A company in Finland has stripped smartphones of their flashiest features to create a new phone, helping save young kids from early-onset screen addiction
Young children are forfeiting playtime outside because they are constantly interacting with digital devices, regardless of how many parental rules and restrictions are imposed. Is playing on the playground an archaic pastime? They are glued to their couches. They are clutching iPads and iPhones. They are choosing to play Candy Crush over Hide-And-Go-Seek.
Hours spent hunched over illuminated technology seemingly steals kids of their energy, imagination, and attentiveness, rewarding them only with sleepless nights and carpal tunnel—among other unfortunate side effects of too much screen time—in return.
Even the most vigilant helicopter mothers and fathers cannot constantly monitor their kids’ online activity. Navigating adolescents’ focus away from digital screens is a gruesome battle fought by caregivers everywhere every day.
Appealing to parents trying to get their kids outside and get a word in edgewise is the Snowfox Trackerphone. In hopes of finding middle ground that is suitable for everyone, former Nokia employees at Finnish design and engineering company Haltian have created this kid-friendly cellphone product—complete with a simplistic design, compact size, built-in GPS locator, and corresponding Android and iOS apps—that gives parents peace of mind and children independence and freedom.
Only 50x50x12mm in size, the Snowfox Trackerphone is a screenless, waterproof communication tool equipped with a built-in SIM and local operating subscription to compute the most basic but necessary functions of a phone in a family-friendly format. The sole button on the device is multipurpose.
“Pressing [the] button on the device sends a ‘Call Me’ notification to the parent via the Snowfox app,” Haltian explained in a statement. “To reply to an incoming call, the child simply presses the same button on the device. Via the app, parents and guardians use the device’s powerful and inbuilt location-tracking functionality. By setting up ‘familiar places’, adults can be notified when the tracker enters or leaves specified safe locations through automated notifications and real-time data updates throughout the day.”
Geofencing is only one perk of the software’s capabilities. The Snowfox app allows constant visibility of kids’ current locations, and sends smart notifications to other responsible adults in the child’s network in efforts of promoting instantaneous awareness.
Instead of having a long, protruding antenna, the Snowfox Trackerphone features an antenna built inside the device’s fabric tag. Its microphone and speakerphone make call clarity favorable. And the device’s battery has exponential longevity, lasting for seven days without needing to be charged.
“We took our core focus into the simplicity of product experience. How easy is the device to use? How effort free is it for the parents? Can we hide the technology and focus on the experience? How can we overcome the issues with earlier generation devices?” Snowfox Trackerphone co-founder Ville Ylläsjärvi revealed to Geektime. “We took the design forward from there. Our core targets for the hardware design were reliability, long battery life, and good radio performance in a small, beautiful, play-proof design.”
On June 28 Haltian launched their fundraising campaign on Indiegogo, seeking to raise at least $50,000 to bring their helpful product into the global mass-market. The campaign is set to run for 35 days, ending on August 1.
The Snowfox Trackerphone is initially launching in Finland. Manufacturing for global outreach began on July 6, and via Indiegogo the first production batch of Snowfox Trackerphones are available with local numbers for the United States; Canada; the UK; Germany; The Netherlands; Spain; Denmark; Norway; and Finland. Early bird devices purchased through the campaign will be shipped in October, with more shipments following in November. An international online store is expected in autumn of 2016.
Available in either pastel blue or rosy pink, the recommended retail price of the Snowfox Trackerphone is approximately $150 USD, and the monthly subscription fee for the services provided is $9.90 USD.
“[Our] Snowfox Trackerphone can be sold everywhere, [as] it can connect to almost every network in the world and the monthly subscription can handily be paid through the mobile application with a credit card,” Ylläsjärvi explained to Geektime. “The monthly fee includes all [of the Trackerphone’s] data and calls, and we ship Snowfox Trackerphones with a local call-in number.”
He was alarmed over the negative effects smartphones can impose on young users—ranging from speech and posture development discrepancies to neck pain—Ylläsjärvi and his team at Haltian in northern Finland set to work on creating another IoT device aimed for families.
Having already designed more than ten tech products since Haltian’s founding in 2012, these Snowfox Trackerphone engineers average over fifteen years of experience designing mobile and smartphones. They previously developed innovative R&D strategies at Nokia, and applied such skills when creating their new breakthrough device.
“We at Haltian are mostly people with kids,” Ylläsjärvi told Geektime. “We were researching various opportunities in the consumer IoT space where our team could have an impact…[Now we are] solving family communications with a thing we knew how to build.”
Advantages to the Snowfox Trackerphone are plentiful, especially in a world where 53% of American children own a cellphone by the time they turn seven, as a VoucherNet.com survey reports. Encouraging kids to adventure outside not only increases independence, but also influences cognitive and social development, language, creativity, obesity, ADHD, quality of life, and other important aspects of growth.
Comparatively the disadvantages are few. In a world as brutal and dangerous as ours seems to be, it is disappointing that the Snowfox Trackerphone does not feature an option to contact emergency services. If a child were in legitimate danger, valuable time could be wasted trying to ping parents, as opposed to be able to quickly call 911 to garner an immediate response from authorities like police, ambulance and medical staff, or the fire department. However, it is easily understandable that having a direct dial to emergency services is tricky, considering the risk of accidental phone calls via the unlocked, multi-use button.
The Snowfox Trackerphone currently competes with AT&T’s Filip and the Gizmopal from LG at Verizon, both of which are colorful smart locators designed as wristwatches. However, neither competing device is as straightforward and easy to use as Haitian’s creation.
The company’s Indiegogo campaign is gradually building momentum. Ylläsjärvi revealed that he and his team anticipated this slow start, and have plans to utilize social media, press, and consumer support to boost the fundraising campaign’s visibility on both a local and international scale. “Snowfox is a different product, as you cannot have it globally in every market with a local number, so it naturally impacts our campaign,” he stated.
At the time of press, Haltian had raised 43% of their intended goal.