Overall, the controls are large and amply spaced. That said, learning to use the phone took some time, but we got the hang of it eventually. As expected, the menus are a bit primitive, to say the least, but they can be set to English or Spanish. Entering phone numbers takes a fair amount of tapping to select the correct number/letter on the screen, but fortunately, you won't need to open that function too often. And in all fairness, the Firefly was designed with bare-bones simplicity in mind. Other controls consist of two volume buttons on the left spine, along with a key to activate Firefly Fireworks. Nothing more than a fun extra, the Fireworks feature makes the keys and screen flash in varying colors with a bit of animation on the display. On the right spine is a button that automatically calls an emergency number. We think that's a great feature, but it's much too exposed for our tastes. Misdials to 911 wouldn't be the best thing.
The phone book holds up to 20 contacts in addition to the designated numbers for Mom and Dad. To prevent your kids from going on a calling spree, the phone book's menu and a call-screening function can be protected with a PIN. When call screening is on, the phone can receive calls from only numbers in the phone book; in fact, it won't ring for all other numbers. When the feature is off, all calls will come through. Protecting the phone book also means that only stored numbers can be called from the handset. You can't add new numbers to the phone book without the PIN, and while there are call timers and a Missed Calls list, you don't get a voicemailbox.
Other features are nonexistent. There are no messaging or organizer applications, but the Firefly offers some pizzazz on top of its functionality. You get a choice of colors for display backlighting and screen animations, and you can activate a light when the phone is charging. There are also 12 monophonic ring tones that can be assigned individually to Mom and Dad or to contacts as a whole. Also, when the phone rings, it lights up in varying hues.
Service is available through a variety of sources. Besides going through Firefly, you can buy the phone from Cingular for $49 with a two-year contract. Target also offers the phone with a Cingular SIM, or you can purchase it from regional carriers Cincinnati Bell and SunComm with service on their respective networks. Working on a prepay plan, there's no contract or expensive charges for going over your minutes. Each handset comes with 30 minutes, but you can buy more when you're done. An additional 40 minutes is $10, 100 minutes is $25, and 200 minutes cost $50.
We tested the Firefly phone in San Francisco using Cingular Wireless service. Call quality was decent but not perfect. Audio quality sounded a bit hollow, and we encountered some static. Also, our friends on the other end of the line could tell we were using a cell phone. For battery life, Firefly promises 6 hours of talk time and 8.5 days of standby time. We managed only 3.5 days of standby time on a single charge.