Monday, June 2, 2014

our friend FiLip

last summer we heard about the new FiLIP technology for kids and we were immediately interested. we signed up to be early adopters and get notified when FiLIP was officially released to the market.

what is FiLIP? simply put, it's a smartwatch for kids, but let's be honest, it's really for parents. from FiLIP's website:

Every parent wants their kid to explore, discover and just be a kid. But imagine if we could stay in touch along the way. FiLIP is a world first device which has re-imagined smartphone voice and location technology for children. The colorful wristwatch is a patent-pending marriage of GPS, cell tower location and Wi-Fi triangulation, safely combined into one small device.

conversations were already happening around our house about how soon was "too soon" for a cellphone. for me, the communication aspect of a phone, just made sense. alex visits her dad every other weekend, takes the bus home home from school, attends various extra-curriculars during the week and stays busy with us on the weekends when we travel or go on adventures near home. having a way to communicate with her was a no brainer, but what about all the other options a phone has? 

i wasn't ready. and truth be told, neither is she.

sure, the chances that 90% of her time on the phone would be spent playing minecraft or taking silly pictures, were pretty high. but what about everything else? there are far too many variables for a young, impressionable mind and we just weren't ready to take that leap. all that will come in good time; all we really need now is to keep track of her.

FiLIP lets us do that in a way that works for younger kids. with the touch of a button she can call up to five pre-programmed numbers, and in turn, those numbers can call her. 

she can receive (but not return) short text messages (16 characters) letting her know we are thinking of her or need her to remember her science book before leaving school. she doesn't have the ability to text back - and quite frankly i am fine with that for now.

in the most severe of scenarios, we can track her location via GPS (provided of course she is wearing the watch). or if she leaves a pre-determined location before she should, FiLIP can notify us. finally, in case of emergency, her phone will auto-dial all 5 numbers it has stored with the press of a single button she or we can activate.

oh also tells the time and date in four fun colors kids like. 

for us, it just made sense. 

right around christmastime, FiLIP went on the market and we snatched one up immediately. the watch itself was $199 --- a definite investment --- but the call/texting plan was just an additional $10 per month through AT&T service i already had.

since we introduced the FiLIP into our lives a few things that maybe we weren't prepared for, and didn't necessarily love, came into play.

some areas it was lacking:
  • for starters, 16 character text messages are kinda lame. you can say "i love you very " or "don't forget your" which isn't really helpful at all, so at times, you have to get pretty creative. 
  • we didn't love the fragility of the screen - a piece of technology made for kids, should better understand how outrageously destructive they can be. ours shattered after falling from her wrist while swinging. 
  • we didn't love the way it chirped in the middle of the night while charging
  • or the fact that we couldn't fly under the radar during the school day when sending a text - the phone rings/beeps anywhere, anytime it is called. 
  • we also didn't love the battery life, it seemed to be dead by the time the school day was done. 
something we weren't necessarily prepared for was the accessibility, which sounds strange i know. but the fact that you can pinpoint your child's exact GPS location at any time of day, is a little, well...creepy and unnecessarily addicting. i have had to learn that just because this feature is available, doesn't mean i need to obsessively access it. i do like knowing it is there though and i hope i never actually need to use it.

recently FiLIP sent out a survey to their customers requesting suggestions. we mentioned all of the above and were shocked and pleasantly surprised to see that just a month or so later, all of the suggestions are in the process of being remedied or already have been. new updates include:
  • Increased Battery Life and Charging Improvements (no more annoying chirps when FiLIP is charging at night)
  • Simplification of Emergency Mode Function
  • Text Message Length Increased from 16 Characters to 24
  • Ability to Silence FiLIP Ringer from App (great for when kids are at school)
  • Last Received Text Message Stored in Memory
  • Improvements to Location Accuracy and SafeZone Notifications
  • Hybrid and Satellite Views Added to Map
  • Improvements to Audio Quality
That kind of timely response to your customers' feedback is HUGE! we are even more satisfied with the technology and the company than we were before. 

Overall, FiLIP makes sense for our family. we are in that in-between phase where we know imminent doom (aka the teenage years) is coming, but we plan to hold off on it as long as we can. FiLIP has given us a way to do that. an actual cellphone will infiltrate our lives soon enough. at nine years old, i just want her to remember her homework, or be able to reach me anytime, anywhere for anything. 

plus, if you weren't previously approved to can call her, you can't. sorry boys. but really, i'm not sorry - check back in several years. like 20.

for now, we are focused on everyday life and some adventures in-between. thanks to FiLIP we can do everything we did before, but with greater peace of mind. 

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