Cellphones (more specifically smartphones) have become a major part of our 21st century lives. In January of this year, it was estimated that 90% of American adults had a cell phone, and 58% had a smartphone. Eight months later, those figures are undoubtedly higher.
Amid the widespread use remains much debate, especially regarding phones for kids. Deciding when your child is ready to own a phone and what type is best depends largely on the child. Of course, it’s up to you – the parent – to make that determination.
If you’ve made the decision to provide your child with a cellphone, we compiled the following information around the best kid-friendly devices available today to help you take the next step.
Your Guide to the Best Phones for Kids (Fall 2014)
There are a few things you’ll find in common with all of the recommendations below. First and foremost, kids don’t need high-end devices that cost upwards of $800 off-contract. Kids are (generally) more likely to drop and/or break a device than an adult who might have learned a lesson or two about breaking something valuable.
That being said, we’ve compiled a list of several phones that are worth considering for your child when the time comes:
Overview: Primarily marketed as a phone for seniors, you can’t deny that kids can also benefit from simple controls and few buttons. At only $60, the Jethro Phone is reasonable price for a very basic phone that is designed for those who don’t need much.
Pros: Large buttons, fewer functions = less clutter
Cons: Amazon reviewers state that the device is difficult to program, with confusing menus.
Recommended For: Younger children that just need a way to stay in contact with parents without all the bells and whistles.
Motorola Moto X/G/E
Overview: While most smartphone manufacturers are aiming for the top end of the market with the biggest and best screens, cameras, and more, Motorola has taken a different approach recently. With the goal of creating the best all-around smartphone experience for the low-to-mid price point, Motorola offers the Moto X, Moto G, and Moto E.
While each of these devices are fairly similar, the X has the best specs (screen, CPU, camera, etc.) but starts at $350 (but goes on sale sometimes). The Moto G is their mid-range phone that meets the needs of most smartphone users, and sells for less than $200, while the Moto E is designed for people who really don’t need much in their smartphone (particularly emerging markets) and retails for a very reasonable $129.
Pros: Very inexpensive for what you get, fast software updates, name brand, one of the best Android software experiences.
Cons: Not “high-end”, but the features are more than good enough for kids. Adults would want to choose the Moto X, while the Moto E or G would be better for kids. Least expensive Moto E only available for T-Mobile and AT&T.
Recommended For: Everyone. Because Motorola offers the X, G, and E, there is a device for anyone. While the Moto X offers a high-end experience at a mid-range price, and would be great for parents, the Moto G and E are solid performers at very low prices. The Moto E should be enough for most kids, but the Moto G is a great option for those who need something a little more capable.
Overview: An oldie but a goodie, the Apple iPhone 4 might be a few years old but it can be had for a very decent price – around $150 new/refurbished.
Pros: You’ll save a lot of money buying an older model, 3.5″ screen makes for a good kid-sized phone.
Cons: A few years old, might struggle with future software updates, camera and screen are not up to par with latest devices.
Recommended For: If you have an iPhone and want the ability to help your kids operate their phone, familiarity is a great thing. While the other phones on this list are competitive in terms of price and features, those preferring an iPhone should go with an older, less expensive model for kids.
Overview: Kajeet is unique in that the phones are designed specifically for kids. With unique features such as flexible parental controls and GPS location, parents can keep an eye on their kids using Kajeet phones. With a variety of devices and plans, there may be an option for your family.
Pros: Comprehensive parental controls let you choose who can and cannot contact your child’s phone. You can also specify days and times during which the phone can or cannot be used, as well as which websites can be visited. You can bring your own device, but it has to be Sprint-compatible.
Cons: Most of the best phones aren’t available, but most kids don’t need something high-end. Kajeet phones only operate on the Sprint network, so you may need to check Sprint coverage in your area should you go this route. This also means families on other networks won’t be able to add a line to a family plan.
Recommended For: Parents who want the most granular control over their child’s device usage, including the ability to locate your child at any time and control who and what the child can access via the device.
Overview: Because cell phones for kids don’t need to be fancy, or expensive, it makes sense to look at the most simple devices and plans. For many, prepaid phones are the way to go. You buy the device, and load a small amount of money into the account. No two-year commitment on an expensive contract, no big deal if the phone is lost or broken. At only $15, the Samsung Entro is a great, simple flip-phone that runs on Virgin Mobile’s prepaid network.
Pros: Extremely inexpensive, pay-as-you-go, no camera may be a plus for many parents, better than the flip phones we all remember, great battery life. If you’re not on Virgin prepaid, you may be able to find a similar device for your preferred provider in the prepaid section.
Cons: Contains no bells and whistles, but that may be what you want. No GPS location like other phones on this list. No parental controls, but that isn’t really an issue on a flip phone.
Recommended For: Parents who really just want a phone that can make calls in an emergency. No contract means if you don’t use it, you’re not losing out, so this phone could be a great way for you to stay in touch with your child.