The best phone for your kid can be hard to pick. When shopping for the most important little person in your life, it can start to feel like the most important decision. We’re here to help you find a phone for your young one, pre-teen, or teen.
We’ve factored in important aspects, such as parental controls, durability, function restrictions, GPS tracking, and cost. For the youngest kids, we’ve focused on very simple devices meant primarily to open a line of communication with parents. For pre-teens, we’ve aimed for low-cost, simple phones that enable calling and texting without too many features for your kids to get caught up in. For teens, we’ve included affordable smartphones that offer a good balance of value and function while retaining solid parental controls through Android and iOS.
Since newer iPhones and Android phones running the latest operating systems come with ample parental controls build in, parents should feel comfortable picking out these phones for teens and pre-teens at their discretion. All the details parents need for enabling parental controls on iPhones can be found here. Details on Android parental controls are available here.
For the young ones:
Cellular function only in US
The Relay, by Republic Wireless, is an incredibly simple communication device meant just for kids. It functions much like a walkie-talkie, so your child won’t have to navigate any complex menus to get ahold of you.
The Relay connects over 4G LTE and Wi-Fi, and it includes build-in GPS, so you can pinpoint your child’s location through the companion app on your own phone. The Relay’s design is sturdy and water resistant, so it can handle a day of play with your child.
The Relay is still in early stages, so new features like music and a voice assistant aren’t here yet, and shipping takes a while. Mobile network connectivity is also limited to the US, but Wi-Fi will work internationally.
For $149, the Relay comes in a bundle. It’s also available individually for $99 or in a pack of three for $199.
LG GizmoPal 2
Wearable means hard to lose
IPX7 water resistance
Verizon users in the US have an enticing option for their kids in the LG GizmoPal 2. This is a wrist communicator that your kids can get into. It has a colorful design, simple controls, and handy water resistance. It also offers GPS tracking, so you can check in on your child’s location or find the watch if lost.
Parents can set up four authorized telephone numbers to call the GizmoPal 2, and the screen will display who’s calling. Parent’s can also set the GizmoPal 2 to automatically answer their calls, which can be handy in cases where their child might be playing and not notice the call.
The GizmoPal 2 is compatible with iOS and Android, and costs $79. For a newer model, Verizon also sells the LG Gizmo Gadget for $149.
Nokia 3310 3G
Cheap but not flimsy
Long battery life
Good balance of features
Still pricey for a feature phone
No water resistance rating
Nokia’s iconic 3310 is back, and with its combination of very long battery life, simple features, and durability, it’ll make a great pick for your pre-teens. The Nokia 3310 3G is made of plastic, so your kid doesn’t have to be too careful about dropping it. They also won’t need to remember to charge it every day, as the battery can last close to a month on standby.
The Nokia 3310 3G has everything your child needs to stay in touch, with calling and texting available. You won’t have to worry about them surfing the web on this one. Plus, they can take pictures to show you what they’re up to in school or with their friends.
The Nokia 3310 3G costs $59 in the US. A non-3G Nokia 3310 is also available in the UK for £49.99.
Blu Tank Xtreme 2.4
Rugged, water-resistant design
Storage for music and camera
2G GSM carriers only
Few color options
If your kid wants a phone that doesn’t look too childish, the BLU Tank Xtreme 2.4 is a good option. It’s incredibly affordable, and built rugged, so your pre-teen can stand to be a little careless with it. The plastic and rubber frame should be able to handle the occasional drop, and an IP65 rating means it can shrug off a splash of water now and then.
The BLU Tank Xtreme 2.4 has the basic talk and text your kid needs to stay in touch, and it has a long-lasting battery, so you won’t need to remind them to charge it all the time. Availability is limited to the US, though UK users may be able to use this phone on the 900 and 1800 GSM bands.
Very easy to use
Pricier than others
The same qualities that make the Jitterbug Flip a good choice for seniors make it a good pick for your kids. It is incredibly simple to use, with basic calling and texting functions as well as a simple camera. The user interface sticks to large, easy-to-read text, and the buttons are easy to press. The battery is long-lasting as well.
The Jitterbug Flip is only available in the US, and service is sold by GreatCall. At $74, the Jitterbug Flip is a bit more expensive than the others, but you can rest assured that it will be a simple phone for your child to get used to.
Full smartphone functionality
Great budget option
Features vary by model
The Moto E5 is not just one phone but rather a family of affordable phones with varying features. Despite their difference, they all make great budget picks for your teen. While many budget Android devices can be running on outdated hardware or software, the Moto E5 is up-to-date with recent processors and Android 8.0 Oreo.
The Moto E5 Plus is available to Sprint customers in the US for $288, and boasts a large battery, 6-inch display, and dual-camera setup. The Moto E5 Play is toned down a little bit, making it more budget friendly at $99. In the UK, a standard Moto E5 and the Moto E5 Plus will be available in the near future. Aside from the basic Moto E5, all the others include a water-repellent coating that will help make sure your teens don’t ruin their phone.
Galaxy S8 Active
If you want to get your teen a highly capable smartphone but worry they might destroy it and waste a lot of money, the Galaxy S8 Active is right up your alley. It has all of the performance a flagship Android phone calls for, but it’s built tough.
The Galaxy S8 Active screen is sharp, the camera is great, and the battery is forgiving if your teen forgets to charge it one night. All of that is packed into a chassis with an IP68 and MIL-STD-810G rating. In other words, it can handle a lot of carelessness. We dropped one screen-first onto a stone floor from five feet up, and the screen was fine.
The Galaxy S8 Active is available in the US on Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile for $850. Customers on other networks and in the UK can look instead at the Galaxy S8 and any of the best Galaxy S8 cases.
Affordable iOS device
Good performance and functionality
May lose support in future
Not designed rugged
The iPhone SE may not be the latest iPhone, but it’s still supported by Apple with the latest iOS 11 updates. Despite its age, it still performs admirably with Apple’s A9 processor, and it will offer your child all the smartphone functionality they could need. The perk of its age is that it comes at a very low price for an Apple device.
One of the main drawbacks about giving your teen an iPhone SE is that it’s not built to be incredibly durable. Fortunately, this is an issue that can easily be fixed with an affordable iPhone SE case.
iPhone 7 or iPhone 8
Good deals available on iPhone 7
Plenty of cases available
Not inherently rugged
If price isn’t a big concern and you plan to buy a case (or your teen has proven themselves not too careless), the iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 make for good options as well. Your teen shouldn’t feel held back by any lack of capabilities on these newer phones, while you can rest assured that the parental controls available through iOS will be enough to keep an eye on your teens use.
Though the upfront price will be higher, software support for these newer iPhones should last longer, so you won’t have to worry about upgrading any time soon. As an added bonus, the iPhone cameras are great, so you’ll get to see a lot of beautiful shots of what your teen is doing.
Moto Z2 Play
Cool Moto Mods
The Moto Z2 Play fits nicely in the middle as a pick for teens. It features mid-range hardware at a mid-range price. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass, and the internals are safe from splashed water with a water repellent nano-coating.
A 3,000mAh battery and quick charging will help ensure your teen’s phone has power when they need it. Moto Mods will also give your teen options for enhancing the features or their phone, such as adding a more advanced camera or doubling the size of the battery.
The Moto Z2 Play is available on most networks in the US with a retail price of $399, but deals will likely be available. In the UK is retails for £379.