CES Day Four: Your Child’s First Cell Phone, Wherify

Wheriphone

I had an opportunity to stop by the Wherify booth while at CES and talk to them about a product that they will be launching in April, the Wherifone. You may remember Wherify as that company that in the past built those bulky looking watches for your kids that locked on and provided GPS tracking. While they no longer carry that product (perhaps being the fashion faux paux of the 5th grade had something to do with it), their new cell phone offering seems to make much more sense.

First off the cell phone is not like a regular cell phone, rather than dialing phone numbers it instead has five preset buttons that autodial phone numbers as directed by the owner on a website interface that comes with the phone service. So instead of worrying about your kid racking up a big cell phone bill or yacking away for hours with her boyfriend, you can still provide them a cell phone with limited use. You could for instance program your work phone, home phone, cell phones and another relative’s phone number in the phone to allow your child to always be a mere phone call away from you. You of course can always call your child on the cell phone as well.

The real selling point to the Wherifone though is that in addition to providing very basic cell service it is also GPS trackable via the internet. At any moment you can log on to a web site and track where the phone is. You are given “units” that come with the phone. For basic service you get 100 units a month. A unit counts as a minute talked or a GPS search. Additional units cost 18 cents a minute but there are additional plans for more minutes if you need them. Although certainly in the event of an abduction there is no guarantee that your child’s cell phone would remain with them, at minimum it could potentially provide their last known location through a feature called bread crumbs. Bread crumbs basically allows you to set the phone to periodically automatically do a GPS search and then save these as a location history tracker for your child.

The technology seems interesting. Certainly the trust issue is one that every parent and child should work out. As much as a child can violate a parents trust by being somewhere that they are not supposed to be a parent can also abuse a child’s trust by treating them as guilty until proven innocent and obsessively checking up on their location. Still it does seem like something I would be interested in when my children get a bit older and are more independent.

The rep that I spoke with told me that although not presently available that they planned to make family plans available in the future where you could aggregate units with all of your family on one plan.

The phones will cost $99 each with a year’s service commitment, come in five colors and are certainly quite a bit more fashionable than their previous Wherify watch product. Look for service pricing plans coming this Spring.

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