This post was originally posted by Martin Drashkov on blog.kytephone.com.
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“We launched Kytephone four months ago with a simple vision: be the first smartphone every child gets. Despite kids growing up playing with touchscreen devices and getting phones at an increasingly younger age, parents are still rightfully hesitant to give a full smartphone to their kids. With Kytephone, we were able to offer kids a simple, child-friendly UI that ran all their favourite games, while parents got the call and app controls they needed to feel comfortable.
In the last few months since our launch we got a great number of happy users and yet, a nagging, recurring theme emerged. Parents found it hard to sell Kytephone to kids older than about 8 because it was too simple, too childish and lacked SMS. Parents with older kids wanted to use Kytephone, but their kids either put up a big fight and refused to use a phone at all, or used it and were unhappy. As one parent told us, “My kids curse your name, though they don’t realize they wouldn’t have a phone without you guys.”
We wanted Kytephone to work for older kids as well, so we knew the next version had to look more like a regular phone and have SMS messaging, while still maintaining the parental controls parents needed.
We released version 2 of Kytephone on Friday and based on initial feedback, we think it will make a big difference to a lot of families. The new homescreen looks more grown up, but retains child-friendly elements like big icons and text with a playful font. While we tried several different approaches, we found the now-standard left-to-right set of pages with a grid of icons to really be the simplest we could make it.
One area where we think we think we’ve managed to simplify the standard smartphone experience is our approach to phone calls and SMS messages. Smartphones today usually have separate Contacts, Phone and SMS apps, with many ways to get from one to the other and many different but related views – Call Log, SMS threads, etc, etc. Rather than trying to replicate that, we decided to combine all the communication under a single “People” app.
When kids click the “People” icon, they see their list of contacts and then click the phone icon to make a call or the message icon to go the Conversation screen. There, kids see not only their text messages in a standard chat screen, but also all incoming, outgoing and missed calls inter-weaved in between. When kids get a notification (missed call or incoming message), clicking on the notification takes them straight to this page. We believe this is a much simpler and more holistic way to handle calls, SMS and call logs, and it leaves the door open to easily add other communication channels in the same interface in the future.