My eight-year-old daughter has been harassing me for a mobile phone. With one, she could call me to arrange for her pick-up on days when she stays back in school for co-curricular activities or when she goes for enrichment classes, so Ollie argued.
Her argument was convincing, but the answer from her conservative mother was a "no" - that is, until I discovered the Oaxis WatchPhone.
This 3G gadget addresses several fears common to all parents: that the child would lose the phone, become distracted with mobile games or be exposed to the danger of unsolicited calls from strangers.
A watch is strapped to the wrist and hard to misplace, addressing my first concern. Also, the WatchPhone has no games, although it has a colour touchscreen.
A SIM card is needed for the WatchPhone to work, just like any mobile phone, but only calls from phone numbers added to its contact list are allowed through to its user - a nifty safety feature.
I tested two models of the WatchPhone from its Singapore-based maker, Oaxis: the S1, available at Singtel shops for $160, and the $199 myFirst Fone S2, available on Oaxis' website.
Oaxis WatchPhone S1
PRICE: $160 or free when subscribed to Singtel's unlimited 3G data plan for $9.90 a month over 24 months
BATTERY LIFE: 3/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
Alternatively, the S1 is free when users subscribe to a $9.90-a-month unlimited 3G data plan for 24-months from Singtel. But the SIM card can be used only on the S1.
Both watches provide location tracking, with the location history recorded and displayed on a smartphone app. The WatchPhone must be switched on to enable tracking.
Location-history information stored in Singtel and Oaxis' servers is encrypted; no casual crook could spy on the child wearer.
Singtel created its own app, dubbed Singtel Connected Things, for the S1, which allows for detailed tracking. For instance, I can tell from the location-history map which shops Ollie has gone to in a mall.
Oaxis' default app for the S1 and S2 is called myFirstFone, which is extremely easy to use, but its tracking lacks indoor location details.
Between the two watches, I prefer the S2 as it comes with a 2-megapixel camera for video calls - handy when the child wearer is lost and is unable to describe his or her location over the phone.
Oaxis WatchPhone S2
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
Another S2 feature allows me to eavesdrop on Ollie's conversations; its benefits outweigh any privacy concerns. For instance, I found out that her piano teacher has been calling her nasty names. She had complained to me about it, but hearing the abusive tongue lashing first hand allows me to better understand her frustrations.
The cons? A clutter of cables at the charging station as the S1 and S2 chargers are different. Oaxis should create a universal charger for future iterations of this product.
Also, if you have a spare SIM card lying around and hope to use it on the WatchPhone, note that the S1 is compatible with a micro SIM, while the S2 uses a nano SIM.
• Verdict: The S2 is what I would go for, but I prefer the Singtel Connected Things app. It's a nifty gadget, but a little overpriced.