1stFone, the mobile phone designed for 4-year-olds

You don't have to be particularly old to remember a time when kids grew up without computers. But with the explosion of consumer technology over the last two decades, it's now a common sight to see toddlers tapping away at their parents' iPad, or young children furiously slashing away at the screen of a smartphone, engrossed in a game of Fruit Ninja. It's a reality that society has readily embraced, keen to ensure that no child is left behind by the relentless pace of progress and change in our increasingly tech-centric world. 

While parental controls and tools, such as Kids' Corner on Windows Phone, have emerged as by-products of this, there remains one question to which many are keen to offer an opinion, but where few can reach a consensus: at what age should children get their first phone? It's a question that OwnFone is keen to answer, with the launch of what it calls "the dumbphone for smart parents". It's pitching its 1stFone to parents as a handset designed for children aged between 4 and 9 years old. 

It doesn't have a screen, and you certainly won't find any apps on it, but the 1stFone can call up to 12 pre-assigned contacts, prominently displayed on the handset's colourful frontage. Weighing just 40g, it's the size of a credit card, and its makers believe that its limited functionality will protect children from the hazards of cyber-bullying, 'sexting' or stumbling across inappropriate websites. 

The devices are manufactured in the UK by British company CyCell, based on its own reference design called the 'Seed', created by the company's founder, Thomas Sunderland. Parents who order the device can customise it with one of a range of designs, and select the contacts that they'd like the handset to be able to dial. The custom design, featuring the names of the contacts, is then printed on to a Seed device using a 'specialist printing process', while the contacts' details themselves are stored in the cloud. The device is then shipped as a 1stFone handset within a week, and is ready to use out of the box. 

Parents can also choose to include 999 (the UK's number for emergency services) as one of the contacts; it must be pressed three times in succession in order for the call to be connected. The handset can also receive incoming calls, and is said to have up to one year of battery life in standby mode. 

The handset itself costs £55 ($85 USD / €65 EUR) on contract, from £7.50 ($11.50 / €8.90) per month including 50 minutes of calls; or £70 ($108 / €83) on a pay-as-you-go basis, with various top-up options available. 

The company plans to expand its range of customisations to include braille lettering for the blind, and photos in place of text labels. CyCell also says that the handset is ideally suited to more than just young children, with the elderly being another obvious market that could take advantage of its simple, no-nonsense approach to mobile telephony. 

Source and images: CyCell / 1stFone / @1stFone on Twitter

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Kids that age do not need phones, but, will pester the helicopter parents, until they get one, because Susie has one. More of the keep up with the Jones....sheeple....

In the halls of political office all over the United States, politicians are jumping for joy that they now have a phone that they can use without screwing up.

I wouldn't trust young kids to understand time limits. Unlimited or bust, else you run the risk of massive fees you have to try and get refunded. Reminds me of the $2,000 charge my parents got because someone registered under their name didn't understand what 'data' was when smartphones were new.

This is a LOT simpler than that device. I think it's a brilliant idea, but one that's probably even more useful for elderly people, especially those with bad arthritis or dementia related issues.

Very cheap too, putting it in a great price bracket for gifts.

Neobond said,
Good for nan/grandads as well

Agreed... this is great for my grandmother! Big ass buttons with only one function! Exactly what she needs.

This isn't a bad idea actually.

Whether kids should have a mobile phone at age 4 or not - that's a different story.

Uhhh...my kids (and my friends' as well) have all mastered our personal devices by 2-3 years old, and I'm talking iPads, Windows Phones, Kindle Fires, etc. Now my son who is six has "graduated" to a Windows tablet (Latitude 10) for simple writing reading and math. He loves the stylus and I think most kids in his age group can do the same. If it wasn't for the fragility of most tech devices, he'd have his own. That's the only reason I can think of for getting this device, but you can't give them everything all at once, they have to earn it. ;-)

I'm still debating on whether or not to get them Lumia 520s so I can get my phone back. I love kids corner and all but now I almost have to fight them for it.

Edited by Drewidian, May 10 2013, 10:29am :

It's buttons and a GSM antenna, there's no screen, there's no complex multi-tasking OS. My backup Samsung feature phone gets 2 weeks off a single charge, and that's got a colour screen, SMS capabilities, (limited) apps and web access.

I doubt a li-ion battery would hold the charge for a whole year even when not in use, also, if I remember well, the 2G idle power consumption is around 10 milliwatts, meaning that a 3.7v 2A battery (I don't think a credit-card sized phone could have anything more than that) would last 740 hours max (1 month).