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Sprint Drops Price of Child Locator Service

Wed Nov 5, 2008 - 1:27 PM EST - By Jay Gross


Sprint has dropped the price of keeping track of children. I hear parents' wallets cheering, and a glum "So, spying is cheaper now?" from the younger set. Both are right. The company's GPS-enabled child locator service, Sprint Family Locator, now costs $5 per month, half the former rate.

The company touts the service as a tool for parental peace of mind. I didn't see any mention of the children's spied-upon point of view, but the monthly cash come from their parents, after all. The system uses GPS and cell tower information to figure out where on the planet a phone is located. No additional software or hardware is needed – the Global Positioning System contraptions are built into the phones and the cell towers. Sprint's service plots the location information on maps, and cross-references the position to landmarks, street addresses, and buildings.

Parents can log in from a computer or even from an internet-capable Sprint phone (translate: smartphone), and see their children's location on an interactive map. It works even while the phone is in use or sending a text message. In truth, the system reports the position of the phone itself, not the child, but these days you can probably count on those being pretty much inseparable. (It won't work if the phone is powered off. Nuff said.)

Len Barlik, vice president of wireless and wireline services for Sprint:

"Sprint has always been proud to offer the wireless family locator service with the most compatible phones and fewest plan limitations, and now we've made Sprint Family Locator the least expensive in the industry, so even more families can use this valuable tool."

In September, Sprint reported, their customers made more than 3.5 million location requests through the service. Existing Sprint Family Locator subscribers will automatically receive the new $5 per month price, starting with their next billing cycle.

Sprint's recent enhancements include:

  • Custom Child Photo Upload - Customers can personalize their Sprint Family Locator experience by uploading photos of their family members. The uploaded photos are displayed next to each of the customer's locatable family members and on the map when the customer locates a family member.
  • Bird's Eye Map View – When using the service on a computer, rather than a smartphone, users can get a 3-D map view from four different angles, zoom in on buildings and rotate the view.
  • Pushpin Places - Customers can add "Favorite Places" independent of the street address, say for a school campus.
  • Improved Safety Checks - Automatically check whether a family member is near a certain landmark, such as school, home or a relative's house, without logging in. This provides "hands-off" peace of mind. Customers have the option to be notified every time or only if the family member is NOT where they are supposed to be. Scary, isn't it?
  • Improved Location History - Now customers can see their location history next to their map when using Sprint Family Locator on a computer. Customers can also select any location from the history to see its position on the map, including the accuracy circle, rather than just an address.

More than 100 Sprint phone models can be located, including all currently available Sprint phones. In addition to showing the child's location on an interactive map, the service also gives the address, surrounding landmarks and accuracy of the child's location within a specified radius, along with the ability to click to call or send a text to the child directly from the service.

Sprint's works-with list includes the Treo 650, 700wx, 700p, and 755p, plus the Centro. The locatable phones do not need to download any application and incur no charges beyond the monthly fee. All newly released Sprint/Nextel phones (both CDMA and iDEN) are compatible "child" phones, and are locatable with Sprint Family Locator even if they are not yet in the list.

The services includes unlimited location requests for up to four phones and access to the service from a computer and any Web-enabled Sprint phone. The company is currently offering a 15-day free trial before the monthly fees begin. Look out, though. When they say "Web-enabled" they mean "and data plan enabled," too, or the costs will be a lot more than $5 a month. You can get more info from Sprint.

Don't confuse Sprint's locator service with GPS devices and software for the Palm smartphones. The latter don't depend on the cell towers, don't entail extra carrier charges, and aren't limited to finding phones – they can locate any address or point of interest you want (but they can't find your child's phone).

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