Filip Technologies FiLIP
Losing track of your kid even for just a few minutes is a horrible feeling. And especially once the tykes start school (and after-school activities), parents aren’t by their sides 24/7 anymore. Being able to check in on their location anytime can provide real peace of mind, and the FiLIP wearable GPS locator does that well.
It’s also a real cell phone that can make calls to and receive calls and texts from a handful of pre-approved contacts, but unfortunately, the calling features are only so-so. We loved FiLIP when we demoed it at CES, but our review unit didn’t wow us quite so thoroughly.
Putting the hard in hardware
The FiLIP comes in a lovely green color (blue, red, and pink wristbands are $39 extra), but the rigid rubbery band doesn’t buckle shut and it’s not adjustable at all. The company says it’s intended for kids ages 5 to 11, and that’s a big age range with a variety of wrist sizes. FiLIP is sold in AT&T stores, so I recommend you stop by and test it out before buying. (It's $200 and $10/month for unlimited voice and data, but the rest of the family can be on any phone carrier; they just need the FiLIP app for Android or iOS.) The company offers two sizes of wristband: “Little” and “Big,” but the Big version isn’t available just yet. (Update: A previous version of this review erroneously stated that the bigger Filip was a whole new product, not just a larger wristband. The Big version coming soon is indeed a bigger wristband, so if you buy the Little version now you will be able to use the watch with the Big wristband when your child outgrows the Little band.)
If you’re worried about radiation from having your kid physically wear a working cell phone all day, FiLIP has earned a certification from the FCC for its clever antenna design. The company says it “emits radio energy only when active, and directs it away from the child.”
The FiLIP charges with a magnetic charging accessory that connects to your laptop or power adapter with USB. It’s supposed to last around two days between charges, and send push notifications to the parents’ smartphone when it needs to be charged. In our testing, the two-day estimate was right on, but when we let the battery run down, sometimes we’d get the notification and sometimes we wouldn’t. (More about that later.)
The app works great
FiLIP’s app is well designed and easy to use. The main features are Locate, which shows the watch’s location on a map, Call and Message, which communicate, and SafeZones, where you can set up geofenced areas around, say, home and school, and be notified when the watch enters and leaves.
There’s also a red Emergency button, which you can press to put a FiLIP watch into emergency mode—that’ll repeatedly call every number in the FiLIP’s contact list until someone picks up, and even then you have to go into the FiLIP app to cancel the emergency. Putting the watch in emergency mode from the app may seem odd, but it is way to force your kid to call you. Kids can trigger an emergency from the watch itself by repeatedly pressing the red button.
At any time, parents can use the app to email someone else the watch’s exact location via SMS or email. It also attaches the child’s name, height and weight if you’ve entered those, and a photo. It's a nice feature in case you need to send someone to pick up your child who doesn't have the FiLIP app installed on their phone.
Up to five approved numbers can call the watch, either through the FiLIP app or just by dialing the watch’s phone number. The ringtone on the watch itself is awful—it sounds like a fire drill alarm. The same sound blares out when the FiLIP receives a text. Texts can only be sent from the app to the watch, with a 16-character limit, and the watch can’t reply, except to call back.
A child can press the red button on the FiLIP to answer a call, but while the shrill ringtone is loud and clear, the audio coming out of the watch is weak. I had trouble hearing the caller, and she had trouble hearing me. Usually I’d start hollering into the watch, and she’d only hear the last half of my sentences. I wanted to turn the volume up on the watch to hear better, but it doesn’t have a volume control at all.
FiLIP isn’t really meant for long conversations, and it could work for quick “Pick me up!” or “What’s wrong?” check-ins as long as the surroundings aren’t too noisy. The fact that it has that two-way vocal communication is supposed to be a selling point over GPS-only trackers like the HereO and I’m Tracer, but in practice, FiLIP’s cellular communication just adds extra bulk to the watch without being all that useful. Even with the short character limit, the ability to send texts to the watch is a nice touch. Sometimes “Come home,” “Call mom” or “I’m out front” is all you need to say.
The car alarm factor
The first time I let the battery die, all hell broke loose. The FiLIP went into emergency mode, and called my number repeatedly, along with my husband’s and the other pre-programmed numbers. It left me 8 voicemails saying there was an emergency—which is exactly what you'd want in an emergency, but this wasn't actually an emergency. I tried to cancel the emergency mode from the app, but it just kept calling me. Finally, I tried to turn the watch off from within the FiLIP app, but that didn’t take effect right away, probably because the watch was in still emergency mode.
This was a letdown, but it also seemed too glitchy to be true. The next time I let the FiLIP’s battery run all the way down, the watch just blinked off without sending the “low battery” push notification to my phone. Pressing the watch’s buttons did nothing, and I wasn’t able to get calls or texts to the watch to go through. The FiLIP’s last known location in the app was still accurate, but my communication was cut off, and since the app didn’t tell me the battery was dead (it kept insisting the battery was only mostly dead), I had no idea why.
The calling just doesn’t work well enough to recommend the FiLIP for that purpose—you’re better off just giving your kid a locked-down cell phone like the Kurio. Locating the watch with the Filip app works well, but the calling features will make you want to hang up in frustration. And be sure to keep it charged.
This story, "FiLIP review: This wearable lets you track your kids and text their wrists" was originally published by TechHive.
Filip Technologies FiLIP