You remember their first words as if it happened yesterday - and now they’re badgering you for a mobile phone. But which handsets are suitable for kids and teens?
There's a lot to think about here. A phone for a kid may need to:
- Be durable - Kids have a tendency to lose and break things, so something durable is a good idea
- Not cost too much - Again, in case it gets broken or lost, and because top-of-the-range flagships often have a lot of features that youngsters simply don't need
- Have parental controls - Especially if it's for a younger child
Teens, on the other hand, are more interested in apps, social media, cameras, media - anything that connects them with their friends and gives them a break from homework - so they'll care about screen size, storage space, and how good the camera is.
For a phone plan, you'll also have to choose whether to take out a monthly contract on a phone, or go SIM-only. One of the advantages of monthly SIM-only plans is their flexibility - you won't have to keep paying for anything if the phone gets lost or stolen, for instance - and they can be capped so your kid can't rack up an expensive bill. When it comes to picking a network it's wise to think about which one the rest of the family use as well. Giffgaff, for instance, offers free calls to other giffgaff SIMs, and EE has shared plans.
For younger or especially vulnerable kids, a special plan from a network like Engine Mobile could do the trick. Your kid can call and text who they want, but you're able to restrict time access, block numbers, track where their phone is (with Safe Plan+), and listen to recordings of their calls should you need to. See Engine Mobile plans here.
1GB 4G data
Unlimited same network minutes
£7.50 per month
1 month contract
1GB 4G data
£7 per month
1 month contract
1GB 4G data
£14 per month
1 month contract
So now we've seen plans, let's take a look at some suitable mobile phones.
1. Nokia 108
- Sturdy feature phone that isn't likely to break
- Funky blue colour
- Perfect for just texting and calling
- …but very little else besides that
For younger kids, you'll probably want to get them a feature phone rather than a smartphone. One of the best around right now is the Nokia 108. This chunky model might strike you as a blast from the past, with its postage-stamp-sized screen and number pad with actual buttons, but it's perfect when you just need a lifeline to keep in touch.
For a start, it isn't going to break or stop working any time soon - feature phones are built to last. Its thick case can handle being bashed around a bit, and the battery can last a good few days, so you needn't worry about your kid getting caught short without a charger.
Of course, it's not a smartphone, so it doesn't have a camera, GPS, or even a way of connecting to the internet. But for the sake of just calling and texting - and a couple of games to keep your kid entertained - the 108 is ideal.
2. Huawei Y3
- Ideal entry-level smartphone
- Great value price tag
- 4-inch screen, 5MP camera, and 2MP selfie camera
- …but limited storage space and processors
While a feature phone is super useful, it doesn't make for an impressive birthday gift - only a smartphone will really satisfy. But if your kid's still young, there's no point splashing out on a top-of-the-range flagship full of features they'll never use (and that they'll probably drop and break). Luckily, even the cheapest of budget smartphones have a lot going for them these days.
The Y3, from the youth-oriented side of Huawei's offerings, is a great choice for an entry-level smartphone. There's no complex connectivity to be dealing with, and no high-powered processors - just a straightforward smartphone that can make calls, text, access the internet, and download apps. Perfect for someone new to the tech.
A Huawei should appeal to young teens, with its nicely sized screen and cool gold case, not to mention the selfie camera and simple, customisable interface. Plus, the battery has a decent lifespan, so your kid can take their phone out and about with them for ages without a worry.
3. Microsoft Lumia 640
- Windows Phone with an easy-to-use interface
- Super durable, brightly coloured cases
- Customisable parental controls
- …but, as a budget model, the specs aren't the best
For a young person new to the world of smartphones, a Windows Phone isn't a bad shout. While it's not to everyone's taste, it's at least very easy to use and understand - and there's even a Kid's Corner mode and special settings if you need a little extra parental control. You'll also find the Rooms app useful for sharing calendars, locations, pics, and chats with the whole family.
As for the handset, the Microsoft Lumia 640 is a good one for kids. It's currently closer to the budget end of the Lumia range, so it's not the most high-spec phone in the world, but for the price it's not bad at all. 8GB of storage is enough for your kid's favourite apps, the screen is surprisingly clear, and there's even a 1MP front-facing camera to fulfil every teen's selfie need.
And, true to the old Nokia brand that helped form Lumia, this is a super sturdy phone that can handle being chucked in a backpack, dropped on the floor, and thrown across the room in a tantrum without breaking.
4. Motorola Moto G
- Really good value
- Gorilla Glass screen and water repellent coating
- Upgradeable to Android Lollipop
- …but the camera and internal storage could be better, especially for teens who like to take pictures
The Moto G is a useful model for young teens: it's got all the functionality of a smartphone without going overboard on the specs. With its big, colourful screen, it looks impressive, so teens will like it - but it also has a cheap price tag, so parents will like it too.
In fact, teenagers will love this. It runs Android, there's a selfie camera, and the interface is slick. The screen is fairly large, at 4.5 inches, and nice and bright with a good colour range. Connoisseurs will grumble that you can see the pixels but that's hardly at the top of most kids' agenda.
At the same time, however, the Moto G is a practical model. Gorilla Glass and a solid case mean that it's durable, and the water repellent coating means it can take a splash or two. Although, even if it does end up breaking, it won't take many paper rounds to save up for a replacement.
5. iPhone 5c
- iPhone, which always goes down well with teens
- Perfect for music, video, and gaming
- Good camera, plus a front-facer
- …but it's still the most expensive mobile on this list
Okay, so you're going to cave and let your kid get an iPhone. We recommend going for the 4s. Since it's an older model now, you can get it on much cheaper tariffs than, say, an iPhone 6 - but it's still an iPhone, you can still download Instagram to it, and it still works just fine. And believe us, this won't get any complaints.
It's got the top-notch camera that iPhones are known for, as well as a front-facer for selfies, and the retina screen means fantastic graphics as well. With Apple's iPod legacy, this phone is built for media - it's great for listening to music, watching videos, and playing games. Plus, it looks cool - check out those bright coloured cases.
The biggest issue, of course, is that you'll have a lot of trouble wrenching it free from your kid's hands. But hey, at least if they have it on them at all times, you can reliably contact them, right?