At some point in the last couple of years, a group of people sat around and decided that preteen kids were the next target market for cell phones. But instead of pushing fancy handsets with high-end features on the tykes, the group appealed directly to parents with the promise of tiny, simple phones that only made calls while ditching pricey extras such as cameras and outgoing text messaging. The result was phones including the Firefly for Cingular and the LG Migo VX1000 for Verizon. Not only are these handsets decidedly basic, they also feature parental controls for restricting the phone's use. Now enter the long-promised Wherifone G560 from Wherify Wireless. Like its counterparts, the Wherifone is tiny and minimally designed and does only what a cell phone should do. It also comes with parental restrictions, and like with the Migo, parents can also track and locate the phone on an online map. Overall it's a solid effort, but we still have to give our props to the cuter and higher-functioning Migo. And we wouldn't recommend it for a kid above age 12. The Wherifone is $99.95 but then you must buy blocks of prepaid airtime. The plans range from $19.95 for 60 units--each good for either a minute of calling time or one inbound text message--to $26.95 for 100 units.
We can say off the bat we weren't in love with the Wherifone's design. While the previous kid-friendly phones we reviewed had curvy designs with few angles, the rectangular Wherifone has a lot of straight lines and sharp corners. Our review phone came in a dull grey color, but you can get the handset in black, pink, blue, or light purple. At 2.5 by 1.5 by 0.6 inches and 2.4 ounces, the handset is exceptionally tiny--even smaller than the Firefly. Though that means it will fit in kid-size pockets and hands, it's also so small that it could be lost easily. Also, while Wherifone is marketing the handset to seniors as well, it's ridiculously minuscule for adult use (think Ben Stiller's petite phone in Zoolander). It's worth noting that the external antenna is almost a third as big as the phone itself. Yet on the upside, the handset doesn't feel flimsy.
The phone's rectangular display is also tiny, but Wherify did what it could with the phone's size. The monochrome screen manages to pack in a lot of information including the date, time, battery life, and signal strength. Yet we were puzzled there's no caller ID. The icon-based menu interface is simple and relatively easy to use, despite the fact that some of the icons didn't make sense at first. There's no missed calls list or voicemail, so if the phone is off, you get a recorded message to call again later.