Tesco Is Launching A Smartphone For Kids

By Holly Brockwell on at

When a supermarket chain announces it's releasing a new smartphone for kids, we imagine a low-cost, high-colour handset with squishy edges and a catchy name.

Tesco's announcement has disappointed us on all of these fronts. The phone is called IMO S2, which we forgot literally as we were writing it, and comes in a family-friendly range of hues including black, black, and black.

At the time the supermarket's press release went out, they seemed to have forgotten to finish the website for the IMO S2, whose OS is called Monqi. This is the banner at the top:

That's not the IMO S2, is it? That's an iPhone. In fact, that's a stock image.

They also seem to have forgotten all the rest of the images, with giant blank spaces next to the badly-written text – note the unnecessary question mark in the headline and the missing apostrophe on the button:

That button doesn't do anything, by the way: it just takes you to the main Tesco Mobile site.

We could go on. But terrible website aside, the IMO S2 is also not especially cheap: £99 SIM-free or £12 a month for 2 years. That's not expensive by smartphone standards, but considering the point of this phone is to hobble a lot of the functionality so kids don't run amok on the app store, it's not cheap – you can get an Alcatel phone for under £50 these days.

The blurb about the phone concentrates more on what it can't do than what it can:

  • Block apps, calls, texts, data usage or the entire phone remotely either manually or during scheduled times or specific locations
  • Track where their child is at all times – perfect for preparing children to walk home on their own
  • Set time slots and specific locations for when the phone can/can’t be accessed. This feature also allows the phone to be locked or blocked remotely
  • Control who the phone can be used to contact thanks to a dedicated contacts app that requires parental approval upon entering new contacts
  • Kids can safely browse the internet without ever encountering content intended for those over 12, whether the phone is connected via mobile data or WiFi.
  • They can also access over 1500+ pre-approved apps on the Jungle store, with no ads or in-app purchases.

Maybe they'd have been better off with a Nokia 3310.

Specs-wise, you get:

  • 5-inch HD display
  • Quad-core chipset
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • MicroSD slot
  • 13MP rear camera
  • 5MP front-facing camera
  • 2,600mAh battery

Obviously specs aren't the point of the phone, but we do question the decision to include two cameras and a microSD slot if this is all about privacy and safety. Why block certain content on the phone if you can just whack a memory card in with anything on it? If you can't trust a kid to use the app store, should you be giving them unmonitored access to two HD cameras?

Tesco's statement doesn't tell us much:

"We know how important giving a child their first phone is and the issues parents face as a result. That’s why we’re offering monqi on the IMO S2, so when our customers decide the time is right to give their child a mobile phone, we’re there to offer them a solution that keeps everyone in the family happy."

The phone will be available from the 26th of November, and you'll be able to register your interest online when Tesco fixes the button so it actually points to something useful.

These are definitely the people you should trust with your kids' digital safety. Mmhmm.