Every once and a while you encounter a device that delivers on the "plug and play" promise. Circle is a parental control device that requires no changes to your network. You plug it in to power, ethernet and install a mobile app and you are on your way to protecting your children and gaining insight into their device usage.
For $99, if you have kids, this device is a no brainer. Buy it now.
A few co-workers have Circle and I was intrigued. I got one a few weeks ago and have to say I'm dammed impressed. The way the app works is that you create profiles for each person, and then assign devices to them. When new devices come on the network, you get a push notification.
Devices can also be assigned to the Home, if they are shared devices such as an Xbox or Amazon Fire TV. Smart Home devices such as thermostats and such can be set as un-managed and kept out of the Circle network.
Circle is a lot of clever technology made into a simple package.
When you launch the app you can see the profiles I have set up
That big pause button there lets you shut off internet to all managed device with one press. Great for dinner time, and well, also presenting the nuclear option to your kids when things aren't going as you want.
You can see some of the settings I have configured for Miles. I can see how much he has been online today, how many devices he has assigned to him, his filter level, time limits per day, and bed time settings.
Circle also provides a complete list of all devices in your house. It's pretty smart at guessing what devices are un-managed devices such as all my home automation / smart home products.
Circle works by inserting itself into your wifi network, but Circle is also testing out Circle GO which allows you to monitor your kids mobile phone anywhere in the world.
Circle Go works by leveraging the same corporate / enterprise mobile device management that companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google build into their platforms for companies to manage their workforce. As far as I know, this is the only parental control device that stretches to any network. There is no way to work around this as I mentioned, it's built for companies to manage their devices.
Some other interesting notes. Circle has a battery, so that if your kids unplugs it, then it still works. Circle also will notify you if it has been tampered with.
Circle is the most impressive parental controls product I have encountered.
OmarKnows Rating: Recommended
note: I have gotten feedback that most of my reviews are 4 and 5 star. It's true that most items are rated highly and this is a reflection of a few things. 1) I do a lot of up-front research and narrow down on good to great products 2) my enthusiasm for rating things I love is high, and things I don't love low. As such I am switching to a two tier rating system: Recommended and Not Recommended.