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 2020!
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2020
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.
Nokia 3310 3G
If you’re looking for something a little more like a traditional mobile phone, the Nokia 3310 3G offers similar features in a classic phone format. You can buy it unlocked for around $90 and use it on most carriers including Rogers, Telus and Bell.
The phone offers MP3 playback, a camera, and headphone support -- through both Bluetooth and 3.5mm headphone jack. You can even put a microSD card in to add more storage if you'd like.
It's a modern take on the basic phone. And while it doesn't offer all of the bells and whistles of a smartphone, it still looks cool enough that the kids might not mind carrying it around.
Nokia 3310 3G (Unlocked)
From £49.99 at Amazon
The Doro 1370 is one of the most simple to use mobiles on the market. Its candybar design features large buttons and a wide screen for easy use while the loud speaker makes calls crisp and clear.
The 2.4-inch display features plenty of room for text messages and call notifications. It's also quite bright and colours are punchy.
Doro 5030 (Unlocked)
From £31.99 at Amazon
The mobile's rear cover features an assistance button that can dial up to 5 numbers in succession or sent preset texts to those numbers in the event of an emergency. The front face includes dedicated favourites, email, torch, and camera buttons for easy access to mobile features.
While the mobile doesn't offer internal storage for media, it offers an FM tuner for keeping up with the news or listening to live broadcasts.
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.
Motorola Moto E6 Plus
With a 6.1-inch HD+ display, octa-core processor and support for microSD cards, the Moto E6 Plus 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 a 13MP dual camera for capturing quick snapshots or sharing images on social media.
Motorola Moto E6 Plus
From £99.99 at Amazon
Nokia 3.1 Plus
The Nokia 3.1 Plus is also an excellent choice. It features a 6-inch HD+ display, 32GB of storage, microSD support, and an octa-core processor. It won't keep up with a top-end phone by any stretch but it's plenty capable of handling the basics and gaming.
Nokia 3.1 Plus
From £99.00 on Amazon
But the big advantage the Nokia 3.1 brings is Android One certification. This means fast software updates for up to 2 years so you don't have to worry about security and software for a while.
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 the iPhone 6S starting at £129 with newer models running between £300 and £500.
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 £45 with high-end models topping out around £2500. 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.
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, quad processor at 1Ghz or higher
- Media Playback: 5-inch+ display, at least 2GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage + microSD card, quad-core processor at 1Ghz or higher
- Gaming: 5-inch+ display, at least 2GB of RAM. 16+GB of internal storage, octo-core processor at least 1.6Ghz 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!
Disclosure: You should know that in some cases, we may receive a referral fee (at no additional cost to you) for products purchased through the links on our site. These links help support our work but they do not influence our content. Our editorial recommendations are always genuine and we try to feature only the best products and services. Why trust us?