It seems very clear at this point that the future of the smartwatch market lies in diversification. Plenty of companies at present have found success in releasing devices that are only slight variations on what is already available, but as the marketplace becomes more and more crowded, that strategy simply isn’t going to work any longer. For a smartwatch to find success moving forward, it’s going to need something that sets it apart from the pack. In many cases, it will be a particular feature that sets it apart—something that it simply does better that every other product on the marketplace. However, there’s also room for expansion via the strategy of aiming a product at a completely different audience, and that’s exactly what LeapFrog have done with the LeapBand.
You’ll almost certainly have heard the name LeapFrog from some of their other efforts in early-learning technology. Their range of devices—typically styled around the predominant pieces of consumer electronics of the day, whether it be laptops, tablets or handheld game consoles—have allowed the company to create a market for their products from scratch. Now they hope to expand into the world of smartwatches with the LeapBand.
The look of the LeapBand is certainly in-keeping with the other products in their range. It adopts a similar form factor to conventional smartwatches, but with a dash of colour to make it more appealing to a younger audience. It’s very much a cheerful device that has been specifically designed to make children want to interact with it. However, perhaps the more important aspect to the design of a product like this is how hard-wearing it is. LeapFrog were one of the first companies that made electronics that were specifically aimed at young children, and as such they know a thing or two about how to create a device that’s robust enough to withstand heavy use by a child. The display and the buttons on the watch face will certainly hold up to some punishment, and the hard-wearing but comfortable strap will make sure that the LeapBand doesn’t slip off your child’s wrist and go missing.
Whilst some of the strengths of the LeapBand come directly from LeapFrog’s experience making similar devices for children, it should be noted that their first foray into smartwatches has a rather different purpose than their other efforts. Products like the Leapster and LeapPad have a specifically academic remit in terms of their educational content, focussing on things like reading and arithmetic. The LeapBand does set out to educate children, but it’s much more concerned with teaching them about exercise and fitness. The device has been described as a ‘FitBit for kids’, and that’s a very good way of describing just what it does.
The concept of a fitness tracker for a young child might be unappealing to some parents, but the way that it’s executed upon might do quite a bit to assuage these concerns. The focus of the device is squarely upon educating children about the importance of an active lifestyle, which most would agree is a noble aim. The sad truth of the matter is that, in this day and age, there are scores of children who simply aren’t getting the exercise that they should, and any help to motivate them into wanting to do so from a young age could be a great help to them. However, the very concept of this device will likely turn some parents away, and it’s certainly understandable why a fitness tracker for children would seem unpalatable to some.
The way that the LeapBand does its job is by attempting to make being active appealing to kids by framing it as a game. Your child will be able to choose a pet, pick its colour and name it, and from there the aim is to play with their new pet. This takes the form of exercising alongside it, playing games on the screen to make sure it’s washed and groomed, and keeping it well fed. Feeding time allows the device to teach your child about the importance of healthy eating; facts about nutrition and healthy food appear on screen as well as being said via the speaker on the device.
However, the main focus of the LeapBand is on tracking your child’s activity. An energy bar around the edge of the screen tracks their progress over the course of the day, with their activity earning them points that can be used to unlock various rewards, like accessories for their pet. You can also set up to fifty challenges for your child, which the LeapBand will monitor whenever they’re wearing the device.
One drawback of the LeapBand comes as a result of a clash between the ethos of its manufacturer LeapFrog and the smartwatch market in general. LeapFrog have been criticized in the past for the way that their products operate as a closed system, with no allowance for third parties to develop software for their devices. Being that these are devices for children, you can certainly see why this rule is set in stone at the company, but at the same time it does limit the amount of educational content that your children will have access to. Being the sole creator of both the hardware and software for all their products means there is a limit to how much LeapFrog can do, and that could have an influence on the eventual lifespan of this product.
However, it has to be said that the LeapBand does have a sizeable amount of content as it comes—it’s very likely to be able to keep children engaged and interested in exercise for quite some time. Taking that into account alongside LeapFrog’s good track record with learning devices for children, it’s easy to see why the LeapBand could be a great boon to parents who are keen to foster an early appreciation for the importance of exercise in their kids. The LeapBand is coming soon, and if you’re interested in being one of the first families to use the device, you can sign up to be notified of its release on the official LeapFrog website. The LeapBand looks set to released in child-friendly orange, blue, green and pink at some point later this year.