Will the Little Buddy be parents' new best friend?
Best Buy's entry into the child monitoring market is aimed squarely at budget-minded parents with young children.
The concept isn't new -- Verizon Wireless and Sprint cell phones offered a similar service three years ago, but the child had to have a cell phone. Other dedicated tracking products are typically more expensive -- the Amber Alert GPS 2G, for example, costs $379, though it can do more than the Little Buddy, such as send an alert when a child reaches a destination or is in a car that is speeding.
"Child tracking is an established market, but we're offering a lower-cost dedicated device," said Ari Silkey, global product manager for Best Buy's in-house brand names. "We're focusing on the pre-cell-phone market, kids aged 3 to 10 that are too young to have cell phones.
"We've gotten pretty positive feedback from parents, who see it as a tool to help them manage their lives," Silkey added.
The Little Buddy, which hit Best Buy stores this week, retails for $100. A limited quantity sold out on the company's website after being available for about a week, with a one- to two-week back order.
Marketed under Best Buy's Insignia store brand, the device fits in a backpack or lunch box and broadcasts a Global Positioning System (GPS) signal to nearby cell phone towers. Using a computer or smart phone, you can get an online map that shows your child's location. If the child leaves a designated location at the wrong time, you automatically get a text message.
The device requires either a $14.99 a month subscription fee for unlimited use or a pay-as-you-go fee of 99 cents per request.
Little Buddy has been getting notice on Web chat rooms, though for some parents the concept is a bit too evocative of Big Brother.
"As the father of three daughters under the age of 10, this sounds like an intriguing, although kind of creepy device," said one blogger on Blog Tech.rightpundits.com.
Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553