Reviewer: Maya, age 29 months
Age group targeted: 18 months and up
PCWorld Kid Rating: 4 Smiles
Our tester's assistant, her father, said, "The moment the thing came out of the box, it was ready for action."
And Maya rose to the occasion.
Dad reports: "Maya squealed, and started playing immediately. She instantly knew that it was a laptop like Mommy and Daddy's, and said 'computer,' which was surprising given that it doesn't look anything like any laptop I've ever seen. She spent about an hour the first day just pushing random buttons and saying what they were (when she knew)."
"On day two, she began to notice that pressing the trackball down made the shapes on the screen light up, and that pressing the corresponding shape on the keyboard made a clapping/cheering sound," Dad continues. "So she started doing that, and clapped when she got them right."
Maya enlisted her father's help in the testing, directing him by saying, "Daddy, push circle. Push circle. Push circle, Daddy." When Daddy complied, Maya complimented him: "Good job, Daddy!"
Dad's take (pro): "It offered plenty of opportunities for abstract thinking. Of course, she's accustomed to my iPad, which she can handle very well, and it offers infinitely more such opportunities. But I'm happy to have her play on this $30 toy instead."
Dad's take (con): "No off switch besides closing the lid, so it's hard to put the toy out of commission at the end of play time. Also, no volume control."
Maya's bottom line (as observed by her dad): She loved the trackball, and spent tons of time just rolling it around. ("The mouse is hiding the ball!") Also fun were the car/plane/boat sounds. Another favorite activity was playing with the Shapes buttons (as well as watching Daddy do it). By day four, however, her interest faded a bit.
Reviewer: Athena, age 11
Age group targeted: Although the Glowphone is marketed for ages 5 to 8, it is also useful for older children who aren't familiar with regular cell phones that have more features.
Price: $50 for the phone; service charges vary (pay-as-you-go minutes start at 14 cents a minute; a monthly plan covers 145 minutes for $20, or unlimited use for $65 a month).
PCWorld Kid Rating: 4 Smiles
Athena is very interested in cell phones, to the point that she carries around a nonworking discard from her family in her pocket. She jumped at the chance to test the Firefly Glowphone.
With little help from me except for setting the password, Athena quickly programmed in her important phone numbers (a younger child's parent would do this part of the setup). The password protection kept Athena from making or receiving any calls that weren't on the approved list.
Additionally, the phone has special Mom and Dad buttons on the front, where the numbers of the two most important people in the child's life should be programmed. A side button on the phone may be programmed for one-push emergency calls.
The phone also receives text messages, but the child cannot send any.
Although Athena made and received a goodly number of calls during her three-day test, she was more interested in the other features of the Glowphone.
"I really liked the games, and changing the ringtones and wallpapers," she says. However, the phone occasionally froze on her (which she quickly rectified by turning it off and on), and the sound quality was occasionally pretty bad. She made several calls to me where I could not understand anything she said.
"I would make calls, and the people just couldn't hear me," Athena says. "Also, I used up my minutes too fast."
My take: This phone would be perfect for the targeted age group, but I think Athena will quickly find a need to move on to a more-complex phone. She was already feeling the inability to send texts, as well as the lack of a camera. Nevertheless, knowing that you can control a child's cell phone for his or her safety makes this a parent's dream phone for any boy or girl under 12.
Athena's bottom line: "The battery life was good, and it was fun to use."