For some parents, the absolute best mobile phone for kids is no mobile at all.
For others, it's the one you're comfortable with them having.
One they can use safely and responsibly while sticking to any rules you laid out for them.
So which to choose?
From simple mobiles designed specifically for children, to affordable options for teens or young adults... this guide will show you what we think are the best options in the UK for 2019!
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2019.
Phones with Basic Calling and GPS Tracking
It seems that while mobiles get fancier each year, we’re doing less calling on them than ever before. But handing a kid a phone with high-speed mobile data, apps and social media opens up opportunities many parents aren't comfortable with.
If your kids want to call and text but you don’t want them to have the full features of a smartphone, a feature phone is a great option. They still get to talk with friends and you don’t have to worry about endless app downloads or a surprise on your monthly tariff due to a weekend-long YouTube binge.
Looking for something more like a traditional mobile? The Doro 5030 features a large keypad, dedicated function buttons and a small display perfect for use by smaller fingers.
Doro 5030 (Unlocked)
From £24.95 at Amazon
Lack of web access or apps means you don't have to worry about teens running up charges or accessing things you don't want them to see.
Easy texting without access to advanced features
For younger generations, texting and IM is likely more common than actual mobile calls.
That said, if you don't want your young teen having a smartphone, the best option is likely a classic flip mobile -- such as the Alcatel 2051X -- or a "dumb" mobile like the Nokia 3310 3G recommended above.
If your kids want to text but you don’t want them to have the full features of a smartphone, full-keyboard and slider mobiles are an excellent choice.
They still get to talk with friends and you don’t have to worry about endless app downloads or a surprise on your monthly bill due to a weekend-long YouTube binge.
Most major carriers still offer at least one feature mobile option with a full keyboard.
Just watch the price. Often, they can cost as much as -- and sometimes more than -- an entry-level smartphone.
NOTE: Many basic phones don't support Wi-Fi connections. While this might be great for limiting access to things you don’t want your kids browsing, it is a limitation as they grow older. This also means that they will need to rely on data if you’re planning to let them use email or social media features. While feature phones are often quite light on data, this will result in extra monthly costs.
What about smartphones?
If you don't mind your child having a smartphone (or they won't have it any other way), have a look at our smartphone picks for teens below.
Each of our recommendations are reliable options with relatively affordable prices.
And, if you want to ensure safe and responsible usage, you can add parental controls.
Affordable, full-featured smartphones for accident-prone teens
While the original iPhone and early Android mobiles forever changed the way the world communicates, smartphones aren’t the revolutionary things they once were.
Today, you can find Android mobiles in the sub-£100 range that would run circles around these earlier devices. Jump into the £100 - 200 and you have a full line of options that are more than enough for most teens.
Wileyfox Spark X
With a 5.5-inch 720p display, quad-core processor and support for microSD cards, the Wileyfox Spark X is a capable, fully-featured smartphone. It costs a fraction of the current flagships and the 2GB of RAM should handle basic daily use and light gaming just fine. There's also an 13MP camera for capturing quick snapshots or sharing images on social media.
Wileyfox Spark X
From £69.99 at Amazon
With support for a range of prepaid and postpaid networks, there’s a good chance you can find a tariff to suit your budget as well.
Motorola Moto G5
Upgrading to the Moto G5, the screen size drops slightly to 5-inches but sees a boost to 1080p. So you'll get better quality when playing games or streaming video.
There's also a faster octo-core processor to keep things running snappy. The 13MP camera will take images rivaling most entry level point-and-shoot cameras.
Motorola Moto G5
From £149.00 on Amazon
Support for microSD cards ensures plenty of room of music, apps and other media as well. While it costs a little more than the Wileyfox Spark X, the difference in performance and features is noticeable.
If you’re looking for a full-featured mobile for a responsible teen, we think the Motorola Moto G5 is a superb option. However, if you have any concerns about misuse or you’re looking for a younger child, sticking with the Wileyfox Spark X will provide most of the functionality at half the price.
What about an iPhone?
It seems everywhere you look these days, there's a kid with an iPhone. There's a good chance your kids have asked you for one as well.
However, the latest iPhone doesn't come cheap. This makes us hesitant to recommend a new iPhone for kids or teens. Even with phone insurance , you'll likely pay more for a replacement if it's broken than our previous teen-friendly recommendations.
However, if you're willing to buy used or refurbished, iPhones from the past generation or two are still very capable mobile devices. For example, depending on your network and internal storage preferences, giffgaff offers three different iPhone 5 models with prices ranging between £119 and £149.
Just remember, iPhones don't support microSD cards. So choose a model with plenty of storage.
Any other options for me?
Yep. Blu also makes a variety of Android mobiles with budget-friendly prices . Options start at around £40 with high-end models topping out around £200. All options are unlocked from the factory and many are quad-band. This means you can use them on nearly any GSM network--including popular prepaid options.
The top end options -- such as the VIVO ONE and Pure View -- offer many of the features of major flagships at a price that is easier to stomach. Better still, it is dropped in the pool or left at the mall, you’re not out £500+.
Blu constantly releases new models, so we won’t get in-depth with details. However, in our opinion these are some good ranges depending on your needs.
- Basic: 4-inch+ display, at least 1GB of RAM, dual-core processor at 1Ghz or higher
- Media Playback: 5-inch+ display, at least 2GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage + microSD card, dual-core or quad-core processor at 1Ghz or higher
- Gaming: 5-inch+ display, at least 2GB of RAM. 16+GB of internal storage, quad-core or octo-core processor at least 1.2Ghz or higher
Anything else to keep in mind?
Yep. Glad you asked.
If your kids play a lot of games or have a large collection of downloaded videos or music, choosing an option with microSD card support will ensure they can fit their favorites on their mobile. For internal storage, we recommend starting with a minimum of 8GB, though 16GB is preferable.
The apps added by the manufacturer or network and the operating system all take up room on the device. In most cases, you can count on these default apps taking up at least 1GB of storage space.
What We Looked for In Our Picks
While the exact features you might need will differ based on the age of your child and what you want them to do (or not be able to do) with their phone, we felt these considerations offered benefits to any age group.
Affordability: Even as adults, accidents happen. Handing a kid a $600 phone sounds like a recipe for disaster to us.
Kid-Centric Features: While a kid can use most any device out there--sometimes better than us--we wanted to find options that offered specific benefits to a range of ages and skill levels.
Good Battery Life: If the phone only lasts an hour before it dies, it’s not going to do much to keep the kids from coming after your phone to play games. If you’re using it for emergency calling or to keep tabs on their location, extended battery life also adds peace of mind.
Durability: While the rugged options out there are probably out of the price range of most kids phone budgets, we wanted to find options that will stand up to the occasional tumble and deal with being tossed in bag or sat on from time to time.
Keeping Your Kid's Mobile Safe
Regardless of which mobile you choose, have options to help encourage healthy habits and discourage your kids from using their mobile in ways you wouldn't approve.
Parental control apps and services let you track what your child does with their mobile device or place restrictions on features.
Options for Basic Mobiles
Most networks offer a form of parental controls or allow you to limit the number of minutes, messages, or data your child or teen can use.
These network services are basic at best, but can be effective in teaching healthy habits or keeping the kids from blowing through all of the data on your plan.
Options for Smartphones
The parental controls available increase greatly if your child has a smartphone.
In addition to the features offered by your network, there's also a range of apps available.
These apps help you restrict everything from the sites your child browses and apps they download to when and how they can use their mobiles.
Android phones (with Android 7.0 or newer) can download Google's Family Link. It has an easy-to-use set of controls and integrates directly into the mobile's software.
To use the service you install two apps. One on your child's mobile to add protection and the other, a parental version, on your mobile to control features.
Apple offers a similar feature on all iPhones and iPads running iOS 12 or newer called Screen Time.
It allows you to set what content can be viewed based on ratings, control purchases, track usage, and more.
It's also built into the mobile's software, so there's no need to install anything extra -- and the kids can't uninstall the app either.
You can configure settings directly on your child's device or using your own iPhone or iPad. For a full list of features and instructions, consult Apple's Screen Time support page.
There are also a range of third-party options available including:
- Screentime (not to be confused with Apple's Screen Time settings)
- Kapersky Kids Safe
- Net Nanny
Each of these works a little differently and costs vary. However, most offer free trials or feature-limited versions so you can try before you buy to see which is best for you and your kids.
Alternative Options to Mobiles
Depending on your kids’ wants and needs, they might not need a full-time mobile of their own. We’ve found a few options that might work for extremely light use or situations where calling or mobile data service isn’t required.
Own an iPod Touch or Tablet? You can use apps to simulate many features from a smartphone. With regular access to Wi-Fi, you might get away without any monthly cost at all!
How do I do that?
There’s a good chance your kids already have Google or Facebook accounts. If so, both Messenger and Google Hangouts allow voice calling over Wi-Fi. If you’d prefer to keep your kids off social media, Viber and WhatsApp offer voice calling features as well--though their friends will need to have the app too.
And what if I want a more mobile-like experience?
As long as the device has a microphone, you can use Skype to add a phone number to it for a small annual fee. This number can place calls to other mobiles or landlines. Voice minute rates depend on the destination. However, Skype offers a range of bundle minute deals to make calling affordable.
2. Kids' Smartwatches and Trackers
While not exactly a mobile, the Doki Watch S is an interesting option.
It includes fitness features, GPS monitoring, and security alerts to keep kids active and provide a bit of peace of mind for parents worried about kids visiting friends or returning from school.
There is a class mode you can activate to essentially turn the device into a digital watch between certain hours if you think the watch might be too distracting during school or homework hours as well.
There's also a basic to-do list and wallpaper customization options to provide a more smartwatch-like experience for tiny hands.
The watch itself, however, doesn't offer interchangeable bands or other customization. You have a few colors to choose from at checkout though.
And, since it works over VoIP, it should be cheap to keep a data plan on it so it can work.
3. Upcycle an Old Mobile
The old mobile collecting dust in your office drawer might be a great fit for your teen. You've already bought it, so you don't have to worry about costs should they break it. Most networks will also unlock your mobile for a fee should you need to use it with a new one.
Related Guide: 9 Great Uses For Your Old Smartphone or Tablet
For even more savings, you can use the method listed above for tablets and iPod touches to use VoIP instead. However, if your teen is on the go, they might have trouble using features unless Wi-Fi access is nearby.
Although the number of younger kids with mobiles is increasing -- and they might tell you all their friends have one -- there was a time when we all made it through our day without one.
Just because they want it, doesn't mean they need it.
Concerns about privacy, online harassment and exposure to content you don't want children seeing are very real.
Mobiles can also become addictive distractions for some children.
And once you open the floodgate, it can be hard to wrangle back control of their usage.
If these concerns or any other has you holding out and feeling that the best mobile phone for your kids is none at all, you won't be alone.
There's nothing wrong with no phone at all.
Ultimately, it is up to you to know what features are best for your child and what you’re comfortable with. We hope this guide helped to highlight the best options out there and answer any questions you might have.
If you’re one of the many parents out there that think mobiles and kids shouldn’t mix, let us know why in the comments! On the other side, if this guide helped you find the perfect option for your kid or we missed a question you might have, we’d love to hear from you too!