Buying a phone for kids can be a challenge, as parents often need to find a balance between pricing and trends, in addition to looking for decent gaming performance and a manageable screen size.
In this article we’ll take a look at budget, mid-range and flagship smartphones that are suitable for adolescents and younger kids, taking the above-mentioned factors in consideration, as well as looking out for features that may be important to parents, such as built-in GPS and parental controls.
Best phones for kids, a summarized list:
- Apple iPhone 12 mini – small, highly portable and modern 2020 iPhone
- Samsung Galaxy A21s – affordable smartphone with solid battery life
- Apple iPhone SE (2020) – mid-range price, trendy and powerful
- OnePlus Nord – mid-range price, high specs, great display for gaming
- Google Pixel 4a – fast performance, great camera
- Samsung Galaxy A10e – budget price, good for a child’s first smartphone
- Nokia 5.3 – budget price, long battery life, many camera options
- Motorola Moto G8 Power – budget price, large screen, long battery life
- Nokia 3310 3G – budget price, basic phone features, long battery life
- Samsung Galaxy A51 – mid-range price, beautiful design, four back cameras
Apple iPhone 12 mini
As an Apple product, it also natively supports a variety of gaming controllers, which could turn it into a powerful little gaming console. Apple also offers the Apple Arcade subscription service, which includes countless family-friendly titles. Of course, the iPhone 12 mini also rocks some of the best cameras ever put on an iPhone, plus it’s 5G ready.
Samsung Galaxy A21s
This budget Samsung smartphone sports a fairly large 6.5-inch, great for watching videos and playing casual games, and a quad-camera system. The latter includes a wide-angle and macro cameras for taking creative pictures.
As expected from a phone at this price range, it doesn’t have the smoothest performance, but it does pack a large battery, which lasted just over 11 continuous hours of YouTube playback on a single charge, in our testing. If the priorities are large screen and affordability, the A21s is worth considering.
Apple iPhone SE (2020)
The 2020 iPhone SE features a very manageable 4.7-inch screen, along with solid cameras, capable of capturing impressive selfies and video. The SE also boasts enough raw power to put even some flagship devices to shame. Many teenagers will also enjoy the iPhone’s ease of use and trend factor.
Avid gamers can play even the most intensive games smoothly on this phone, at medium to high settings. In addition, like all modern iOS devices, the SE natively supports certain wireless game controllers, such as the Xbox Wireless Controller and the PlayStation DualShock 4. Optional is also an Apple Arcade subscription, which gives access to over 100 quality games, suitable for kids of all ages.
The Nord is also a fast performer, capable of running the latest mobile games well, despite what it’s mid-range price may suggest. Downsides include it’s average-sounding speaker and lack of a headphone jack.
Google Pixel 4a
On the Android side, the Google Pixel 4a offers exceptional camera performance that beats even some flagship devices, making it a solid choice for those who are all about the selfie or vlogger lifestyle.
In addition, the Pixel 4a comes with a nice 5.8-inch OLED screen and a speedy Snapdragon 730G processor, well capable of running even the heavier games at least on medium settings. Headphone users will be happy to know that this phone also has a headphone jack.
Parents will find the Pixel 4a a reliable smartphone for kids, with Android’s helpful parental features available on board, such as Google Family Link.
Samsung Galaxy A10e
The A10e is a highly affordable offering from the South Korean giant, and a solid content consumption device. Watching YouTube videos or Netflix on it is an enjoyable experience, thanks to its tall but still manageable 5.8-inch IPS display. The fact that it has a headphone jack is also more than welcome.
The Galaxy A10e is a good cheap phone for kids who haven’t used a smartphone before, even young ones, as cracking or breaking a device in this price range is way easier to digest than a more expensive one. Due to its low specs, it’s not suitable for hardcore gaming, but it handles casual 2D games just fine.
The Nokia 5.3 is a well-rounded and snappy Android smartphone for a highly affordable price. It’s strong sides are the impressive “portrait mode” photography it delivers, as well as its long-lasting battery, up to two days on a single charge.
Although it doesn’t have the sharpest display, it too impresses with good contrast and colors. The Nokia 5.3 is no slouch in the sound department either, featuring a loud (but single) speaker, and a headphone jack.
Motorola Moto G8 Power
In our battery tests, the Moto G8 Power lasted 8 hours and 55 minutes of YouTube video playback. That, combined with its widescreen 6.4-inch display makes it a solid content consumption device.
Despite its large 5000 mAh battery, it weighs a reasonable 197 grams, and still has enough room for a headphone jack. Its mid-range specs are suitable for light gaming, though it likely won’t handle the more intensive games at anything beyond low settings.
When it comes to strong battery life for long YouTube and Netflix watching sessions, on a large screen, and all that for a budget price, the G8 Power is a good pick. Because of its large size however, it may not be suitable for people in their early teens or with smaller hands.
Nokia 3310 3G
It also comes with a basic camera, although with so little internal storage, that taking just a few pictures is enough to fill it up, unless you choose to expand its storage by adding a MicroSD card.
Overall, as a basic kids cell phone, this one is cheap and can handle a few weeks of phone calls on a single charge. Unlike most smartphones, so-called “dumbphones” like this one don’t have a built-in GPS, however. Regardless, the Nokia 3310 is among the best phones for kids who are too young for a smartphone.
The Galaxy A51 features a beautiful 6.5-inch AMOLED display, great for watching YouTube and other content. Its mid-range performance should be enough for most kids, while its four cameras on the back allow for getting creative with photography, and produce great photos in most conditions. The phone also features Always-On, which, if enabled, means the time, notifications and other information can always be shown on the screen, even if the phone is locked. This is particularly useful for kids who check their phones for new notifications often.
The battery on the Galaxy A51 can comfortably last a day or more, depending on usage. In our testing, it lasted 11 hours and 35 minutes of web browsing on a single charge, while in our continuous video streaming test, it lasted 8 hours and 35 minutes on a single charge.
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