Cellphone makers want their wares to become regular fixtures on back to school shopping lists. Several companies are making brightly colored cellphones that are designed to fit snugly in a small child’s hand; the phones are paired with special plans designed to convince parents that handing their five-year-old a cellphone is a responsible decision:
Disney’s calling plans, which are far more elaborate than competing services, start at $25 a month for 200 minutes for an individual child. Contracts run two years. The “call control” feature lets a parent preselect, by the day and time, when the child can make or receive calls. That means you can disable the phone during school hours, although you can select a few “always-on” numbers that can be dialed in an emergency. The “family monitor” feature lets parents preset how many text messages or downloads the child is allowed per month.
Other phones, such as Modeci’s TicTalk, look more like toys. The silver-gray oval-shaped handset ($99) replaces the standard keypad with a scrolling wheel to control a pull-down menu of phone numbers. TicTalk’s service features are stripped-down compared with Disney’s but still offer parental controls. Parents can prepay for a bucket of minutes–$100 for 400 minutes, for instance–with no contract. Unused minutes expire after 90 days.
Even more toylike is Firefly Mobile’s new $50 glowPhone, expected to reach shelves in mid-September. Available in black or pink and designed for kids as young as 5, the glowPhone has no keypad. Instead, the rectangular unit has a simple spread of five large buttons, including one marked with a figure in a dress that can be set to dial Mom and a corresponding key for Dad. Like TicTalk’s, Firefly’s service doesn’t require a contract. Calls will run as low as 10 cents a minute, with a 35 cents daily access charge.
We can see the text messages now: omg, didu c k8z killr lunchbx lol.
Mom, Let’s Talk [BusinessWeek]