Is Sprint’s WeGo cell phone for kids worth it? A parent’s perspective.

Sprint's new WeGo starter cell phone for kids | Cool Mom Tech

Kids are using cell phones now at younger ages, and the options for parent-approved, kid-safe phones are growing, which is why it’s not surprising that Sprint is jumping into the ring with their new WeGo cell phone for kids. While there’s a lot of buzz about this new cell phone from the tech point of view, as a parent I wanted to take a closer look at the actual features and the feasibility of a phone that’s aimed at kids as young as five.

Here’s my take on what I think is sure to be the first of many cell phones aimed at kids, directly from service providers.

 

The Basics

The WeGo is geared for kids ages 5-12 and focuses more on safety and functionality than the flashy apps or colors of traditional smartphones. And that’s just what a lot of parents are looking for in a first cell phone for their kids. Also, it’s really meant as an add-on phone to your existing Sprint contract. So if you’re not a current Sprint user, this phone would have to be really really awesome to make you reconsider switching over.

Parental Controls
As a starter phone, the WeGo certainly features all of the parental controls that I’d want. You can designate which numbers the phone can call, even letting kids use the phone’s One Button feature to instantly connect to Mom, Dad, a grandparent and other caregivers. There are also prewritten text messages like, I’m home, I don’t feel well and call me that are meant for novice texters and really young users.

Emergency Calling
Another great feature is the emergency tether attached to the phone which can be pulled as a kind of panic button if your kid needs to reach you immediately; you’ll get an alert popping up on your phone indicating an emergency.

GPS Services
The WeGo offers embedded GPS services so that you can see where your kids are at all times, so long as they have their phone. Parents can track their kids’ locations by looking it up on the web dashboard to see exactly if the child is where he is supposed to be, which can be reassuring if you’re sending a young kid out alone for the first time somewhere new. You can set the phone to send you text alerts when the child enters or leaves a designated area, and if you’re really into tracking, can even get updates on your child’s location every two minutes. (Though knowing that feature exists might create its own self-induced anxiety in more than a few parents.)

Sprint WeGo starter cell phone for kids | Cool Mom Tech

Now I’m not quite sure why a child in the WeGo’s 5-12 age bracket would necessarily need all these features. I can see the benefit for city kids who might be riding the subway alone to school, or for younger tweens who spend a few hours alone after school before their parents get home from work. But still, the options are there if you need them.

 

The Price

The WeGo is pretty affordable considering you’re willing to add that extra phone line anyway. The phone itself is $120 and then the extra line on your existing Sprint account runs $9.99 a month.  But the fact that the GPS tracking is included in the phone’s pricing makes it a far more competitive than other similarly-featured devices, like Kajeet cell phones for kids which charge an additional fee for monitoring.

However, a smartphone is about the same price with competing service providers, especially if it’s rolled into a family plan; compare with the iPhone 5c which starts at $99.  So if your child is young, this may be all you need. But if your child is on the cusp of moving into full-fledge smartphone usage complete with apps and texting and Instagram (eep), it might be a big investment for short-term using. You’ll want to consider how easy it will be for you to trade-in or upgrade out of the WeGo when your kids are ready for more smartphone functionality.

 

The Bottom Line

As a parent, I really appreciate companies like Sprint recognizing the role technology is playing in families’ lives and offering products and services to support that. But at the same time, I have to wonder whether we are integrating loads of technology  just because we can–whether they’re needed or not. I’ve seen a ton of reviews online raving about the GPS services, but if you think about it, is it necessary?

If the WeGo is actually targeted at kids as young as five, in my opinion, that’s too young for a cell phone except for some very special circumstances. I mean, most five-year olds can’t read fluently, so I’m not sure how they’d benefit from prewritten texts, or scrolling through a 20-person contact list. Then, a feature like the WeGo’s speed-protection alert is a genius feature for teens and early drivers, but not for a first-grader.

As for older kids in the target range, they will want definitely functionality beyond what the WeGO offers. Judging from my own tween niece and nephew, iPhones and smartphones are all the rage and the WeGo simply would be more of a toy for them. (I mean, no Minecraft app? Duh, Aunt Jeanna.)

And as we parents know, the difference between a five-year old (heck, even a seven-year old) and a 12-year old is pretty huge, so it’s not surprising that in casting such a wide user net, Sprint developed a phone with features either too young or too old for any one of them. I wonder if it would be better to just focus on the 5-8 set, or the tween set and really do the best by the needs of kids that age.

However, I can see the WeGo being a really nice starter phone for kids who are round 9 or 10. That’s the age they may be beginning to roam the neighborhood by themselves and be more independent, but you might not want to give them all the bells and whistles of a smartphone.

From what I can tell, the WeGo seems to be a bit more appealing to the parents who will get excited by the idea of all the safety and functionality features, and maybe less appealing to today’s savvy kids who have a pretty good idea of what they already want–or need–in a cell phone. But it’s a great start, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

The Sprint Wego phone for kids is available now at any Sprint store. And if you’re wondering when your kids are ready for a cell phone, here’s our advice.

Jeana Lee Tahnk is a prolific tech writer, crafty mom, and fan of any products that make it easier to raise three children.

5 Comments

  • Reply April 24, 2014

    SR

    What an amazing and insightful read – thank you so much for sharing. It was very helpful to get a parent’s perspective.

  • Reply April 25, 2014

    P Phelps

    I thought the WEGO was great idea. Bought one for my niece on April 14. Put in contacts, using the iPhone App. no problem, but when I tried to add 2 more contacts the system crashes. It’s suppose to allow 20 contact max. No support is available because the product is too new. I’ve spent hours trying to resolve this issue with Sprint Support with no luck. Software glitch is serious since the only way you can add contacts is through the web-site. Please help Thanks

  • Reply June 11, 2014

    Lee

    My take on the speed alert is so that if my ten year old daughter is snatched walking home from her friend’s house down the block I will be alerted that she is going 40mph through the neighborhood. As a parent I immediately know this is not right and jump into action tracking via GPS while running down the signal in my own car and God help the person who I find with my daughter when I catch them. I also like the rip cord and I like the one button calling and stuff. What I don’t like is the lack of screen. My daughter wants a phone so that she can play angry birds and my little ponies apps while we are waiting to be seated at red lobster….not so that she can actually call anyone although I’m sure she would like to be able to talk with grandma sometimes too. I would also add that sprint lets you make payments on it at $5 a month if you are a sprint customer.

  • Reply June 11, 2014

    Lee

    personally I would prefer the gadget without the phone tech and I’ll get her a separate I phone to use as a phone.

  • Reply August 22, 2014

    Alijawe

    My son’s Wego worked fine for the first days. The ring at the end of the panic cord came off of the cord. I took the phone back to Sprint to get it replaced and it has been a nightmare ever since. The replacement phone would not sync the numbers that were already saved to the profile even though the Wego telephone number was the same. I could not locate the Wego. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with customer service and advanced customer support only to be referred to a store that “should be” able to fix the problem. The store they scheduled my appointment for kept the phone for 5 hours. When I returned to the store, they were still unable to to fix the problem. They had also talked to Advanced Technical Support. The phone was still unusable. That Sprint store sent me to another Sprint store. The second Sprint store tried to troubleshoot the problem. They could not get it to work. They exchanged the phone out because the phone I had was “defective.” The phone they exchanged it for did the same exact thing. It would not allow me to send the numbers from the profile to the phone. They then called Customer Service, which transferred them to Advanced Technical Support. They were unsuccessful with solving the problem. The second store finally returned the phone, disconnected the old number, sold me a new phone, activated a new number, told me everything should be fine because everything was new. I leave the store (because it was time for them to close). I try to activate the phone. It tells me that the number I’m trying to activate was already activated. I called customer service. They had me update the profile (like before) then try again. It didn’t work. They escalated my call to Advanced Technical Support. 1 hour and 49 minutes later, the Wego phone still does not work!!! I’m not saying its a bad service, but this is ridiculous.

    That is absolutely ridiculous! Sounds like if you ever need to return/exchange the phone there can be huge problems. Thanks so much for sharing this info. Hope it works out for you. – Eds

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