7 June 2008 @ 17:02AT&T Smart Limits for Wireless – Not so smart

AT&TMy wife and I added AT&T’s Smart Limits for Wireless to our daughter’s phone last night. After reading about it, and watching the demo, I thought it sounded like a useful feature for my daughter’s phone. Her mom and I were mostly interested in the “Time of day” restrictions for school time and bedtime. We enabled Smart Limits last night, and tested out all the different settings.

WARNING: By blocking all calls, this phone will not be able to make outgoing calls except to 911 and numbers on the Allowed Numbers list. Incoming calls will not be blocked by this feature except from numbers on the Blocked Numbers list.

Unfortunately this feature is pretty much crippled by the fact that incoming calls and text messages still get through to the phone during restricted times. This doesn’t make any sense at all. She will learn soon, if she hasn’t already, that she simply has to tell her friends, “After a certain time, I can’t call you, so you should call me.” I find this flaw in Smart Limits extremely asinine. This would be simple enough for AT&T to implement if they had any desire to give their customers what they wanted. I know that I am not the only one who feels this way.

The only solution that has been offered is to add numbers to the blocked list, that I don’t want calling during the restricted hours.

I understand that I can add a number to the blocked list to block it, but there are 2 flaws with this “solution”. First, the “restricted” time of day should be just that — restricted (except from allowed numbers). The second problem with adding a number to the blocked list is that there is a limit of 15 numbers. My daughter has more than 15 friends that wouldn’t hesitate to call her during the restricted hours, and adding their numbers to the blocked list will block them at all hours, not just during the restricted hours.

ATT Smart Limits for WirelessBefore anyone calls me out and says that I should have known how Smart Limits works based on AT&T’s documentation, I read and pretty much understood what Smart Limits could and could not do before adding the service. I’m not implying that AT&T misled me with their Smart Limits documentation. My complaint is that the service itself is not quite what it should be. Only after trying the Smart Limits service do the flaws become apparent. In my opinioin, AT&T only halfway implemented the features that would truly make this service useful.

“Disappointed with Smart Limits” thread at the AT&T forums

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Posted in cellphones, stupid | Link to this


  1. BC | 26 Dec 2008 @ 23:05 #

    I, personally, think that if you are that concerned with your daughter’s cellphone usuage then maybe you should say maybe… take it away during the time you don’t want her using it?!? There’s a novel idea… instead of spending $5 extra a monthe, why not just physically remove it from her person, when its time to go to bed. I think that would go a long ways in solving your problem. It’s called involved parenting.

  2. Jon | 27 Dec 2008 @ 0:21 #


    The point of this post was to inform people that AT&T Smart Limits doesn’t offer the control that they purport to offer. I also realize that Smart Limits are not meant to replace parenting. My wife and I take an active role in parenting (and cellphone moderation) by already doing what you mentioned — taking away the phone when it shouldn’t be used.

  3. jb | 04 Sep 2009 @ 17:55 #

    Jon, thanks for the feedback. I just discovered the same thing about the limits. You are right. These restrictions are a joke.

    BC, thanks chiming in with your advanced tutorial on parenting! I am in the same situation as Jon, I’d like to avoid “removing the phone from her person” every night. Would it be ok with you if we try this method?
    WOW, what a self-righteous asshole!

  4. Sean | 16 Sep 2009 @ 6:22 #

    I agree that it should work for both incoming and out going calls, but I also think it should work as advertised. I enabled time of day restrictions that are suppose to take affect as soon as you add them, but when I checked my detailed billing she was texting @ 3:30 in the morning again. So much for time of day working.


  5. Kaleb | 14 Dec 2009 @ 2:13 #

    To understand why incoming calls are not blocked, consider this scenario: The child calls 911 during a restricted time of day. The call is somehow disconnected, and so the 911 operator attempts to return the call, only to find that it is blocked. Someone dies because the 911 operator could not return the call.

  6. Concerned Parent | 04 May 2010 @ 9:56 #

    I agree, AT&T Smart Limits is a total waste of money! I had my daughter on T-Mobile with their Parental Guard system and it worked as intended (at least from a Parents point of view). My son was on the Verizon plan and their Parental Guard system was even better, adding more flexibility and customization than the T-Mobile version. I want to help my Daughter learn to manage her phone usage and follow school policies. By taking away her phone when we don’t want her using it, we are teaching her nothing at all. Not to mention, we can’t contact each other in an emergency or school campus crisis that might bring harm to our child. Furthermore by letting her keep the phone and suspending it on-line every time that we don’t want her using it, we can’t contact each other during a real emergency. What in the world is AT&T thinking? Every teenager with a cell phone will immediately discover that they can circumvent the Smart Limits restrictions. Just have their friends call them whenever they want to talk. If they are on the restricted list, use a different phone or how about block their outgoing caller ID number so that it is not recognized as being on the blocked list, DUH!!!! AT&T, YOU ARE STUPID!

  7. lorelei | 03 Jan 2011 @ 16:26 #

    First the kids signed a cell phone usage contract. Any violation and it get’s shut off!
    I have 2 phones on the plan. So far it works as intended. For the younger one, blocked All outgoing calls except to allowed list, however, he violated time of day usage (used it at school) – phone got shut off for a week. Next time he did it, I shut it off for a month. He doesn’t use it at school anymore.
    the older one has time of day restrictions and it does work. He can only call those on the allowed list during time restriction. You cannot block incoming calls. when he was on restriction I also zeroed out his text limit so he could not text or call. Didn’t stop incoming but put a major damper on his life! Works depending on what you consider tolerable. Set clear limits and stick to them. With these kids, anything lower than a “c” in school and phone is shut off until grade comes up.

  8. Souperstar | 08 Mar 2011 @ 20:25 #

    Obviously, just as an emergency call is allowed to call out as an exception, it could and should also be allowed to call in, as an exception.

  9. Mom | 31 May 2011 @ 21:48 #

    This was a total waste of money. I wish I would have read this before ordering this feature over the phone. AT&T needs to step up their game.

  10. elizabeth | 19 Aug 2011 @ 11:08 #

    you parents are stupid!!! WHY dont you just let your kids learn on there own. i mean is it really hurting you if they talk til 4:00 am… NO!!!! look your kids will eventually figure out that they are tired of not getting enough sleep to go to school!! this method is called reverse psychology!!!

  11. BuickMackane | 07 Sep 2011 @ 3:34 #

    Smart Limits has proven a total waste of money and effort. The kids are way too tech-savvy to allow themselves to be blocked by it, especially on an iPhone. I subscribe to the feature for my daughter’s line because way too many of her classmates have gained access to both her mobile number and her Facebook info. I immediately blocked 30 numbers as soon as I got the feature, only to find 30 brand new numbers appear like mushrooms in her call log. All the kids have to do is walk over to their parents’ landline or grab a phone from a friend or sibling to use a different number to call from and bypass the blocked list. Failing that, they just go to the browsers on their smartphones or laptops and use programs like Facebook chat, Skype and Oovoo video chat. The browser can easily replace the phone as the means of telecommunication on a smartphone. You can try to restrict browsing, but apparently any iPhone can just jump on the nearest Wi-Fi and circumvent that block as well. AT&T has no business charging an additional monthly fee for such a totally impotent feature as Smart Limits. I spend more time maintaining the list of restrictions than I ever dreamed possible and it’s almost a complete waste of money. The only way you can gain real control is to take your child’s phone and laptop and throw them both in a locked drawer; what a nightmare.

  12. SideCar | 09 Sep 2011 @ 15:26 #

    I tried it for 2 weeks and the site was down more than up. so you had no control. It’s a really bad feature. I could get around some of the things, but not being able to log on showed me that AT&T can’t manage their system.

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