Personal Tech: Lights like a firefly, rings for a fee
By David LaGesse
Cellphones are getting to be old hat, but not for the very young. Manufacturers see an untapped market in preteens, who are being targeted with new products including the Firefly (www.fireflymobile.com), selling this summer at Target stores for $100.
The Firefly comes with 30 minutes of talk time (refills on the Cingular network run 25 cents a minute) and built-in parental controls. The handset can do only voice calls, no games or text messaging, and has just five buttons: the typical "send" and "end," two buttons with male and female icons for Mom's and Dad's numbers, and an address book key for dialing up to 20 other phone numbers. An adult can program in the digits, though the kids might have more patience for punching them in without a numerical keypad. It can easily take more than 50 button pushes to set a seven-digit number.
Of course, a wireless phone aimed at 'tweens, or kids between the ages of 8 and 12, can't be just about calls. So the Firefly's keys occasionally do a bit of a light dance, like its namesake on a summer courtship flight.
Execs at Firefly Mobile say they're not marketing to kids but rather to parents who want a controlled connection to their child. Still, there's nothing to stop kids from buying the phone, additional minutes, or accessories, such as headsets, pouches, and backpack clips that all run under $10. Or the $13 outer shells that change the phone's lookand its "attitude"as says the company's website.
Because if there is anything that 'tweens need, it's more attitude.