Mickey strides into wireless

Mickey strides into wireless By Kelly Hill Apr 6, 2006 LAS VEGAS—With fog, fireworks and a helping hand from Mickey Mouse, Disney Mobile announced the launch of its cellular service at yesterday’s CTIA keynote. Steve Wadsworth, president of the Disney Internet Group, joked that the towering on-stage model of the silver Pantech flip-phone that Disney Mobile will offer looked just like any other phone—and that, he added, was exactly what Disney Mobile wanted. Adults want high-quality phones, Wadsworth said, and the teens and tweens “don’t want a phone that looks like a kid’s phone.” Hence the co-branded Pantech DM-P100 phone, and the yet-to-come DM-L200 from LG Electronics Co. Ltd., with nary a mouse-ear logo in sight. Disney Mobile plans to start selling the phones and plans in June; the service will use Sprint Nextel Corp.’s CDMA2000 1x EV-DO network. Much of the unique functions of the service come in the form of controls for parents. Parents can parcel out monthly minute allowances for voice, text and picture messaging, and downloadable content, and use Disney Mobile’s “Family Center” to decide when children can and can’t use their phones. During certain days, school hours or prime homework time, Wadsworth noted, parents can disable most of the phone’s functions. However, children can always call a limited list of allowed numbers, such as parents and 911, whether the rest of the functions are disabled or they are over their minute allowance. The monthly minute allowance, Wadsworth said, would prevent problems such as unexpectedly large wireless bills due to text messaging or teenagers eating up a family’s monthly minutes. When a child reaches the end of his or her monthly minutes, an alert is sent to both the child and the parent in charge of managing the family’s service. Parents also can compose a list of prohibited numbers that the child is not allowed to call or text. The handset also offers a locator feature that uses embedded GPS capabilities. Parents can enter a personal identification number on their handset or at the Disney Mobile Web site and then the location, a map and an indication of accuracy shows them the approximate location of the child’s device. Families also can set up alert functions, and parental messages override the phone’s idle screen. Wadsworth noted that the device’s other functions, such as calling and data services, cannot be used until the message is acknowledged, preventing the “I didn’t get the message” excuse. The service includes unlimited messaging among family members. Wadsworth noted that a number of common messages, such as “Where RU?”, “Running late. Be there soon!” and “Can you get a ride?” are included in a list of preprogrammed messages so that parents, who may not be comfortable with text messaging, will find it easy to use. Disney Mobile did not reveal much about its service pricing plans, except to say that it will offer both individual and family plans, including child-only subscriptions which allow parents “to take advantage of all the Family Center features from the Web until they themselves can join Disney Mobile.” All plans will include the Family Center features, and consumers will be able to buy phones and service through Disney Mobile’s Web site and at dedicated mall kiosks. Handset prices will start at $60 with a two-year service agreement, Disney Mobile said. According to Disney Mobile’s Web site, the approximate retail value of the phones and service it is currently offering in a giveaway are $130 per handset and $80 per month for service. ------------------------------------------------------------------------