So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Telstra Corporation TicTalk
- Very flexible to program, Easy to use Web portal
- Design and shape, Scroll wheel performance, Cost
If you really want your young child to be able to keep in touch, then you'll definitely be interested in the TicTalk. It's very flexible and the web portal is clean and simple. Keep in mind though that it's not cheap, nor is it without some minor issues.
Price$ 259.00 (AUD)
The TicTalk is a mobile phone designed for young children. Looking more like an obscure stopwatch than a communications tool, it offers a bevy of features to keep parents in control, such as locking which numbers can call out and in, when a child may play the onboard games and how long they can spend on a call.
The TicTalk needs to be activated by Telstra's Web portal: http://www.kidsintouch.telstra.com. It is here that parents or guardians can program the phone, entering numbers that the child can call, as well as updating its organisation tools such as the calendar, to-do list and reminders. Not only can you control who your child can call, but you can also lock it so only certain numbers can make inbound calls, which is an excellent security feature. Overall, the Web portal is quite basic and simple to use, so it shouldn't cause you any major problems.
Users can program the TicTalk on a number of different levels. If parents want their child's phone to ring only between certain time periods, they can simply program it into the Web portal. Don't want your child to use the phone at school? Then turn it off during school hours. Don't want your child on the phone too long? Set a total amount of time the TicTalk can be on a call for. You can even send the TicTalk messages, with four designated response options. Like a multiple choice question, the child simply selects an answer using the scroll wheel and a message is sent back to you. Of course, not all messages have to have multiple choice answers, so you can also send a regular SMS; just don't expect a reply. All of these settings can be changed at any time by just logging onto the portal.
Being a child development tool (according to Telstra) the TicTalk also includes four basic LeapFrog educational games. Pre-installed onto the unit are Hangman, Monkey Math, Monkey Spelling and Math Defender. Like most other functions on the unit, parents can set times when these games can and can't be used through the Web portal. They can also reward extra call minutes to the child based upon the success in each of these games. Along with these games, the TicTalk includes a few other features such as a personal organiser, photo gallery, stopwatch and sound gallery. As an example, a parent can send reminders about important events such as homework, assignments or family gatherings.
Our main concern with the TicTalk is not its performance or features, but its price tag. At $259 outright the TicTalk isn't cheap compared to other, more robust phones. There are three plans to choose from; $15, $20 or $30 per months and they only offer 15, 40 and 60 minutes of calls respectively. Any additional calls on top of your monthly allowance will cost a whopping $0.70 a minute, so its not really good value for money when compared to some current pre-paid and capped mobile plans.
This is a children's phone, but its form factor is still odd to say the least. Measuring 84mm x 53mm x 23mm, the TicTalk is compact but quite chunky. We're not sure how effective this design is for small children's hands, mostly due to its odd button configuration. The TicTalk operates on just three controls; a three-way scroll wheel on the right hand side which doubles as the OK button and two selection buttons on the left. That's it. While it may sound simple enough, we did develop slight discomfort in our wrist after extended periods of use, especially when reaching to the left side with our right hand to access the selection buttons. Furthermore, the scroll wheel had a tendency to press inwards when we were scrolling, so accidentally entering menu items was a common and annoying occurrence. The design is clearly targeted at a very young demographic and while it may appeal to six to ten year olds, older children will probably prefer the look of a fully fledged mobile phone.
There is no keypad on the TicTalk, as numbers appear on the screen to scroll through, much like the system used by the Nokia 7380. Children will only need to use this to enter a PIN number when the TicTalk is switched on though; regular phone numbers can only be called if they are programmed into the TicTalk Web portal. The monochrome screen measures 2.1in x 0.9in x 3.3in and is a fairly reasonable size for the handset. Our only complaint was with the rather dull white backlight; it could have been much brighter.
Performance wise, the TicTalk operated quite well. We did note that the volume level of phone calls is extremely loud; at times it's almost as if the phone is on loudspeaker, but this isn't the case. This may not necessarily be a good thing for children's ears, so be sure to adjust the volume levels before giving it to them. According to Telstra, the TicTalk is rated at up to eight hours of talk time and almost four days of standby time which is more than a lot of standard mobile phones.
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