You might confuse the Enfora TicTalk with a few things, but a cell phone would not be one of them. At first glance, it looks like a stopwatch, a travel clock, or a tiny radio. Surprisingly, though, while it can function as one of those first two devices, its primary use is as a cell phone. Like the cell phone we reviewed earlier this year, the TicTalk is designed for preteens. Think of it as a cell phone for someone who's old enough to know how to use one but too young to handle a contract, pricey features, or a monthly minute balance. As with the Firefly, the parent controls the TicTalk, which uses prepaid calling minutes on Cingular's network. But with its sturdier design and better features, we'd easily give the TicTalk the edge. It's also fairly priced at $99, but calls cost a hefty 25 cents per minute.
Considering how picky and tech-savvy tweens are, you might wonder how they'd ever consent to using the TicTalk. We asked ourselves the same thing, of course, but after we took a closer look, we discovered that the phone has some things going for it. The oval form factor is somewhat awkward, but it's quite sturdy and a step above the dull plastic casing on the Firefly. The silver-and-black TicTalk is compact at 3.2 by 2.2 by 0.8 inches and lightweight at 2.9 ounces. Like the one on the, the TicTalk's antenna forms a loop on top of the phone, which you can use to clip the phone to a backpack, a belt loop, or the included lanyard. A small speaker on the upper-right corner sits just above the display. The monochrome screen is large for the phone's size (1.25 inches diagonally), and its large font is very legible. You can change the contrast, the brightness, and the clock style.
Controls on the Enfora TicTalk took some acclimation, not that they're hard to use. Rather, it's not immediately apparent what each control does. A lighted scrollwheel on the left spine lets you navigate through the bare-bones menus, select individual choices, control the volume, and place calls. Two buttons on the left side perform a variety of functions. Though it's not marked as such, the upper button powers the phone on and off, ends calls, and functions as a Back button. The lower button also works as a Back control but only in some menus. It also takes the phone to a power-saving screen from the main menu. To get out of this mode, however, you have to press the upper button--a confusing arrangement. Also, when turning the TicTalk on and off and ending a call, you must confirm your choice with the scrollwheel--an unnecessary step.
The Enfora TicTalk packs in a fair number of features for both parents and kids. On the parental side, moms and dads get extensive control over how the phone is used. The TicTalk Web site provides all the controls, which made for a much easier and quicker experience than with the Firefly, where we had to do everything on the tiny phone. First, you can program the TicTalk to receive and make calls to a limited set of phone numbers. It has room for 12 "anytime" numbers and 10 "reward" callers. While the former group has no restrictions, you can limit calls to the latter group to certain times of day or a certain number of minutes per day. You can also program an emergency number (such as 911) and indicate whether the user can call it.