If you have kids entering into those double-digit years, you should prepare yourself for the day they ask the question, “can I get a phone?” It’s a simple question, but one that is loaded with responsibility and consequences. You have to ask yourself, “Is my kid ready to have a phone?”
Age might seem like the defacto reason to get your kid a phone — they will certainly tell you so, “I’m the only 15-year-old in school without a phone!” But age shouldn’t be the determining factor. The Child Mind Institute provides helpful insight on whether or not your child is ready to get a phone, and helps you evaluate your child’s awareness of the social responsibility of having a phone.
Things To Consider Before Getting Your Kid a Phone
If you determine your kid is ready for a smartphone, you should ask yourself two questions:
- Am I looking for a phone to keep my kid entertained while they are with responsible adults?
- Do they need a phone so I can get a hold of them, or so they can contact me?
If you’re more concerned about providing yourself a little more free time by letting your kid watch kid videos on a device, you should consider a tablet for your kid, or buying them an iPod Touch that doesn’t have cell service. This way, you don’t have to pay for reoccurring data and cell service or sign any contracts.
As your kid becomes more independent, finding them a phone with cell and data service becomes the priority. Remember, kids are kids, which means they are clumsy, forgetful, and don’t really understand the value of money. You don’t want to buy your 13-year-old a brand new iPhone only to have it broken an hour after you hand it to them. That’s why we’ve rounded up smartphones for kids that look and feel like premium phones but don’t necessarily have a premium price tag. And as they get older and more responsible, you can start looking into purchasing them more premium, better smartphones.
Below you’ll find our recommendations for the best smartphones for kids split into two age groups: 12-15 and 15-17.
The Best Smartphones For Kids Age 12 – 15
Your kid is ready for their first smartphone, but you aren’t quite willing to shell out the big bucks for one. Don’t worry, below you’ll find affordable options for good smartphones with plenty of capabilities. So, if your child breaks it in the first eight minutes of owning their own smartphone, you won’t be too heartbroken. If not, they’ll have a reliable smartphone when you need to get a hold of them.
1. Moto G Power
With a battery life that can last up to 18 hours, this smartphone ensures that you’ll be able to get a hold of your kid during any part of the day. It has a decent full display without bezels or notches, three cameras and 4GB of RAM that can open apps with little lag time. Plus, you can find this phone for around $250 dollars, so if your kiddo jumps into the pool with it in their pocket this summer, it’s not too big of a bummer.
Moto G Power
2. Samsung Galaxy A11
This is the most affordable smartphone in the Samsung Galaxy family and a great solution for a smartphone when your kid is entering their teenage years. It has a great big LCD Infinity O screen, a triple camera on the backside of the phone and even a fingerprint scanner for a little bit of additional security. But best of all, it only costs around $150 for a Galaxy phone. Your kid will feel like a grown-up and your wallet will be happy, too.
Samsung Galaxy A11
3. Nokia 7.2
If you were born in the 80s, when you hit your early adult years, you probably used a Nokia “brick” phone. And if you remember anything about those phones, they were the most durable things on the planet. Well, the Nokia 7.2 stepped up its design and capabilities and made a smartphone for kids with a polycarbonate frame and gorilla glass. In other words, it’s every bit as durable as the “bricks” from old. Beyond durability, the phone takes good wide-angled photos thanks to a triple-camera setup and boasts good battery life.
4. Moto E6
This Moto E6 has a battery life that lasts all day on a single charge — eliminating the “my phone was dead” excuse for not answering mom and dad’s calls. Its small 5.5-inch display is great for kids and teens with smaller hands and simply makes it comfortable to hold with one hand. It’s not the snappiest phone in the world with only 2GB of RAM, but it’s a great starter smartphone for your child’s growing independence. Oh, and it will only cost you about $150, so their independence won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
5. iPod Touch
If you’re looking for handheld entertainment for your kid, and not necessarily a “phone,” you can still find an iPod Touch, which is pretty much an iPhone without cellular connectivity. Of course, you could still set up messaging app accounts for your child if you needed to get a hold of them, but if you aren’t quite ready for your young one to start texting, they really won’t know the difference between your phone and an iPod Touch.
The Best smartphones For Kids Age 15 – 17
Now that your kid is getting a little older, a little more responsible and entering into high school, they are going to want a smartphone that is a little more modern and powerful. But if you’re a little nervous spending a lot on a phone for a teenager that can’t seem to load the dishwasher after dinner without breaking a dish, the thought of spending $1,000 on a phone for them might feel like setting that hard-earned money on fire in your back yard. Don’t worry, you have options.
Below you’ll find great premium phones at budget prices for that teenager in your home. And don’t be afraid to go with a phone that is a couple of generations old. They are still premium phones, only you’ll save a ton of money, and have a little less heart-break when your teen comes back to you with a broken phone saying “I need a new one.”
1. Apple iPhone SE
There’s nothing old or watered down about this new iPhone. This has all the premium guts (A13 chip) of an iPhone 11 in a smaller, iPhone 6 style body. Your teen still gets an amazing camera with Portrait Mode and Depth Control and Smart Lighting for those ever-important selfies, as well as touch ID to keep their phone protected. And the music to parents’ ears: It’s only about $400 dollars for this premium iPhone. That’s what we call in the industry a “win-win.”
Apple iPhone SE
2. Google Pixel 3a
When the Pixel 4a comes out, it will certainly lower the price of the Pixel 3a, and make it even a better option as one of the best smartphones for kids. The Pixel 3a has one of the best cameras you’ll find, even though it’s a couple of years old. The large OLED display looks great so your teen can see all their selfies and videos in all their glory. Google phones also constantly update providing your teen with the latest software available. Keep the 3a in mind, especially if the 4a sells out.
Google Pixel 3a
3. Samsung Galaxy 8 Plus
Now that this phone is a few years old, you can score a seriously powerful phone with a great camera and bezel-free display for around $350 dollars. It has a lengthy 13-15 hour battery life and 64GB of storage for all your teen’s music, videos and pictures. Speaking of pictures, the 12MP rear camera and 8MP front camera is great for all those selfies and Snapchats they are bound to take.
Samsung Galaxy 8 Plus
4. iPhone XR
The iPhone XR is another iPhone budget option that is just a minor step below the iPhone 11. The A12 is last generation’s chip — although still blazing fast — and a Liquid Retina display that isn’t as brilliant and sharp as the iPhone 11 offering. Your teen still gets Portrait Mode, Depth Control and a larger, bezel-less screen size than the iPhone SE. It’s a little bit more expensive than the SE, and a little older, but overall a great option for your teen, especially if they prefer a larger display for playing games or watching videos.
5. Google Pixel 4a
The new Pixel 4a is one of the most affordable, and downright best smartphones for kids available. It has a great OLED display and 128 GB of storage, which is a ton for a budget phone (iPhone SE starts at 64GB). That’s plenty of storage for pictures, videos and all of your teen’s favorite apps. Speaking of pictures, the Pixel 4a also provides one of the best performing cameras available. But for those clumsy teens, this phone isn’t waterproof at all. Beyond that, they’ll be getting one hell of a phone that’ll save you (or them — they’re teens, get a job!) a lot of money.