Android Phone as an iPod Killer

Why Bother?

When tablets came out, I remember saying "what's the point?" and "they'll never catch on". How wrong was I? When we got our Nexus 7 my wife put down her netbook and it's been gathering dust ever since. It amazes me how much use the family gets out of it. It's hard to prise the kids off it half the time. I never get a look in!

When my daughter turned 7 and we were thinking what to get her for her birthday, the idea of some kind of tablet came up. Something which can play music, take photos, play games, etc. Something like an iPod, but preferably running Android. The thing is, nobody really sells an Android iPod equivalent. Or do they?...

The Motorola Moto G has revolutionised the entry level smartphone market. Its the first truly affordable smartphone which, frankly, is worth having. It has everything you need with very little compromise. Its best point is its fantastic screen, which is as good as flagship phones from a couple of years ago. In fact, that pretty much describes the whole experience, and for just over 100 it's almost a no brainer.

As she's only 7, I didn't really want to get her a phone, but how about using a Moto G it as a mini tablet/iPod? In theory, all you need to do is not bother putting a SIM in! But how well would this work?

It turns out that it works brilliantly. With the Moto G's almost vanilla android, all you get is a very tiny message on the lock screen and an icon in the notification bar to show there is no SIM. Other than that, it really does fuction as a 4.5" tablet. One of the best things about it is the bang up-to-date version of android, which gives it a big advantage over most of the other devices available on the market.

She absolutely loves it. For what you get it's such great value; a music player, a decent camera, 720 HD video, games, etc, etc. As long as you're in WIFI range, it even allows video calls and messages via Hangouts. In fact, it feels like a glimpse of the future where there won't be any SMS or voice calls as such and everything will be done over a data connection.

My only mistake was buying an unlocked version. I had a forehead-slapping moment when I later realised that if you're using it SIM free you may as well buy a locked version, such as the Tesco pay-as-you-go, which is also avilable from Amazon, but for less cash.


Is It Really Suitable?

Negative points? There are two ways of looking at it. If viewed wholly from the perspective of a mini tablet then it's hard to fault. The 8GB storage is probably the only limitation, but there is always the 16GB model or the new version with an SD card slot if you need more space.

However, if the question is "is it suitabe for a 7 year old", that's more difficult to answer. From one point of view, it's almost too good, and has the capability of doing things which you would possibly not want a 7 year old to do. Even though we have OpenDNS style contols on our internet, there's plenty of unsuitable stuff I'm sure she could access. Hangouts could be abused, although as none of her friends are on there at present it's probably not an issue as yet.

The main dilemma here is whether to fully enable her Google account. As soon as you enter her correct age the account gets locked and you need to pay $0.50 to correct your "mistake". Honestly. The credit card is proof that you're over 18. Or have acces to your parent's wallet. This is fine, it's the law, I get it.

But, you lose so much functionality if you don't lie about your age. Automatically backing up photos for one. Uploading your music to Google Play, etc. For now, I have decided to fully enable the account so that she can make the most of what android has to offer. I'll just have to keep a close eye on her and try to control it though education and common sense. We'll see how it goes.

I think the best solution here would be for Google to provide a proper "child" account, which is somehow linked to the parent account, so the parent has more control and the child doesn't loose out on any cool functionality. Ironically, with the current heavy handed approach (orcestrated by current child protection laws) they are forcing parents to put their children at risk to get the most from their devices.

Conclusion

The Moto G has paved the way, but as entry level android devices get cheaper and better there will be less and less reason to ever buy an iPod, even for your kid. Amen to that.