Best phones for kids: the top 10 phones designed for children
Our list of the best phone for kids in 2020 has only increased in importance, as more parents are buying them as a source of safeguarding their children, and kids want them to call and text their friends – if parental controls allow it.
To that end, phone makers are designing kids phones in all shapes and sizes. That’s why we have more than one top pick, from one-button touch-to-call safety devices, to battle-tested Samsung phones with drop protection, to the cheapest iPhone if you want them on your iCloud family storage plan.
Problem: that leads to a lot of options for the littlest person in your life. We’re here to help you find a phone for your child, pre-teen, or teen – any age, really. We’re experts on picking phones for kids, just as much as we can aptly chose the best phones in the US and best phones in the UK for adults.
We’ve factored in important aspects, such as parental controls, durability, function restrictions, GPS tracking, and cost.
The best phones for kids are going to be simple devices primarily meant to open a line of communication with parents. For teens, we went ahead and aimed for low-cost simple phones that enable calling and texting without too many features for your kids to get caught up in.
For high-school students, we included affordable smartphones that offer a good balance of value and function while retaining solid parental controls.
Since newer iPhones with iOS 13 and Android phones with Android 10 have ample parental controls built in, parents should feel comfortable picking out these phones for teens and pre-teens at their discretion.
Best phone for young children
1. Relay Screenless Phone
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
The Moto E6 Plus isn’t a smartphone for everyone because it combines fairly basic specs and performance next to something like the Moto G7. But it’s incredibly cheap and durable. It also has a speedy fingerprint sensor and and an all-screen design.
Yes, you can be a kid and have an all-screen smartphone without breaking the bank. Being a teen or pre-teen doesn’t necessarily mean thick bezels. You may find varying Moto E6 smartphones on sale too, region dependant, as the Moto E6 is also available at a smaller size and a slightly cheaper price. But the big Plus-sized screen is ideal.
There’s no Samsung Galaxy S9 Active or Galaxy S10 Active, so if you want a durable, but still highly capable Samsung smartphone your teens might not destroy, look to the Galaxy S8 Active. It has all of the performance a two-year-old flagship Android phone, 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.
8. iPhone SE
Affordable iOS device
Good performance and functionality
May lose support in future
Not designed rugged
Face it, your kid wants an iPhone. Finding a cheap iPhone SE outside of Apple’s store is still possible, and it can be upgraded to iOS 13. 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.
If price isn’t a big concern and you plan to buy a case (or your teen has proven themselves to not be reckless), the iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 make for great options. Your teen shouldn’t feel held back by any lack of capabilities (or style) on these newer devices, while you can rest assured that the parental controls on iOS will be enough to keep an eye on your teen’s 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.
The Moto Z3 Play is out and we reviewed it, but the Moto Z2 Play still fits nicely in the middle as a pick for teens given its cheaper price. 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.