I have been waiting a while to write this review. I wanted to make sure the review was as accurate as possible. Based on our lack of success previously, I wanted to make sure that I actually thought that this product would work. For our previous failure you can read my review of AngleSense (I think it is a great product, but it did not work for my high functioning daughter).
I looked at a lot of websites before purchasing another product. I talked with my daughter through it all also. The reality is that she was perfectly capable of destroying anything that I purchased - so I might as well not bother if she is going to do another toilet flush.
It is a PHONE!
When I came across the FiLIP phone I was ecstatic. My first thought is that this is one product that I can sell to my daughter. She had a cell phone, but at ten she often left it in her backpack, and then complained because she did not have it when she needed to call me. My daughter has random bits of separation anxiety that seems to come and goes. A cell phone has been a way we have been dealing with that for a while now.
It also had the parental controls that I had on her other cell phone. If anything this phone is even more locked down. You can choose up to five numbers that can call the phone, and that the phone can also call back. Only those numbers have access - no one can slip through.
The names are stored in the phone. The child can select the name they want to call and it dials. It took my daughter all of four seconds to figure out the two buttons and what they did.
The phone only works on speaker phone. Everyone around can hear the conversation. The volume is not overly loud, so if we are in public it is not concerning. It is great if your daughter calls you because the bus showed up in front of the house 30 minutes early, and you just left work. The bus driver can hear you as you explain where you are and how soon you will be there (yep that happened this week).
I read about complains in hearing the child speak. I do not have any complaints. As long as she holds the watch up near her mouth I hear her just fine. We have tested it (a lot) with grandma (who has problems hearing everyone) and it worked just fine - so it passed with flying colors.
It is a WATCH!
About this same time my daughter was insistent about wearing a watch. If your child hates watches. . . this may not work. Ultimately it is a watch.
No one needs to know that this is a cell phone. My daughter wears it to school with zero problems. That being said the teachers probably found out it was a cell phone is less then 30 seconds, knew it was to replace the device she flushed down the toilet at school (ie - if she runs at school this will help them also), and she is currently not in a mainstream classroom. Still, it really would not be hard for this to pass as just a watch.
The clock face is really cool. There are different options for displaying the time. You have your traditional number format, and you have the time written out in words. My daughter prefers the words. Her watch will say Nine Seventeen instead of 9:17. If there are other displays I never see them. My daughter keeps it on the words consistently now.
The watch is big. Some people may not like this. I love it. It makes it easy to find when she puts it down. She takes it off all the time - she does everything - and fidgets with it. Sometimes it just put down, sometimes it gets put back on. I developed a rule before she got it - she had to have it on anytime she is out of the house. She took it off a lot at first. She kept it off for most of the time at therapy at first. Now it is on almost all the time. She even forgets to take it off for Taekwondo class - so if she can get used to it. . . besides big is in - and I really like that it is hard to loose.
If you do loose it - you can also call it - BONUS!
You can send MESSAGES!
L currently has therapy three times a week. It is a group program. Most of the time I tag team drop off and pick up with Grandma (family is great). When I arrive to pick her up I open my app and text her that I am there. She gets a simple notification that tells her to look at her phone.
Text messaging is one way. At first this drove L nuts - she was used to using her phone to text me. Now she just calls me back if she needs to. Adding a way for the watch to text back would be pretty impractical with the design. Besides, L's text messages were always interesting anyway, I prefer a phone call.
The phone only has one option for services. It goes through AT&T. We are a Sprint family so it is the only phone on a different network, but I am pretty ok with it. The service is only ten dollars a month and includes unlimited calling and unlimited data. The truth is that this phone is not made for your child to call you a ton, and it really does not eat up data since that is only used for the GPS. However, it is nice not having to worry about it at all.
Will it HELP?
FiLIP uses GPS to track your child. My daughter does not know this. She thinks it is just a phone - and it is, but it does more. with the FiLIP app you can set the frequency of location updates. The most frequent update period is 15 minutes. This is what I have L's watch set to. In addition you can do a manual refresh in the app when you are looking at the map. There is also an option to do a flash refresh, where it refreshes every three minutes for 15 minutes.
Ultimately, the GPS is the one thing that I could see being improved on. I would love a five minute automatic update - but I think it would kill the battery of the phone, so they do not offer it. If L runs I would not get very detailed information of where she is - I would get general location. While I do see this as a downside, it is not a deal killer in my opinion. This device has enough other options that I still feel that it is keeping my daughter safe.
The bottom line is my daughter wears this device. She would not wear a tracking device that would give more minute GPS details.
You can set up to five Safe Zone's. When the GPS updates that the watch has left or entered one of these zones you will get a push notification through the app. The notification will only come when the GPS refreshes. So, the notification could be delayed by 15 minutes (or more if you have it delayed more). This has not been a problem with me at all. Just now I got a notification that L has left school, it was probably delayed by about ten minutes, but now I know she is on her bus (I can see where she is on the map to make sure she is on her bus, and not running from the school). The biggest downside about Safe Zones is there is a limit of five. I mean really? School, Home, Church, Therapy, Grandma's House - boom there is five, and I didn't even get to add in our Taekwondo Dojo. I wonder why they have it limited.
This is hands down my favorite feature - and is why I am ok with the not perfect GPS ability of the phone. By holding down the red button for five seconds (L has NEVER accidentally dialed this - but I did once) the phone will automatically contact the primary person on the watch. If the primary person does not pick up it goes down the list of contacts ONLY if they are selected for emergency phone calls in the app. So you can add in that you child can contact their best friend on their phone - but not have their best friend be called in case of an emergency.
When the phone calls for an emergency it will still show that your child is calling, however before it connects a computer voice lets you know that it is an emergency call. The phone will keep dialing until it connects to someone. The phone will stay connected until the adult's phone (and only the adult's phone) disconnects. My daughter cannot do an emergency call and then hang up on me!
Here is the best part. . . I can go into the app on my phone and make her phone do an emergency call.
Yes, I can make her phone connect to mine, and she can not hang up on me. She can throw her phone into a dumpster and run away. . . so it is not fool proof (and no that one has not happened). The bottom line is she likes her phone and wants to keep it. But, if she runs, I can make her phone call mine and I can listen into where she is. If I think she can be reasonable (since she is running we will go with not happening) I can also attempt to talk to her.
I have read horrible reviews about the battery life. Since this is a device that uses GPS, the life of the battery is dependent upon the refreshing of the GPS. We charge the phone every night. I give it to L to put on before she is even dressed. She wares it until about eight at night. Her watch is set to update ever 15 minutes. I typically do between five to ten manual updates a day. In addition she calls me from 5-7 minutes three or four times a week. When we get home at night the battery is low, but it is not dead. It makes it through everything that we needed it to.
I have read a tip that if you go into the app and turn off the phone that it will make sure that the phone is completely charged. I have updates disabled after 7, so it does not continue to update at night (she is not wearing it anyway, and thankfully with her meds she sleeps at night). I do not have a problem with it charging completely before morning, and doing what I need it to do the next day.
I have heard complaints about the FiLIP customer Service. We have had the phone for several months now. During this time the phone stopped sending notifications out. I sent a message to customer service through my app. It took several days before they responded, they waited until after they had fixed the problem to respond. They did fix the problem also. I started to receive notifications, and then about 12 hours later I received a reply from customer service. Unfortunately the update affected the phone so that it didn't connect to service. The watch was dying about noon everyday, and the GPS never updated. I replied back to my first email chain, and the problem was fixed within 24 hours. I received a reply about 72 hours later.
The communication is not quick. However, the response time is. I personally care more about response time. If I am going to invest in this product I want it to work. Emails back to me saying they are going to fix it is not as important as them actually fixing it. However, I could see that this could be a downside for other people - so I did want to include the feedback.
Overall I really love this product. I am glad that I invested in it. I hope that they expand on the product to make it more marketable to teenagers. It will not last with my daughter beyond two years, and I could totally see a teenage market for this product. For now I am just glad it is here to help me make it through the next two years.