Smartphones and smartwatches for kids aren't exactly new – even FitBit has a kids' watch these days – but China-based Abardeen has done things a little differently. The company has taken a modular approach with its latest offering – launched this week on Kickstarter – in an effort to inject some extra flexibility to the kids phone/watch equation.

Designed to transform between smartphone, smartwatch and voice-enabled home assistant, the Novus system is made up of four components (one of which is optional). The first is the Novus Core, an Android-powered, 4G-enabled, Apple-Watch-looking module, housing the screen and all the phone/watch related technology. As the name suggests, this is the core of the setup – the brains of the operation if you will. The Novus Core is either inserted into the Watch Module (handy for kids prone to losing things like phones) or clicked into the Phone Module enclosure (which also adds two extra days of battery life). The Phone Module uses a touch-wheel – similar to classic iPods – to control the Novus and scroll through the onscreen menus.

At home, the Novus Core + Phone Module can be slotted into the optional Home Module, which not only charges the Novus Core and Phone Module batteries, but transforms the ensemble into what Abardeen calls an "AI Speaker." This is more than a charging station with a speaker. It's a Google Assistant-enabled smart-speaker, a stand-alone alarm clock and a clever nightlight that turns on when it detects movement via its infrared sensor.

One of the hurdles for developers of smartphone technology for kids is that kids and parents often have different requirements, and very different tastes. Abardeen feels it has met that challenge with Novus, building in features and a form-factor that kids will find useful and enjoyable, while giving parents the functionality and security they want.

"When we set out to build Novus, we wanted to take the latest available technology and apply it to the unique needs of a child and their parents," says Abardeen CEO Jacko Liu.

On the kids side of things, the Novus sports a fitness-tracker; a video-call-enabled camera; a music and video player (via speaker or headphone jack); the ability to pair-up locally with other Novus owners; an SOS feature which calls a preset number, and the usual call and SMS features, including a preset SMS response feature – all enabled or restricted via the parent's KidMate Ⅳ app.

And while the pitch video suggests the Novus is waterproof, this isn't quite the case. The company has corrected this on the Kickstarter page, stating that the product is water-resistant with an IP65 rating (dust-proof + rain/splash resistant). Pretty normal for phones and watches, but disappointing for something that kids are going to subject to, well, kids stuff.

For parents, the Novus looks pretty impressive, with parental features all controlled by Abardeen's KidMate Ⅳ app. The app allows parents to filter contacts, set time limits on phone use, and track the Novus via multiple positioning methods including GPS and Wi-Fi. Parents can also set up location alerts (such as arriving at home or school) and can call-in silently (without the phone ringing) so they can listen in on what their kids are up to. Like regular phones, the Novus can dial any number, not just those stored in the device, but parents can limit this feature from within the app as well.

The Novus is simple to set up according to its creators. Once the SIM is inserted and the device is powered up, the Novus displays a QR code onscreen, which the parent scans via the KidMate Ⅳ app.

Pledges begin at US$169 for a package that includes the Novus Core, the Phone Module and the Watch Module. The Novus was fully funded within the first four hours of the Kickstarter campaign and production is scheduled to begin in July 2019, with initial shipping planned for August.

Abardeen's pitch video for Novus can be seen below.

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