Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Disney's phone lets kids talk at parents' discretion

A couple of articles about Disney's MVNO service, dubbed Disney Mobile, that is targeting 10- to 15-year-olds and their parents. USA TODAY reports on some of the key features that will allow parent monitor and control how kids use the service:

  • A parent is the designated "family manager," able to set monthly spending limits (via the phone or a computer) on kids' voice and text message usage and on ringtone and other downloads. The manager is alerted when a kid bumps the limits and can raise them. When kids exhaust their allowances, they still can exchange calls with their parents and other designated numbers and can dial 911.
  • Parents can set the times and days of the week when kids can use the phone.
  • GPS technology will let parents map the location of the kids' handsets from their phone or PC.
  • Families can exchange custom text alerts or pick from a menu, such as "Can U Get a Ride?"
Roger Entner at Ovum said, "I think ESPN, Disney and other content providers will learn that managing (phone) customers is a difficult proposition."

According to the article, "Disney plans to offer two camera phones, from LG Electronics and Pantech. Handsets will cost $59.99; contract details and service plan pricing have not been set."

At, JupiterResearch analyst Julie Ask noted that "only about 45 to 50 percent of 13-year-olds have one [cellphone]," and "parents pay for about 60 percent of teens' cellphones." She said, "There certainly is a big market for teenagers and parents adding them on to their own cellphone plan."

The article cites research from Yankee Group that "about half of subscribers now pay family discount rates and roughly 60 percent of new subscribers are in that category." However Ask believed "parents who want more control may well be attracted to the number of options Disney gives them."

Regarding Disney Mobile's parent-friendly features, Ask said, "That's something parents are looking for and we haven't see another offering like this one there now in terms of the flexibility."

With other network operators charging "as low as $10 a month for each new family member using a plan." Ask questioned "if a new service like Disney could afford match these rates."