After using the Circle for three weeks I'm willing to give it 5-stars as it has changed, for the better, how our kids are using internet. We have three kids at home, an 8-year and two 11-year olds (twins). I purchased the Circle router after doing extensive research on the web as we wanted to know what they are watching, just as we do with TV and Movies. We also wanted to have a "start time" (7 am mornings) and "end time" (8.30 pm at night) of the wireless connection. Certain apps, like Minecraft, is time limited to 1-hour per day for the boys and it's great not to have to keep track of this as the App does it for you and shuts down access after exactly the 60 minutes. The circle does all of this and more...
1. INSTALLATION: There is no traditional user manual in the package. So, instead of looking at a printed card you only need to download the free App and follow the easy set-up instructions. Basically it took 15 minutes to set up and add all the devices in the house (couldn't believe we had that many devices...). However, this is just the beginning....
2. CONFIGURATION: Each device must be added to either a "Personal Profile", "Home" or "Unmanaged Devices". This is quite logical and very much follows the concepts used on any Mac OS X or Windows computer. On each profile you can then set with the appropriate Filter setting, along with a start time and end day daily. There is no start and end times for weekends or separation between "play time" and "home work, but I am quite confident these two settings will be added over time as the App development work proceeds. They are the main missing features.
3. SETTING UP EXCEPTIONS: This is the most important phase in order to have a good user experience for the kids. I would strongly recommend to make the initial set up on a day when everyone will be home.. After installing Circle and adding their device to their profile, sit down with each child and ask them to go to every website, open every game and do anything/everything they want to do on their device. This way you can easily create the "exceptions" they need to the standard filter system. There is no way around this as unfortunately internet URL's was never set up with "PG 13" or "R" ratings etc.
4. UNMANAGED DEVICES & HOME PROFILE: In our family we have set my wife's and my cell phones/Tablets to be "unmanaged devices", which means there is no block or limitations. The computers in the house are on the "Home" profiles as multiple users log on to them and there is no technical way to tell which kid is using it (not Circle's fault, just technical limitations).
5. PAUSE BUTTON: The "secret sauce" in this product!!! With the "pause" button you can easily pause the internet for either all managed devices OR for an individual profile (all devices attached to this profile will pause). With this powerful tool in my iPhone I can say "dinner in 2 minutes, internet is going off when the clock hits 6:15" (for example). Prior to having Circle it was a pain to make three kids shut down and end whatever they were doing on their devices. Now everyone immediately "saves" and logs out of their activity as they know that the internet will indeed be shut off when I said it was... The Kids despise this new level of control but as a Parent I smile as I'm finally in charge again! After dinner is done, simply press "paus" a second time and internet is back on.
SUMMARY - NEGATIVE POINTS: The App lacks 7-day individual scheduling of times and the ability to do multiple blocks of time during each day.
SUMMARY - POSITIVE POINTS:
Overall this is a tool that every Parent should have and I have been wanting for years. It gives Parents control of what is being watched, when and by whom. It also serves as a great way to get the kids away from the "Tablet Trance". I've told them the Circle device will stay "on" as long as they live at home and I'm paying for them:-)
+ The App is very simple and easy to use.
+ Pause button is a "killer app" by itself for Parents.
+ The Profile system is logical and nicely laid out
+ The hardware is compact and looks nice
+ It features a terrific "backup battery". Kids already tried to unplug it twice without effect as the battery kicks in. Parent will also receive notification to iPhone when device goes off line.