A parent’s guide: What are the best phones for kids and teenagers?

ByPete Leary
Teenage girl using phone

You remember their first words as if it happened yesterday - and now they’re already badgering you for a mobile phone. But which handset is best for your son or daughter?

There's a lot to consider here. Chances are your child will need different things from a phone depending on their age.

If your child is somewhere between 10 and 13, they likely travel to-and-from school independently, and have started to meet up with friends on their own. For example, if they need Google Maps to find their way to a friend's house, then they should have a phone that can connect to the internet.

On the other hand, if your child is slightly younger, they might only need a phone so that they can call you in an emergency - maybe they were a couple of minutes late for the school bus home, and now need you to come pick them up. 

Best phones for kids aged 7-10

If your child is under 10, chances are that they're not doing too much on their own yet. You might want to consider the next couple of years though, as they'll be travelling independently before you know it.

Samsung J3

This excellent low-cost addition to the Samsung range may have a few rough corners, but it's a perfect entry-level phone. Sturdily built with a battery that will last the day, the Samsung J3 is a no-thrills winner in the hands of a small person.

If we're being picky, its limited 8GB storage and occasional delays on app loading count against it, but on the plus side, it has an 8-megapixel rear camera and web access. And while the omission of an ambient light sensor would send most of us into a red-faced rage - they're young, they can handle it!

So not without its flaws, but still a great first-time smartphone.

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Moto E4 Plus

If your priorities are reliability and durability, then cast your eyes over the Moto E4 Plus. It's not a phone that yells innovation, but no matter, this chunky, metal-shelled unit packs a huge battery and has a premium feel at an affordable price.

Strikes against include its average camera - though still good enough for any youngster - and limited processing power. The loading of multiple apps will noticeably slow it down.

No new ground broken here then, but with its bright, clear display on a 5.5-inch screen, and perhaps, most importantly its stamina in the battery department, the Moto E4 Plus is still a very able mid-range smartphone.

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Best phones for kids aged 10-13

It's usually during the 10-13 years when children start to travel independently. Most kids start secondary school at age 11, so it's essential that they have some means of communication as they make their way to and from school each day.

Nokia 3

Covering off the essentials, the Nokia 3 ploughs its middle-of-the-road furrow well enough, but ultimately, it's all about the low cost - you can probably pick one up for less than £90.

At that price, there's bound to be a little pain; in this case it's a disappointing camera and often lackluster processing power. For a budget phone, the 5-inch LCD display is fine for YouTube clips and playing simple games, though it will slow down on more complex games.

It's no design classic either, so it's unlikely your average teenager will be showing it off - possibly a good thing. But it still covers the basics at a really good price - just be prepared to overlook its rather sluggish performance.

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Alcatel Pixi 4 (4)

Compact, good looking and a snug fit in a smaller hand, the Alcatel Pixi 4 is a solid smartphone for kids. Just don't expect too much in terms of performance and display.

Fine for calls, texts, checking email and web browsing, but multiple app use will slow things down. Its camera won't win any prizes either, but on the plus side, at least it has one. Charging isn't quick and battery life limited, but you can easily bump up storage to 32GB using the microSD slot.

Unsophisticated as it is, the Alcatel Pixi 4 has undoubtedly been designed with the first-time user in mind. No bad thing, when you consider it hits the basics at such a low price.

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ZTE axon 7 Mini phone

A reasonable mid-range performer with 32GB of storage, which is only let down by poor battery life and a serviceable camera - but at this price you can't have it all.

The ZTE axon 7 Mini phone's nice sharp display complements an overall quality build, and it holds up well when playing music and video through its surprisingly punchy speakers - with no distortion issues to fret over.

So, we're not talking too many trade-offs, and certainly none to cause a 12-year-old too much trauma, but just don't expect any bells and whistles.

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Money saving tip from our expert: Network providers such as BT now offer family SIM deals, where the more you buy, the more you save. If you are a family of four or more, the savings can really add up. Well worth a look.

Best phones for teenagers

Chances are your teenage son or daughter is now moving on to their second phone. They'll probably be looking for an improvement on their first handset, but perhaps still don't need an expensive flagship.

Huawei Honor 8

Your average multi-tasking teenager will be very happy with the sleek and well-proportioned Huawei Honor 8 - whether they're taking photos, playing games or watching Netflix.

A stylish mid-range phone that catches the eye; it comes with an excellent dual-camera - the front one is particularly good for selfies - and a performance that zips along nicely. A more than adequate 32GB of storage means plenty of space to store photos and apps, and there's a fingerprint sensor for click gestures.

It's a real looker too! Glass front and back - especially appealing in Sapphire blue - complements a premium build, though this does make it quite a slippery phone. So hold on tight.

Expensive when it first landed, the price has since come down - and a refurbished phone will see it cheaper still. All in all, a real beauty with real kick.

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iPhone 6S (16GB)

As with most box-fresh iPhones, the cost of a brand-new iPhone 6S  won't swing it for everyone. Get past that though, and your teen will be holding another great Apple release.

There's nothing new from a design point of view here, but then the iPhone 6 had already hit that particular stylish and sleek sweet spot. An upgraded camera with 12-megapixel sensor is a welcome addition to the iPhone 6, and it also comes with the clever 3D Touch - three levels of pressure which open different features and apps.

While it tantalizes you with its speedy processor and ability to do all the things you expect and more, its distinctly average battery whips the rug out from under a little. Most kids will be ok with 16GB storage, but heavier users of apps, games and video should probably go for the 32GB or 64GB versions.

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Money saving tip from our expert: Flagship phones can be really expensive, but teenagers are going to want something powerful that can handle their usage. We recommend looking at previous generations of the expensive flagships. That way, you get a powerhouse of a phone for a significantly lower price. For example, instead of buying the newest iPhone, why not consider the one that came out last year?

If you manage to pick up a cheap handset, you can then also consider a SIM-only deal to go with it. 

 

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