If you're a parent in 2018 with kids in school, you've probably wondered about the best cell phones for kids.
Whether they're starting kindergarten, graduating college, or asking for their first cell phones, these key moments are easier to manage with the right level of preparation.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed when your kids are begging for their beginner phones, but you'll be ready to climb this mountain with the information below at your disposal.
In this buyer's guide to cell phones for children, we'll review the best kid-friendly phones on the market, discuss the benefits of family plans, and how you can use parental controls to keep your child safe on his or her new mobile device.
Table of Contents
- The Best Cell Phones For Kids: Our Top Picks
- How Do I Pick the Right Beginner Cell Phone?
- I Don't Want Apple or Android: What Are My Options?
- How Do I Choose the Right Family Plan?
- How Do I Implement Security Measures?
- I Don't Want a Contract: What Can I Do?
- How Can I Protect Phones from Wear and Tear?
- Cell Phones for Kids Under 10
The Best Cell Phones For Kids: Our Top Picks
Samsung Convoy 4 Review
- Extremely long battery life
- Rugged design & water resistant
- Dual microphone & noise cancellation ensure clear, crisp calling
- Unimpressive Camera
- Small memory storage
- Slow, outdated style of texting
The Samsung Convoy 4, originally designed for enterprise workers who do their jobs in challenging environmental conditions, is also a great fit seniors, children, and generally anyone who needs a phone packed with all the useful functionality you'd expect without the complexity and hefty cost of a smartphone. The tough, rugged design and water resistant nature can stand against drops, splashes, and breaks.
Specs & Features
Available exclusively through Verizon Wireless (but also available at other retailers such as Amazon), the Samsung Convoy 4 is a reliable travel companion that can meet the chaotic demands of regular life. Let's take a look at the specs and features of the device.
- Clocking in at 5.82 ounces and only 4.26in tall, the Convoy 4 strikes a balance between a compact profile with a lightweight design. It can easily fit in your pocket.
- A 5 Megapixel camera. The rear camera is not great for taking selfies compared to an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, but it'll do the trick for snapshots.
- A staggering battery life of up to 20 days on standby, with 8 hours of consistent usage time before your next charge.
- Full QWERTY keyboard for messaging.
Samsung Galaxy J3 Mission Review
- Slim profile so the device fits comfortably in your hand or pocket.
- Bright, colorful, HD display.
- Long-lasting, removable battery.
- Front and rear-facing cameras are passable.
- Slower, quad-core processor.
The Samsung Galaxy J3 Mission is an affordable smartphone with a stunning UI that looks great and feels great. Addressing the memory issues of its predecessors, the J3 Mission comes with enough data storage to satisfy your music, photo, and gaming needs. It has a long-lasting removable battery (a rare occurrence in modern smartphones) fit to last for up to two weeks. The Easy Mode streamlines the whole experience for those who want an even simpler experience.
Specs-wise the J3 is fairly average. It has a 5", 720p HD display, which is rather low for modern phones these days but does the job. Pictures appear bright and with colorful tones, and there are a few settings to toy around with to change the color balance. The 5-megapixel camera takes decent photos that are adequate for sharing on social media, but images lack richness and backgrounds may appear washed out.
HTC Desire 526 Review
- Long battery life.
- Compact design to easily fit in your pocket or hand.
- Takes vivid, detailed photos with the rear-facing camera.
- The front-facing camera is decent at best.
- Small memory storage.
- Clunky interface.
The HTC Desire 526 is an excellent choice for the first smartphone for your child, or for anyone who wants a basic mobile phone at an incredibly great value. With an emphasis on customization at its core, the HTC Desire allows you to tailor the look and feel of your device to your personal tastes. The device has a microSD card slot which supports up to 128GB of storage.
Under the surface, we find the improved battery and processor that makes this handset a true value at such a low price. The Android KitKat OS and Sense UI skin reduce the amount of bloatware and unnecessary preloaded apps most smartphones suffer from. Switching between apps and multitasking is easy with the octa-core processor. You can also customize your experience with HTC BlinkFeed and Themes, which includes options to change colors, app layouts from the drawer, and receive specialized news and social media updates in a single feed.
The rear camera is a standard single shooter with some tricks the higher end models commonly have, and take impressive shots in low light.
LG Revere 3 Review
- Compact, stylish flip design
- Hearing Assist Mode for better call clarity
- Impressive Battery Life
- Bright and colorful display
- Mediocre camera quality
- Basic social media functionality
For the user who wants a simple handset without the frills of a smartphone, it doesn't get much simpler than the LG Revere 3 flip phone. The basic clamshell design is ubiquitous with other devices of its kind but comes in a sleek, stylish appearance that is still attractive to look at today.
Designed for both simplicity and convenience, the phone keys have a simple layout that's standard for LG flip-phones with conveniently separate keys for texting and speakerphone. The hinge is sturdy and, at the very least, this phone shouldn't be as easy to break as a smartphone. The battery charger disassembles so that it can be plugged either into a wall outlet or into a USB drive.
Other standout features include Text to Speech for hands-free operation, VZ Navigator GPS, a 1.3 MP camera, and some rudimentary social media features. It includes the standard features you'd come to expect: vibrate mode, calculator, alarm clock, stopwatch, notepad, and a to-do list, and some rudimentary software for people who want a little bit more out of their device.
LG Optimus Zone 3 Review
- Fast processing speed to load your apps
- Great camera
- Clear voice quality
- Poor battery life
- Low amount of RAM
The LG Optimus Zone 3 offers a seamless, powerful operating experience at a fraction of the cost of more modern devices. The speed and performance of its processor enable you to game and watch videos easily. The large display screen and stylish design make viewing your content a pleasurable experience.
The LG Optimus Zone 3 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop OS out of the box. It features a 4.5-inch display, a 480x854 resolution, and 218ppi index. Powering it from within is a 1.1GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB internal storage capacity.
Photos may be captured from the 5MP rear-facing sensor or the 2MP camera in front. The camera on the back can also record videos with 720p HD quality. The 1940mAh Li-Ion battery is removable and helps the device last throughout the day.
How Do I Pick the Right Beginner Cell Phone?
The first step when picking the right beginner cell phone is deciding on a make and model. Even if you're team iPhone or team Galaxy when it comes to your personal device, you'll want to choose the right type of phone for your little one.
Apple and Android cell phones are both great choices for kids, so take a look at each company's best products to start your search. Because many phones work well for people of all ages, we've included information on both Apple and Android devices alongside a few outliers for you to consider today.
If you already own an iPhone or you're interested in learning more about the Apple iPhone before you buy one, this device is a solid place to start your search for the best phone for your kids.
This mobile phone comes with a number of features you and young teens will benefit from. Whether you're inspired by the Find My iPhone App or you'd like to give your children limited internet access, a fast, functional phone with a large touchscreen can be the way to go.
The iPhone 7 in addition to older models are both viable options when upgrading your family's technology, so don't rule out a shiny new Apple product.
Related: To learn more about the specs and features across the entire iPhone line, go here.
If you're not in love with Apple or you're hoping to find out more about Android phones, these devices are also a great place to begin looking for phones for teenagers as well.
These mobile phones have features like the iPhone, such as front-facing and rear cameras, touchscreen capabilities, a large App Store, and more. You'll find that these easy-to-use cell phones make great beginner phones for older children and teens. However, they might be too complex for a younger child's first phone.
Related: You can learn more about the specs and features of the entire Samsung Galaxy line here.
I Don't Want Apple or Android: What Are My Options?
If you want to pass on investing in a smartphone, you have the option to find a simpler phone for your kids.
Here's the best solution to buying a functional cell phone without investing in a smartphone.
Your children will understand that having a device that makes calls and sends texts is better than no phone at all, so you and your kids can pick your battles when buying a flip phone. Because these phones are less expensive to buy and their plans are less costly over time, it's a great option when you're on a budget and your kids need phones.
If you can recall your first cell phone, you'll be more than happy to buy your kids their very own flip phones. These devices are perfect for making contact on occasion, and, because they don't have large screens, your kids can rely on a longer battery life.
Given that you won't have to worry about poor battery life or expensive data plans, you'll be able to rest easy knowing your kids can talk and text anytime and anywhere.
How Do I Choose the Right Family Plan?
The next step when choosing a basic phone for young family members is finding a cell phone plan that accommodates additional lines. Because these contracts come in many shapes and sizes, it's best to take into account the devices you already have in your household and then pick how many you want to add to your bill.
This part of the process will be much easier once you decide on a cell phone make and model, so you can do your research and find a cell phone plan that works for you and your family quickly and easily. You can also go to our family cell phone comparison tool, where we do the hard work for you.
Here's a breakdown of four family plans from the leading network carriers to help you find the right one for you and your loved ones.
AT&T Family Plans
If you're asking yourself who is the best cell phone carrier when adding additional lines, you'll find out soon enough that each one has different policies. The mobile share plans at AT&T, for example, comprise a number of family plans for enjoying multiple lines on a reliable network.
Because AT&T also includes a variety of perks, you and your kids will benefit from details like widespread LTE coverage. You can expect AT&T family plans to cost a little more than ones from the company's competitors although contracts with the unlimited family plan, for instance, is a great option.
Verizon Family Plans
If you're intrigued by AT&T family plans, yet you'd rather have LTE in more places across the country, you'll be happy to know that Verizon offers the best widespread wireless coverage.
The goal of obtaining the best coverage combined with an interest in family data plans guarantees you'll find the right one for your family at Verizon. Because this company offers components like data buckets and unlimited plans, you can make the most of the perks like unlimited talk and shared data.
You should also be prepared to pay similar prices for family plans at Verizon compared to places like AT&T when joining the 146 million users who depend on this network.
Sprint Family Plans
If you're inspired by family plans from AT&T and Verizon, but you're also hoping to pay less for added lines, you'll be relieved to discover Sprint's wireless plans with unlimited talk and text.
This ability to access unlimited data with Sprint is a viable option even though you'll have to make a few sacrifices. Because Sprint is not a leading supplier of fast data speed and country-wide coverage, you and your kids will have to deal with slower internet and less reliable coverage.
You can work your way around these limitations, however, by taking advantage of other features like data allowance to avoid paying a small fortune for kids phones.
T-Mobile Family Plans
If you're in the market for a less expensive plan with similar features to the ones offered by AT&T and Verizon, you'll likely be interested in buying data access from T-Mobile.
The goal of having unlimited talk and text is easy to accomplish with help from any network carrier, so you can avoid overspending on your cell phone bill by cutting your losses when it comes to data.
Because T-Mobile's data coverage is known for being widespread in metropolitan areas and patchy otherwise, your children can learn to enjoy less impressive coverage while you refrain from draining your pockets. You can further look to the network's 71.6 million users as proof that Americans do continue to rely on family-friendly plans from T-Mobile.
How Do I Implement Security Measures?
The third and final step when discovering new phones for your kids is implementing security measures to protect them.
If you're one of the parents who still feel a little bit iffy about giving your kids a world of information in the palm of their tiny hands, you can take advantage of security resources like Norton Family Premier or Highster Mobile to ensure safe web browsing and more.
Our guide on cell phone safety tips for kids is also a great resource for parents who are concerned about internet safety because they help you enable features like parental controls to get some peace of mind. Whether you're looking to install protective software or control in-app purchases, you can promote safe cell phone usage with help from these resources.
I Don't Want a Contract: What Can I Do?
If you want phones for kids without paying for a contract or expensive monthly payment plan, you can consider prepay phones as a great alternative to binding talk, text and data plans.
With either a monthly plan or no contract at all, these companies provide reliable 4G and LTE coverage at a fraction of the cost. This ability to activate and refill the best phones without signing a contract also lets you give your children phones they can depend on while getting some peace of mind.
Related: The Best Cell Phone Plans for Kids
How Can I Protect Phones from Wear and Tear?
If you're worried that the cell phones you buy for your kids will end up dropped, smashed or scratched, you can invest in ones with Gorilla Glass cover glass. Select Gorilla Glass devices resist damage, maintain clarity and coordinate touch sensitivity, so you know you're investing in incredibly tough phones for the whole family.
As the strong glass cover protects against drops, scratches and other damage, it also enhances performance, so you can use your phone normally while achieving better results. In other words, the thin, light and flexible glass will keep these powerful phones safe even when they're in the palms of your little rascals.
Pro Tip: Use a phone with a Gorilla Glass glass cover to protect against damage from dropping a cell phone.
Cell Phones for Kids Under 10
When you're shopping for a child phone for someone ten years of age and under, take a look at the Firefly glowPhone for a good place to start. This child-friendly phone is a great first phone for kids, especially if your little ones are still too young for a smartphone.
Because you get to choose your network, store up to 20 numbers and enjoy up to 360 minutes of talking before every charge, you can rest easy knowing your kids will be able to reach you at any time. The Firefly glowPhone receives basic calls and texts, but it doesn't allow downloading, which makes it the best option on the market for younger children.
Pro Tip: The Firefly glowPhone includes parental controls for monitoring the mobile phone experiences of small children.
When it comes time to buy your kids their first cell phones, it's not out of the ordinary to feel completely baffled by the sheer number of mobile devices on the market.
We're here to help you find the right phone, choose the best plan and make the most of the latest safety features, so you're up to speed on the best cell phones out there.
If you're looking for a new cell phone for yourself, or perhaps your teen would like a more modern device, you can use our smartphone comparison tool to start.