It's only a matter of time before a young child asks his or her parent for a phone. More specifically, a smartphone with a large display, loaded with games, music, and text messaging apps.
According to Republic Wireless CEO Chris Chuang, giving a child a smartphone leads to conflict about screen time between the parent and child.
As a parent himself, Chuang and his team have spent the past three years trying different prototypes, testing devices designed for children, in an attempt to build a device that allowed kids to communicate, without getting addicted to the glow of a screen.
Out of the Republic Wireless labs comes Relay, a colorful square phone with Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity, but lacks a keypad or screen. Instead, a circular button in the middle of the device triggers a walkie-talkie-like interaction with a fellow Relay user, or a user of the Relay companion app (will be available on iOS and Android).
Parents can manage a child's Relay device and account through the Relay app, and view where the child is, along with breadcrumbs of where the child has been.
Using a series of Channels, Relay users can communicate with family or use the embedded NFC functionality to instantly add a friends channel for fellow Relay users.
Outside of giving Relay users access to talk with one another, the device can hold up to 10 hours of music, has a few games, and includes Google Assistant. Buttons on the side of the device are used to switch between channels, Google Assistant, and music.
Relay will launch in a several colors, is water-resistant, and, according to Chuang, the goal is to have battery life that lasts multiple days.
As with anything involving our kids, privacy is a concern. Chuang recently told ZDNet that parents can disable location services and Google Assistant for peace of mind. Additionally, Republic Wireless encrypts all data and will not store or share information about a child.
Relay will launch in early 2018, in packs of one, two, or three for $99, $149, and $199, respectively. Service will cost $6.99 per month per device.
You do not need to be a Republic Wireless subscriber to use or purchase a Relay.
Alongside Relay, Republic Wireless is announcing a hybrid device of sorts. When you combine a speaker capable of placing and receiving phone calls, with Google Assistant, you end up with Anywhere HQ.
The speaker is tied to a dedicated phone number, such as a ported home phone number, and can be used as a speakerphone or picked up and used as a more traditional phone for private phone calls.
Using the wake phrase of "Hey Republic" users can place calls, or switch to "Hey Google" to interact with Assistant.
Anywhere HQ features built-in spam call filtering, and a do not disturb mode to silence any incoming calls during family movie night or during meals.
Republic Wireless will launch Anywhere HQ in its beta program, Republic Labs, in January, before a wider launch later in 2018.
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