he needs to when with family, friends, or out for a walk, and I want to be able to reach him or know where he is sometimes. That’s about it.

But what about the safety and privacy of your kid?

For the privacy conscious, I guess you’d be concerned – as I am – about having a watch that can report its location via a cloud service that’s not especially detailed or explained. imoo’s website notes:

The imoo product is under certification for the ePrivacyseal certificate and ePrivacyApp certificate. All data is safely stored locally with bank-grade security. imoo has the best practices in data encryption, security and privacy, having been built to meet the strict GDPR privacy and data compliance laws, making it arguably the most secure children’s watch in the world.

To my understanding, the only way to request and receive location of an imoo watch is to have paired it with an app that you install on your phone. There’s no web portal, and you can’t send the watch an SMS and receive a location back.

Absent someone hacking imoo’s cloud service (which seems unlikely), the only way you’d get a location from a kids watch is to be logged into the app on a mobile that has been specifically paired to said watch.

To do that pairing, an approved family member (whose already bound their app to the watch) needs to generate a code and show it to another family member, who can then install and bind the app on their phone too. That, then, is subject to a secondary approval on the original phone to double-ensure that only approved people are added to a particular kid’s watch.

To me, that seems okay, and that level of security is alright. Given the difficulty in calling the watch from any number other an approved one, and that you can’t get the location without an app paired in a fairly specific way, the Z1 seems fairly safe. Probably the only real risk I can think of is calls from a spoofed number – but the call / voice quality on the Z1 is pretty good, and your kid should be able to tell the difference between your voice and someone else’s should that unlikely situation occur.

I know it’s something parents agonize over – I know I have – but with appropriate precautions, technology absolutely can be safe and rewarding for everyone.

Should you buy one?

If you’re wanting to take the foray into connected technology with your kid, this is a great way to start; the Z1 offers connectivity and some helpful safety features, without going nuts on features your kids can waste time on instead of doing more valuable things (learning, playing, exploring, etc).

Of course, my son loves technology and being the son of a product reviewer, he does get to play with quite a lot of it, and I’m ever-aware – perhaps more than others – of the dangers of too much technology at too young an age. It’s for this reason why, despite having an abundance of it, we restrict screen time, don’t let him have unlimited time playing games / consoles / whatever, and – in allowing him to use a smartwatch – keep it to one that’s got the feature balance right for his and our needs.

To that end, the imoo Z1 is a great option, it’s affordable, comes in two great colours, and – I’m told – is very comfortable to wear.

imoo’s Watch Phone Z1 is available online for $149 at the moment and, if you use the code IMOOA$5 on checkout, you can save $5. Product ships from China, and typically arrives in a couple of days straight to your door.