Sometime around the middle of last year I first heard of the FiLIP. The device is billed as a wearable smart locator and phone for kids, which is an accurate description, but doesn’t fully capture the value it provides. The reality is that the FiLIP is an invaluable device for kids on the go.
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What age is the right age for a kid to have his or her own smartphone? For some parents, the answer may be never. In our house, the magic age is 10. That is the point we’ve determined a child is independent enough to be doing things outside of direct parental supervision, and responsible enough not to simply lose or break a device like an iPhone.
In some ways even 10 may be too young, and in other ways kids younger than 10 may be ready for or benefit from having a smartphone. Playing games, texting friends, and posting “selfies” on Facebook are hardly required activities for anyone of any age, though. For us, the smartphone is as much for our benefit as the child’s—it’s a tether that lets us keep tabs on our children when they’re out of our site, and gives us an easy way to communicate with one another.
Our youngest child challenges our arbitrary 10-year milestone, though. She is a few years from hitting that plateau, yet she is the busiest and most active of the bunch. Between dance, gymnastics, other activities, and just playing with friends in the neighborhood, the girl is constantly on the go, and often not with either of us. The FiLIP is perfect for her.
Say Hello to FiLIP
The FiLIP is elegant in its simplicity. The FiLIP is a wrist-based, wearable device. It is worn like a watch—or actually more like a bracelet. The band has an opening on one side and is slightly flexible so you can slide your wrist in.
It lets you keep track of where your child is, and it’s also capable of receiving text messages, and making or receiving phone calls. What makes it different than your average smartphone, though, is that it is restricted to only making or receiving calls from the contacts designated by the parents. No endless chatting or texting with friends, no Angry Birds or Candy Crush, and no shady calls from random strangers.
The FiLIP is configured, and managed from a mobile app on the parent’s smartphone. FiLIP has mobile apps for iOS and Android. Once the device is paired to the app, the parent can choose up to five contacts to store in the FiLIP. The child can cycle through the contacts and call one of them to ask if it’s OK to go to the park with a friend, or you can call the FiLIP to let your child know it’s time to come in for dinner.
The other primary purpose of the FiLIP is location tracking. The device reports its location, and you can view its current location on a map to see where your child is at any given time. Using the app, you can choose whether the FiLIP should refresh location information every 15, 30, or 60 minutes, or choose Standby which only updates location on demand. You can limit location refreshes to daylight hours to conserve power, and you can initiate Turbo mode which refreshes every 3 minutes for a period of 15 minutes.
You can establish up to five Safe Zones in the app. A Safe Zone sets a virtual radius around a given location, such as home or school. The FiLIP sends an alert notification to the parent’s smartphone when it detects that the child has left the boundaries of a Safe Zone.
You can also send text messages from the app to the FiLIP. You’re limited to only 16 characters, though, because the FiLIP display is small, and it’s only one-way communication. There is no way for your child to reply or send a text message from the FiLIP. Still, a short text message stating “Time for dinner” is often just as effective and easier than using a phone call.
It has admirable battery life comparable to most smartphones in standby mode. The USB charger connects to the bottom of the FiLIP magnetically. It lights up and produces an audible tone to let you know it’s properly engaged and charging. The coolest thing, though, is that the parent’s smartphone receives alerts when the FiLIP starts to get low on power so you know when it’s time to recharge.
The large red button on the side of the FiLIP initiates an emergency mode if held down for 3 seconds. It will automatically call the primary contact, and if there is no answer it will continue to call all of the designated contacts until somebody answers. In addition, it starts call recording, and updates the location information every 60 seconds until the emergency state is deactivated.
After using it for a while, there are a few things I would change if I could. First, the colorful rubber-coated wristbands are nice, but they should be adjustable somehow. My daughter has a very small wrist, and when she wears the FiLIP it sometimes rubs and irritates her arm. Because it’s open on one side, there is also a risk that it could simply fall off. On a recent bike ride we had to stop after going over a bump because it almost fell off.
Second, maybe it shouldn’t be a watch. The device itself is really just an inch and a half square that’s about half an inch thick. Rather than encasing it in a wristband, it would be nice to have an option of wearing it as a pendant, or perhaps having a case with a carabiner clip so it could be secured to a belt loop.
Those are really my only issues, though. In terms of what the device does, and how well it does it, the FiLIP is phenomenal.
You can get the FiLIP from AT&T in red, blue, pink, or green. The device costs $200, and wireless service for it costs $10 per month. There is no wireless contract, so you can stop service any time without any early termination fees. By contrast, if I wanted to give my daughter an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4 it would cost me a couple hundred up front on a two-year contract, and it would add $40 a month to our Verizon family plan.
I wouldn’t recommend an actual smartphone for younger children. The FiLIP, however, is like a smartphone with training wheels. It provides the lifeline and peace of mind, without the concerns that would come with giving a child an actual smartphone. The FiLIP is a virtually flawless device that most parents will find invaluable.