Fitbit, now a Google brand, is reportedly working on a wearable device for preteens. Business Insider reports that it is internally code-named Project Eleven. The team behind the gadget aims to “help older kids form healthy relationships with their phones and social media.”
Google’s Australian Fitbit team is heading the project. The device will have GPS and cellular connectivity—a leg up over the current kid-centric Fitbit devices like the Ace 3, which only track activity. The wearable will also offer location tracking and the ability to call an adult with the touch of a button. The device won’t require a smartphone to work on the go.
As with the rest of the Fitbit lineup, Project Eleven will “encourage physical activity” akin to the Ace 3, which currently enables activity tracking and buzzes every 50 minutes to remind kids to get up and move. The device will launch sometime in 2024, though an employee mentioned in the report stressed that there’s still work to do before the device can come to fruition.
Fitbit is interested in courting kids to establish them as future customers. “They talk a lot about wanting to engage the teen market,” an employee told Business Insider.
Google acquired Fitbit a year ago. It has long had its Wear OS platform for Android users wanting to tether a smartwatch, but it lacked the fitness and activity-tracking expertise that helped other smartwatches succeed in the industry. Last week, Fitbit announced in a blog post that it would hold on to its iconic moniker even as it develops new devices under Google.
At this point, I’m not particularly bothered about tracking a child around town. I’ve written before that I can see the benefit in it with my child. The device I equipped her with even lets me remotely call for help to her location. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch already help track kids through GPS without tethering a smartphone, while carriers like Verizon offer the Gizmo smartwatch to give kids a way to call home from their wrist.
I am a bit concerned about the fitness-centric branding of Fitbit, however, as it relates to kids—particularly preteens. Eating disorders are common among that age group, and a smartwatch or bracelet fitness tracker can be a significant trigger for disordered eating. The Fitbit Ace 3 doesn’t currently count calories for kids. Hopefully, Fitbit keeps it that way, despite the parents desperately asking for a calorie counter.