As cell phones find their way into preteen hands, some manufacturers have tried to address the growing niche by introducing handsets that let kids communicate while offering parents a sense of control. Models such as the Firefly and the Enfora TicTalk were good attempts at the concept, but overall, they suffered from unappealing designs, awkward controls, and limited features. Now, there's a third and more attractive option with the LG Migo VX1000 for Verizon. Exceptionally cute and very green, the Migo earns a spot at the top of our list for kid-friendly phones. Although the call quality is nothing exceptional and parental controls are limited, the Migo is attractive and easy to use, and it comes with a speakerphone. Tweens who are dead-set on a Razr won't appreciate the limited personalization options or the lack of text messaging, games, and a camera, but for parents who just want to keep in touch, the Migo is a fine choice (the Nokia 3120 is better suited for kids older than 13). The Migo is fairly priced, at $35 with service, but be advised that you can't use the phone with a Verizon prepaid plan.
Dubbed the Shrek phone because of its green hue and twin stubby antennas, the LG Migo VX1000 is a huge step above the dull, flimsy Firefly and the oddly shaped TicTalk. We're especially fond of the color, which is nicely offset by the black face and keypad. Measuring 3.23 by 1.81 by 0.87 inches and weighing 2.46 ounces, the Migo is perfect for kid-size hands, and it slips easily into a pocket. Although it's not quite as sturdy as the TicTalk, the Migo has a much more solid feel in the hand than the Firefly. It survived a few drops to the carpet and hard surfaces.
The rectangular, monochrome display is pretty small (96x32 pixels; 1 inch diagonal), but it manages to display the time, signal strength, battery life, and caller ID. It's easy to see in most lighting environments, but you can't alter the brightness or the backlighting time, and the clock is set automatically by the network. Below the display are the large Talk and power buttons that inside a menu double as yes and no controls, respectively. Near the bottom of the Migo are four numbered buttons for dialing the four preprogrammed phone numbers that the phone supports. Like the Talk and End controls, they are large and quite tactile. In the middle of the numbered buttons is a jumbo key for dialing an emergency number, such as 911. As with the Firefly, however, we think it's a bit too accessible. Even though you have to hold the control for 3 seconds, then confirm your choice with the Talk button to make an emergency call, we still think it could be activated accidentally. Completing the outside of the phone are a side-mounted volume control and a headset jack. The speakerphone is a great touch, and you can activate before you make a call by holding down the 1 button for 3 seconds.
As is the case with other kid phones, the LG Migo VX1000's limited controls mean that menu navigation takes some heavy acclimation. To enter the menu, first you must press the Talk key, then confirm your choice with the Talk/yes key again. Inside the main menu, there are four function choices, but since the display shows only two lines of text, you must use the volume rocker to scroll down to menu items three and four. Pressing the numbered key will take you to that corresponding menu choice, while pressing the End/no button will back you out of a menu choice. The menu structure is simple and easy to memorize. Option one sets the default ring tone, option two sets the caller ID ring tone, option three edits the four-number phone book, and option four sets the emergency-dial number.
While basic menu navigation was sufficiently user-friendly, editing the phone book was more of a challenge. Each of the LG Migo VX1000's numbered buttons corresponds to a different group of numbers and letters, depending on how many times you press the key. So for example, the 1 key enters 1 if you press it once, 2 if you press it twice, and 3 if you press it three times. What's more, an even longer tap dance is required to enter letters. To type f, for example, you must press the 1 key six times. It's a bit time-consuming and tedious, but chances are you won't edit the phone book too often. In any case, the Migo is easier to use than its competitors.