Picture it: Your middle-school-age kids are clamoring for a cell phone, but you think they're much too young. On the plus side, cell phones can be a great way to keep in contact with your offspring and to keep track of where they are. Also, they can be invaluable in case of an emergency. On the downside, though, a mobile carries a lot of responsibility. Not only do kids have to keep track of the phone itself, they have to be mindful of their allotted minutes while staying away from expensive extras such as text messaging and swapping pictures. And in all honesty, in a world where preteens have MP3 players, PlayStations, and laptops, do they really need a mobile too? Fortunately, the Firefly offers a solution for parents who want the convenience of a cell phone but with a lot of control over how it's used. And at $100 from Firefly's Web site, it's also fairly priced.
The Firefly phone is about uncomplicated as a mobile can get. There's no keypad or camera, and a simple candy bar-style shape leaves out any moving parts. It's pleasantly compact at 3.25 by 1.75 by 0.5 inches and extremely lightweight at 2.1 ounces, making it perfect for a kid-size pocket. Alternatively, a lanyard and a backpack clip are included. Just 0.8 inch diagonally, the monochrome display is tiny, so users with poor eyesight may want to give it a test run first. On the upside, the screen shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). As the Firefly is a tween phone, we were glad to see that it offers a choice of styles. While it comes with a cool see-through case, four additional color "skins" are available for purchase through Firefly.
Since the Firefly has no keypad, you control the mobile through just five buttons. Below the display are the Talk and End keys. Besides doubling as soft keys when accessing the menus, the End button is the power control, and Talk opens the menus. Between and slightly below them is a large button that opens the contact list and serves as the OK key. The last two keys are dedicated controls for calling Mom and Dad. They are marked with the same gender-specific symbols you'd find on a restroom door, so their designations can't be changed (sorry, same-sex parents).