Most smartwatches don’t require a SIM card because they connect to your phone, usually via Bluetooth, and use it to access the mobile network. However, if you’re looking to equip your child with a smartwatch that supports GPS, so you can use it as a location tracker, then you’ll want a SIM card. Smartwatches with SIM cards can access GSM, LTE, or other networks and may also offer limited options for making calls or sending texts, to help you keep in touch with your kids.
Typical smartwatch features
Every smartwatch, just like a wristwatch, will work as a clock, but specific features beyond that vary widely. Fitness tracking was a big driver of smartwatch sales, so you can expect to find features such as a pedometer, fitness goal tracking, and inactivity reminders as standard, whether or not smartwatches have a SIM card and GPS. These features can offer some additional value over and above your desire to ensure your child’s safety and make the device more fun for children to use.
While most smartwatches act as companions to a smartphone, those with SIM cards can also act as stand-alone devices. This can be very important if you are looking to provide your child with a way of communicating with you without offering them the full internet access that phones allow, with all of the hazards that can bring. A smartwatch can be a good way of encouraging them to think about personal safety.
Some smartwatches also have cameras. Many have entertainment and learning apps or games. Although children may love these apps, many of the watches that support them do not have SIM card or GPS support and so are unable to help you track your child. To get the full benefit from a smartwatch as a locator you need GPS and a child tracking app.
Smartwatches aimed at children
Most adult smartwatches (such as the Apple Watch Series 4) offer the ability to make and receive calls, send messages and even stream music, but they’re not cheap. They also have to be tethered to a smartphone to offer full functionality. If you’re looking for a smartwatch to provide you with location tracking for your child, then you’ll want something tailormade for the purpose and more affordable.
Thankfully, there are plenty of smartwatches designed especially for kids. Many of these offer fitness tracking, various apps and features to help you to monitor your child, and apps that aim to educate children or even encourage them to do their chores. Most also have apps and games purely for entertainment.
Features parents should look for
Remember, if you want to use a smartwatch to ensure that you never have to worry about losing your little one, you need to choose a smartwatch with a SIM card and GPS support, but it pays to choose a device that your child will want to wear or you may find that it’s conveniently “lost” or left behind.
Geofencing is a particularly handy feature for parents, as it allows you to define an area and alerts you if your child goes beyond the parameters of that area. It’s also worth considering a smartwatch that allows you to contact your child and vice versa. If you know they can contact you with a couple of taps if they get into trouble, then neither of you needs to worry so much.
While many of the smartwatches designed especially for children are reasonably light on their battery and data demands, the adult versions are not. Streaming content uses power at an alarming rate. If the smartwatch is too power hungry you either need to check that they are charging it every night and remembering to put it back on in the morning, or risk the smartwatch running out of juice at an inopportune moment. GPS trackers cannot help you if the device has run out of charge.
You should also look for a device with PIN or password protection, so that only you can change settings or add new apps.
Smart watch with SIM Card
Verizon’s GizmoWatch is aimed at children between the ages of three and eleven. It combines GPS support with an LTE connection. It has two-way calling and messaging, as well as GPS location and boundary settings. It also has a basic step tracker and inactivity reminder to encourage fitness. It costs $179.99 and the monthly plan is $5 (as well as a $30 activation fee). You need to be an existing Verizon customer to use this watch, but they offer a $50 discount off a 2-year contract, waive one $5 monthly line fee for single device and shared plans, and there is no $5 monthly fee for unlimited plans.
TickTalk 3 is a 4G-LTE smartwatch offering most of the central features of GPS smartwatches including video calling, voice calling, Wi-Fi calling, smart messaging, and location-tracking. It costs $169.99. It uses a Nano SIM Card and is not tied to any one provider. Through a deal with Red Pocket you get prepaid service providing 500 minutes of talk time, 500 SMS messages and 500 MB data for $10 per month. You can also add a subscription to TickTalk 3 to your T-Mobile or AT&T family plans. The smartwatch is also compatible with other carriers using GSM networks including Metro, PCS, Speedtalk and Cricket.
Dokiwatch is designed for children aged five and over. It offers GPS tracking and geofencing with alerts if your child leaves a specified area and an SOS function for emergencies. It can make and receive calls from a list of preset contacts, but it also allows video calling, so you can see your child not just talk to them. There is a basic fitness tracker, an electronic pet, and children can pair watches with their friends. It uses the 3G network and works with Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile. You will need a micro SIM card for this smartwatch, and it costs $179. For $259, you can also purchase the TATA data only SIM card, which will give you 300MB of data per month for 12 months.
LilTracker uses a micro SIM card to offer GPS tracking with geofencing support. Your child can place and receive calls with up to 15 authorized contacts, and there is a handy SOS button which automatically dials your number in an emergency. It has a high sensitivity microphone so that you can listen in on your child’s surroundings in real-time. It will even alert you if it’s removed from your child’s wrist. On the down side, it operates on 2G networks which offer limited coverage and are increasingly being phased out, so it may not be a good longer-term solution. It costs $84.99.
Find My Kids GPS-watches come in four models. They use micro and nano SIM cards to offer GPS tracking with geofencing support. Your child can place and receive calls with up to 10 authorized contacts, and there is a handy SOS button which automatically dials your number in an emergency. Find My Kids smartwatches have a high sensitivity microphone so that you can listen in on your child’s surroundings in real-time. It will even alert you if it’s removed from your child’s wrist. It operates on 2G or 3G networks depending of the watch’s model, and costs anywhere from $79 — $99.
Consider network coverage
You also have to check into network coverage. Smartwatches with SIM cards use cellular networks to operate. At present this can mean accessing 2G, 3G or 4G LTE networks (second, third, or fourth generation). 2G networks are increasingly being phased out. AT&T and Sprint have already shut down their 2G networks, and Verizon and T-Mobile are expected to follow suit by the end of 2019 and 2020, respectively.
It’s vital to check that you will be able to get a signal in your area and with your chosen provider before buying a smartwatch. Opensignal offers detailed reports on the coverage of 2G, 3G and 4G for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
If you’re planning on taking the smartwatch with you when you travel, you may need to check whether your carrier applies roaming charges. For example, Verizon will not charge you extra for using non-Verizon networks within the US, but you could rack up charges if you travel abroad.
While an adult user might expect their smartwatch to stream music or use it to browse the web, kids are less likely to and many smartwatches for children don’t even offer those options. That means data requirements are likely be low. Just make sure that apps and games are downloaded, software is updated, and photos are uploaded, at home when connected to Wi-Fi.
Choosing locked or unlocked devices
There are many other options available through marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay, but always check the specifications carefully before you buy and be wary of cheap devices from China which may not be compatible with US carriers. It’s a good idea to read related reviews and make sure the product you choose has the compatibility you want.
For any smartwatch you buy it’s crucial to check whether it’s unlocked for every carrier or restricted. If you buy straight from a network carrier, the smartwatch may be locked to that carrier. You will either need to purchase a plan from them or arrange to unlock the smartwatch if you want to use a different carrier.
You can unlock a smartwatch that is tied to a carrier by requesting an unlock code from that carrier, or by buying a code through a third party such as Ebay. However, manufacturers do not recommend using third-party services, and there is a risk that the codes won’t work. It’s better to contact your carrier if you need to get a smartwatch unlocked.
SIM Card plans
Smartwatches generally use a Nano SIM card or a micro SIM card. In most cases this is free to order, but to activate it on a mobile network you’ll need to sign up to a plan. Take great care if you have to remove a SIM card from its slot and be sure never to force it into place. All of the leading US mobile carriers offer family plans and SIM-only plans. You can take advantage of pay as you go plans if you don’t want to set up an annual contract.
One of the most important features of any smartwatch plan will be the data it offers. Unless you have purchased a premium adult smartwatch for your child, it is unlikely that they will be downloading music or video, so you probably won’t need an enormous data allowance or a high-speed connection.
However, if the smartwatch can make voice and video calls there is always the possibility that your child will want to call you a number of times a day until the novelty wears off. If they use a messaging app, then this could burn through a lot of data. Make sure you know how to check the balance on your GPS watch to avoid running out of data while your child is out and about.
Now, let’s take a look at the difference between different carriers and what they offer in terms of wireless connectivity.
You can fit the AT&T Compatible Nano SIM Card into many smartwatches. AT&T has withdrawn its child-centered GPS smartwatch (the fiLIP) but still offers a variety of plans, depending on the quantity of data you need and whether you want multiple phone lines. You can opt for one of its data only plans (with an overage rate of $14.99/250MB on 250MB plan and $10/GB for the 3GB and 5GB plans).
|Data||250 MB||3 GB||5 GB|
|Price per month||$14.99||$30.00||$50.00|
It also offers prepaid options which expire after 30 days.
|Data||3 GB||8 GB||15 GB|
You can add a smartwatch to one of Verizon’s unlimited plans. Verizon also has a number of data-only plans for connected devices. You need to pay a monthly line access fee of $5 per device and can then choose how much data you think you will need. There is a data overage of $15 per GB.
|GB per month||2 GB||4 GB||6 GB||8 GB||10 GB||12 GB||14 GB||16 GB||18 GB|
You can get the T-Mobile One plan for wearables, but only if you have bought the smartwatch from them. It will give you unlimited talk, text, and data up to 512Kbps for $10 per month.
If your child already has their own smartphone with cell service, then take a look at T-Mobile DIGITS, which allows you to use the same phone number on a smartwatch, assuming it supports calls. This will also cost you $10 per month.
If you already have a plan with Sprint, then you can add a smartwatch with unlimited data, talk, and text for an extra $15 per month. You can knock that down to $10 per month if you set up AutoPay.
You don’t have to sign up with one of the big four in order to obtain network access for your smartwatch. US Mobile offers a prepaid plan. You can use its 3 in 1 SIM Card which can be cut to the correct size for your smartwatch (most likely Nano) and then customize your plan depending on the quantity of talk, text and data you will need.
It also offers unlimited talk and text for $10 with 5GB data for an extra $15, 10 GB for an extra $25, or unlimited data for an extra $30.
Another affordable supplier of 3 in 1 SIM cards is Speedtalk Mobile. It offers a number of flexible plans depending on the quantity of data you are likely to use, with no need to sign up to a contract.
|Plan 1||$5 for 30 days||250 mins talk, or||250 SMS, or||250 MB data||Roaming|
|Plan 2||$7.50 for 30 days||375 mins talk, or||375 SMS, or||375 MB data||Roaming|
|Plan 3||$10 for 30 days||500 mins talk, or||Unlimited SMS, or||250 MB data||No Roaming|
|Plan 4||$30 for 6 months||250 mins talk, or||250 SMS, or||250 MB data||Roaming|
|Plan 5||$25 for 120 days||1250 mins talk, or||1250 SMS, or||1250 MB data||No Roaming|
|Plan 6||$60 for 6 months||500 mins talk a month, or||Unlimited SMS, or||500 MB data monthly||No Roaming|
|Plan 7||$100 for 12 months||500 mins talk a month, or||Unlimited SMS, or||500 MB data monthly||No Roaming|
Guide to getting the best out of your GPS smartwatch
Once you have sifted through smartwatch models to find the one that suits your child best, and decided which carrier you are going to use, you need to set up an app so that you can track your child and define safe zones. This can seem daunting at first, but there is plenty of help available for setting up a GPS smartwatch.
Think carefully about which numbers you should put in the contacts list and consider how wide you should set the safe zone. Check out all of the settings and read the manual thoroughly. You might want to set up a Do Not Disturb protocol to operate while your child is at school or at night time. Do a test run to make sure that the app and the smartwatch have a strong connection, and that the GPS is working.
If you have done your homework before making a purchase, the smartwatch you choose should meet all of your needs and expectations, providing real peace of mind for you and your child.