Last week I was invited to attend a discussion with Wileyfox a U.K mobile phone company about kids and mobiles and all the issues around it. When should they have a phone? How can you make sure they are safe? What as parents do we think are the things to consider.
It is an area I am really interested in, as kids are being given devices from when they can hold them to watch and play on, and as they get older they want to do more.
I hadn’t heard of Wileyfox before the invite so was interested to hear more…
“Wileyfox is a disruptive company that leverages the best in Asian hardware manufacturing and the best in Silicon Valley software, with fully established, European design and customer services. The company is a privately held company and headquartered in London, with operations internationally.”
The buzz word we heard was they are a frankenstein company, taking all the good bits from other phones and using them to create affordable phones, but that work well and keep up with the needs and wants of mobile users.
At the event we were given a Spark+ and told about what they are doing to make them a great first phone for kids. They made it very clear that under 18s are not who they are targeting, but from talking to people it is becoming clearer that phones are being given to younger children and parents want to know how they can make them not only safe from cyber bullying, but also to stop the 24/7 screen time.
As a hands up Apple fan girl I went with a very open mind but slightly dubious of what a £119.99 phone could offer an adult, or a child that would make it either desirable or effective.
Discussion took place around kids and phones and the general consensus was that when they start senior school and travel alone that is the accepted time a phone is given. I raised the point that there is a blur now though between phones and other devices like iPod touch / kindle fire etc as on many non phone devices there is still access to messaging and calling via face time but we often see these are less of a phone.
So what makes the Spark+ something to consider for a first mobile?
First of all the tech side
- Android 6.0, powered by
- 13MP primary camera,
- 8MP front camera
- Dual SIM functionality
- Expandable memory up to 32GB
- 16GB Memory + 2GB RAM
- Removable battery
- 8.65mm thin
As an Android newbie I learnt about the Cyanogen operating system, to sum it up, it means it is really customisable, in looks and functions.
Privacy and Safety
This is what really impressed me with the Spark+
- You can lock down apps, and it is using a pattern and not the unlock passcode. So your child can have that to unlock and use the phone, but only you know the apps unlock pattern. For example on the phone we took home I have it set up for Ben to just play Pokemon Go on, all the other apps are on the phone, but you can’t see them on the screen or search. So in every day you could give your child the phone for school with all the social media and games apps locked, so they can call you or text, and then at home you can unlock the other apps. It is a simple pattern swipe to unlock them.
- You can also lock down folders of apps in the same way
- The privacy guard, for each app it is easy to see what you have given access to and change it e.g. location, address book and message can be selected for each app on one page.
- Phone unlocking – several choices including the usual numbers for a passcode, but the option to change the order they appear in, so no one can look over and see the pattern you make as it changes each unlock.
- True Caller App – Allows unknown number to be matched to a database and be shown on your phone.
- Numbers can also be shown up if they are spam, and you have the option to add to that by marking calls as spam
Cool Factor & Cost
The phone looks great, the branding is sleek and the phones are a great size and I would imagine even teenagers might like them (tough market!)
Teenagers might want a new iPhone but with a 6s starting at £539 is it really viable for them to be walking around with that in their bag at school? But this is priced at £119.99 and still has the cool factor and is also a bit different. It comes in black or white.
I haven’t set up and used an Android phone before, and even when setting up all the extra features like the app lock it didn’t take long to understand it all.
It comes with the battery, charging cable and an instruction leaflet
The phones are only sold sim free, I got a giffgaff sim for it and for £10 a month got 2GB of data (and some call and texts but who uses those?!?)
It is a little awkward initially removing the back cover, if you don’t have any nails then you need something to get between the front and the cover to ping it apart. I also missed where the micro SD card went, but it is inside next to the dual sim holder.
The charging cable is minimalistic USB with no plug, and the USB end is of the flat plastic type, I had to try a couple of plugs to get it working in one, but then it charged no problem and I’ve since purchased a Syncwire Micro USB to charge it with (I love their cables and only buy them now)
So is it kid friendly?
Ben is 8 and has been using devices for a few years, he has access to a family iPod touch to play games on, and watches stuff on a kindle fire. As a family we have been out and about playing Pokemon Go this summer, but he has been using my phone, and I have been very nervous of him walking around with my huge iPhone 6s+, with the concern of dropping it and also of someone taking it from him.
I set up the Spark+ just giving him access to Pokemon Go on it and with the data we have been able to all go out and play together. (to be clear at 8 he is not being given the phone, he knows it is just for him to use it for this one thing, but in a few years this may change)
He picked it up and started using it instantly (as kids do!) and it has loaded and played Pokemon Go without any issues, it hasn’t frozen or crashed. He obviously hasn’t been multi tasking on it, but I had it running with several social media apps loaded and it stood up to the test fine. We have been using it for a week now.
It is a nice phone to hold, the back is slightly rubbery so non slip.
A few others things…
- £9.99 three years warranty (extending it by a year from the 2 it comes with)
For £9.99 a year paid when you buy the phone they offer no questions asked screen replacement if you smash the screen
Covers for £9.99
- Spare battery for £14.99
I would fully recommend the SPARK+ as a first kid’s phone, the company have done what they set out to, offer a good quality product at a reasonable cost. It is also great to support a U.K. business, and having met them and seen their outlook and wanting to do things differently (for example it doesn’t come with a load of apps installed that you can’t delete)
It is a phone that can grow with your child as you feel they are old enough to experience different apps and social media.
The SPARK+ is available here
I was given a SPARK+ to take home after the panel discussion to fully review it. The post contains an Amazon Affiliate link.