The latest Sprint Connection is advertising a product it is calling Sprint Guardian, which is the Family Mobile Essentials and Mobile Security applications bundled together. The Guardian bundle is aimed at preventing your kids from texting and driving, using their phones at schools, and getting viruses either from malicious Android apps or strangers, though Lookout Mobile Security and text message monitoring.
Texting and Driving
I’ll start my editorial rant portion with this: I have no problem with a company wanting to make a buck or two for a product, but Sprint is advertising your child’s and your phone’s safety for this $179.76USD a year bundle.
If Sprint is so concerned about the safety of you and your children while driving, I’d say that $2.00USD a month Drive First service is something they ought to give away, especially considering there are many great free alternatives that work forever, and several pay apps that are less than the Sprint Drive First monthly fee for lifetime use.
Next up is the Sprint Family Locator, which allows you to set up warnings for when your child doesn’t get to school on time or your kid is not at home at the expected time.
The service allows you to see your child’s last GPS/tower location in real time, but can be easily disabled by removing the battery. Effectiveness is also significantly diminished by disabling the GPS, or disabled by switching into airplane mode and using WiFi.
Some alternatives to this are Google Latitude that comes with Maps and will update every little bit, or Where’s My Droid. There are other free services that can do this, too; they do not, however, warn you when your child doesn’t show up on time.
Sprint Mobile Controls is a $4.99 a month service which allows you to read any text messages, set hours of texting operation, and otherwise control everything that you can with the stock messaging application.
It allows you to remotely lock your child’s phone from texting and force them into the real world, not text during class, but oddly not stop them from texting while driving.
It also allows you to see who your kids have been calling and texting and what apps have been downloaded along with allowing you to block apps from running. It allows for emergency 911 calls and texting home regardless of lock state.
If you want to see who your child is calling, you can visit Sprint’s mobile website, log in and look at your child’s phone records for free. You can view their application install history via their Google Play account for free, and you can generally view their text messages simply by taking the phone from them and looking at it.
While it is possible for them to delete a text message and it not be visible in the stock messaging application, or for them to install an alternative encrypted-text application, or Google Voice and use data for texts, at this point you’re going to be dealing with someone who’s actively working against you.
Disabling stock messaging and using Google Voice allows for web-based viewing of any conversation they’ve had via text. You can also real-time monitor incoming and outgoing texts on your phone or web browser if you want to snoop that closely.
Lookout Mobile Security and Antivirus
Have you ever looked at your virus-ridden Android phone and thought there needed to be an antivirus solution to prevent these mass infections? Neither have I. That’s because there have been no mass infections and Google’s Bouncer does a pretty decent job for free doing what Lookout does for $5 a month. Oh, also because the underlying nature of the Android Sandbox / iOS apps sort of defeat most viral methods of attack, but we’ll skip that.
Lookout Security & Antivirus scans for viruses and malicious content, allows you to back up your data and apps, and can locate your phone in case you’ve lost it.
Now, as for antivirus, I mentioned there’s really no need. You can disagree with me if you want, but first you have to get it by Google’s Bouncer, then you have to specifically break the operating system to get root-level access, and then you have to implant your code. It just doesn’t happen. So let’s say AV is not needed.
As for backing up your contacts and data – last I checked, most Android operating systems these days store their contact information in Google. You can verify with your linked Gmail account by opening up Gmail,clicking the Gmail select option, and choosing Contacts.
While your application data may not be cloud backed up, how important is that Angry Birds save game data to you?
Sprint’s Guardian package has many options that may be useful to families, but coming in at close to $200 a year across four different applications, there are less expensive, and more importantly better, ways to accomplish the same thing in my opinion.
The Family Safety Essentials has a 15-day free trial after which you’ll be charged $9.99 per month.