I was swimming around BzzAgent's Frogpond today. The site lists various websites that you can view, rate, and comment on. If you're a member of BzzAgent, you get credit for these reviews toward your BzzAgent account.
I checked out one link for a service called Kajeet, which is basically cell phone service geared for children. My kids are still too young for cell phones, but I figured I would get a jump on research and take a few moments to see what was currently going on in the "children's cell phone" market.
Kajeet uses the Sprint PCS network for service and has a small but adequate selection of phones:
- LG LX160
- Samsung m300
- Sanyo Katana
- Sanyo Katana II
- LG Rumor
The phones are currently priced around $50 – $170, with no options for rebates. The only current phone "deal" is that you can get a free Samsung m300 with the purchase of $30 airtime. I suppose your phone choice is highly dependent on how much you trust your child to not lose or destroy a $170 phone. Before buying, you'll also want to be aware where you can purchase minutes or phones at brick-and-mortar stores. I did a search and found results at local Best Buy, Target, and Toys R Us locations, but not all of those retailers' locations showed up on the list. I don't know if their database is incomplete or if only certain locations carry the cards.
As expected with any kids' cell phone service, there are a bunch of nice Parental Control features available:
- TimeManager restricts the cell phone usage by time and day of the week, so you can be sure that your kids aren't making calls during school or in the middle of the night.
NB: One restriction to the TimeManager is that you can't overlap the blocked times, even if the times are on different days. For instance, if you are trying to block church hours on Sunday morning and you already block the school day on the weekdays, you can't simply add another time restriction for Sunday. Currently, you have to jump through hoops:
- Set up a time restriction for 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Monday through Friday
- Set up a time restriction for 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and Sunday
- Set up a time restriction for 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday
At least an error message pops up when you try to do it "wrong" and walks you through getting yourself set up. It also promises that they are working on fixing that limitation, but in prior experience, you can't count on fixes like that until you see them implemented.
- WalletManager helps you to control who is using the money, and how. This feature would come in handy if you agree to pay for the plan, but make the child pay for any overage charges or minutes usage. Also, if you have multiple children, this ensures that you give each child a set amount of funds, instead of allowing one child to use up all the minutes at once.
- ContactManager allows you to control who your child can contact. One nice feature is that you can set any number as "Always Allow" so your child can still call home if she is out past curfew. You can also control which wallet a call to a particular contact comes out of, so if your child is responsible for their own calls, you can make it so the parent pays for any calls back to home.
- FeatureManager simply gives you the options to allow your child to purchase/use text message, picture messages, ringtones, games, apps, etc.
Another common feature for kids' plans is the GPS Locator option, which will run you an additional $10/month.
One interesting thing I noticed about Kajeet is how the rate plans work, and pay attention, because (unless I'm missing something) this seems to be biased in the favor of people who pay attention. There are four plans, and as far as I can tell from the website, this is how they each work:
- Pay As You Go: $0.32/day, 0 minutes included
- Basic: $4.99/month, 10 minutes included
- Standard: $19.99/month, 150 minutes included
- Ultimate: $29.99/month, 300 minutes included
Each additional minute beyond the plan costs $0.10/minute.
The Rate Plan "Catch"
What interested me about these plans is that when you buy a "package" of minutes at $4.99 for 10 or $19.99 for 150, you're actually paying more than $0.10/minute, which is the cost for overage minutes. This got me to wondering about how useful these plans really were in comparison to each other. The results may surprise you.
Click the image for full chart
I used Excel to quickly create a spreadsheet that factored in plan costs, included minutes, and the $0.10/minute cost on minutes outside of the plan. As it turns out, two of the plans will always be the cheapest options: The Basic and Ultimate plans. The Pay As You Go and Standard plans will never be the cheapest options for you, regardless of how many minutes you use (or don't use):
- Though the Pay As You Go plan looks free because there are no included minutes, it actually costs $0.32/day, which is $9.60/month for 30 day months (and averaging over $9.73/month across the year). Therefore, the Basic ($4.99) plan is cheaper than that AND includes 10 minutes. The Basic will always be a better option than Pay As You Go.
- Since you're paying over $0.13/minute for the 150 minutes included in the Standard plan, the Basic plan is still cheaper at 150 minutes, with a cost of only $18.99. Since the additional minutes are $0.10 for all plans, the Basic plan remains cheaper.
- So that leaves us with the two useful plans: Basic and Ultimate. The magic number here is 260. At 260 minutes, both plans cost $29.99. Above 260 minutes, you are still within your 300 Ultimate minutes and therefore remain at that lower rate while the Basic plan continues to climb with the additional minutes.
Rate Plan Conclusion
So based on the previous calculations, if you use less than 260 minutes in a month, the Basic plan will be the cheapest. Above 260 minutes, and the Ultimate plan will be your best bet. Keep in mind that we are talking about cell phone plans here — charges and fees abound and can easily throw off these "simple" calculations. One-time credit card refills carry a 5% fee (e.g. $1 on a $20 refill). Who knows what other charges might come with the Basic plan?
Additionally, there are options that give you the first month free on a Standard plan (for an initial savings of $19.99). For low-minutes users, on the 2nd month you will already be better off with the Basic plan if you use 60 minutes or less each month. For large-minutes users, after 4 months at 300+ minutes, you have still paid more money than you would have under the Ultimate plan.
So after summarizing the Kajeet plan, be sure to use due diligence when selecting a rate plan. As with any cell phone plan, take a close look at your service area (Sprint's network) to ensure you get service where you will be traveling. And, of course, be sure to compare with other kid-friendly cell phone plans available in your area!