AT&T has announced it will be the exclusive network provider of the FiLIP, a colorful smartwatch from Filip Technologies that's designed to be an alternative first device for young users.
The Filip Website calls the smartwatch a "patent-pending marriage of GPS, WiFi and cellular technology, safely combined in one small device." Parents might call it the best way to put off a first-phone purchase.
With its cellular capabilities—Filip says to expect the same coverage level as from a smartphone—kids can use the watch to call five programmed-in numbers. They scroll through a list on the touch screen and then tap the number (or presumably name) they'd like to call.
The phone can also receive text messages. A parent can text to say dinner is ready or to go right home after school, but the expectation is that young users, while able to read, aren't quite savvy enough to text back.
Using GPS, cell tower location and WiFi triangulation, the FiLIP lets parents know exactly where their child is. Parents can also set a "SafeZone" and receive an alert if the child moves outside of it.
"We like to think of it as a modern day version of setting boundaries for your kids," says Filip.
There's a bright-red emergency button on the phone that a kid in distress can press. It triggers an automatic location beacon, an ambient sound recording and, if a parent can't be reached, a direct line to emergency services.
Filip adds that the FiLIP is FCC-certified to be safe for kids. It's designed to emit radio energy only when active and to "direct that energy away from the child," and it has a "state of the art antenna" that complies with the strictest safety standards.
Filip created the watch with the goal of offering a product that "empowers kids to explore their world while remaining in touch with those who care about them the most," CEO Jonathan Peachey said in an Oct. 7 statement.
AT&T Senior Vice President Chris Penrose, in the same statement, called FiLIP "exactly the type of device for which we formed the Emerging Devices team at AT&T." It goes beyond the typical smartwatch "to solve a real problem for parents and make their lives easier."
Filip is positioning the watch for children 11 years old and younger. According to an AT&T-commissioned study, most kids receive a first phone at age 12.
In many cases, first phones are being purchased as a way for parents to know where their kids are and to keep track of them, ensuring they've made it home safely from school, for example.
While some may greet with eye rolls the thought of throwing kids onto the smartphone bandwagon, the limited uses of the FiLIP may prove to be a perfect fit for the form factor, which some have found to be a mess when it strives to do too much.
The FiLIP comes in yellow, blue, coral and lime green. AT&T says it will announce pricing for the FiLIP and service plan details "in the coming months."