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Best phones for kids 2021: the top 10 phones designed for children

The best phones for kids, including Relay Screenless Phone, Xplora Go Clip and Nokia 3310 3G
(Image credit: Relay, Xplora, Nokia)

The best phones for kids aren't like the best phones for adults. They're more about having the bare essentials without overwhelming your child with options, compared to having the best features in an adult smartphone. 

Of course, that changes depending on the age of your child. For the youngest child, you might simply need a device that you can restrict to only calling and texting. For teens, however, it can mean allowing them to use the apps their friends use while still protecting them from the less pleasant areas of the internet. 

While some phone manufacturers make smartphones specifically for children, most of our picks are phones that are easy to adapt for a child’s use. In our ranking, we've also taken into account the difference your child's age makes. A teenager is unlikely to be impressed by the same phone that a seven-year old might love, for instance. That means we've picked out the best phones for children according to specific age groups. Our choices are based not only on parental controls but on durability, battery life, as well as affordability.

Because every child is different, we've set varying criteria depending on the age group involved. That means for the youngest child, a device that's simple to use so you can easily stay in touch while also remaining rugged so you don't have to worry about any accidental damage. Bear in mind that one of the best tablets for kids may suit you better than a smartphone, too.

When it comes to options for older kids, we looked at phones that covered the basics while still allowing you to restrict certain parts of the internet so your child isn't exposed to anything unwanted. Finally, when it comes to high school teenagers, we've looked at the current selection of the most affordable adult smartphones out there.

If you're already confused, don't worry. Generally, for anyone but the youngest child, a phone running the latest iOS or Android 10 (or later) is a safe bet. Both operating systems have excellent parental control features that mean you can control pretty much everything if need be, while still giving your kids features they can explore safely.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are at the end of November and we're expecting to see some good discounts including the best phone Black Friday deals to make your new purchase cheaper. 

Best phone for young children

Relay Screenless Phone

(Image credit: Relay)

1. Relay Screenless Phone

Best phone for young children in the US

Specifications
Weight: 71g
Dimensions: 67.3 x 67.3 x 12.7 mm
Colors: Blueberry, Mint, Brick
GPS: Yes
Battery Standby: Up to two days
Storage: 1GB
Reasons to buy
+Water resistant+GPS tracking
Reasons to avoid
-Service charge-It's big

The Relay is a kind of GPS-enabled walkie-talkie with push-to-talk rather than the familiar calling screen. 

It uses 4G LTE for US-wide range and also connects to Wi-Fi networks you've set up in the parent app, and its battery is good for two days between charges. 

You can create geo-fenced areas from 50 to 200m across and be notified if your child starts to wander off, and the case is both tough and water-resistant – and no screen means no risk of a smashed display rendering your Relay redundant. 

Downsides? It's only available on contract with a $9.99 monthly service charge (plus tax), and while the marketing blurb says it's smaller than a Post-It note they mean a big Post-It: it's two and a half inches square and half an inch deep.

Xplora Go Clip

(Image credit: Xplora)

2. Xplora Go Clip

Best phone for young children in the UK

Specifications
Weight: 31g
Dimensions: 43.3 x 38.8 x 15.5 mm
Colors: Pink, Blue, Black
GPS: Yes
Battery: 600mAh
Standby: 120 hours
Talk time: 5 hours
Display size: 1.3-inch
Camera: 0.3MP
Storage: 16MB
Reasons to buy
+GPS tracking+Splashproof
Reasons to avoid
-Limited network support-Clipped rather than worn

There are multiple Xploras, of which the Go Clip is the simplest and cheapest: it's designed to hook onto a belt or backpack via the included carabiner hook and enable you to track your child's location via your smartphone app. 

It's designed for places such as festivals where your little ones can easily wander off, and you can set up Safety Zones that will automatically notify you if your child leaves them. 

The Go is sold SIM-free but if you supply one you can also use it as a phone, with simple touchscreen controls and support for text messages and emoji.

Best phone for pre-teens

Nokia 3310 3G

(Image credit: Future)

A modern take on a design classic

Specifications
Weight: 85g
Dimensions: 115.6 x 51 x 12.8mm
OS: Series 30+
Screen size: 2.4-inch
Resolution: 240 x 320
Storage: 16MB
Battery: 1,200mAh
Camera: 2MP
Reasons to buy
+Long battery life+Good balance of features
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey for a feature phone-No water resistance rating

We fond memories of the original 3310 from 2000, a phone so tough that if you dropped it you'd need to buy a new floor. The new Nokia 3310 3G isn't quite so tough, but it's still reassuringly chunky and makes for a really great children’s phone. 

There's a brilliant battery with a whopping one-month standby time, a crisp, clear screen, an okay camera and a customizable interface, although to the best of our knowledge there's no easy way to remove the pre-installed Facebook and Twitter icons.

Although the 3310 3G is cheap, it's still on the pricier side of the budget feature-phone market: there are other Nokias that do much the same as the 3310 for less, albeit with a bit less style.

Read our in-depth Nokia 3310 review

Jitterbug Flip

(Image credit: Greatcall)

2. Jitterbug Flip

A brilliantly simple no-frills phone

Specifications
Weight: 133g
Dimensions: 119.4 x 55.9 x 17.8mm
Internal Screen: 3.2-inch
External Screen: 1.44-inch
Storage: 1GB
Battery: 1,780mAh
Camera: 2MP
Colors: Graphite, Red
Reasons to buy
+Retro style+Beautifully simple
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively expensive-Not remotely cool

The Jitterbug Flip was designed for and is marketed to older users, but the same features that make it a great phone for Grandma mean it's also a good phone for younger users too. 

There's none of that new-fangled Facebook or Twitter nonsense here, just big, bright buttons, a very loud speaker and a crystal-clear display wrapped in a case that's extremely reminiscent of the iconic Motorola Razr V3

There's a camera, albeit not a fantastic one, and the user interface is simple to navigate. 

Unfortunately the Flip is quite a bit more expensive than other feature phones and it's limited to the GreatCall phone service in the US, although it's available unlocked in the UK.

Read our in-depth Jitterbug Flip review

Nokia 105 v5

(Image credit: Nokia)

3. Nokia 105 v5

Simplicity and Snake for next to nothing

Specifications
Weight: 73g
Dimensions: 119 x 49.2 x 14.4mm
Screen Size: 1.77-inch
Resolution: 120 x 160
Storage: 1GB
Battery: 800mAh
Standby: One month
Talk time: 15 hours
Colors: Black, Blue, Pink
Reasons to buy
+Really cheap+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Very, very basic-2G only

When we say "cheap" we mean cheap: at the time of writing our local Argos is selling this lovely little phone in the UK for just £17.95 (around $20 / AU$35) SIM-free. 

It's very similar to the Nokia 3310 3G, but this one's purely 2G – which means it couldn't use the internet even if it really, really wanted to – and focused very firmly on the essentials: calling, texting and playing Snake. 

The battery is good for 15 hours of talking or a month on standby, there's a built-in FM radio with headphone socket that your child probably won’t ever use, and it comes in black, blue or pink.

Best phone for teens

iPhone SE (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

An affordable iPhone that will last

Specifications
Weight: 148g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
OS: iOS 13
Screen size: 4.7-inch
Resolution: 750 x 1334
CPU: A13 Bionic
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 64/128/256GB
Battery: 1,821mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Cheapest new iPhone+Software updates for years
Reasons to avoid
-Fragile glass-More expensive than Android options

The iPhone SE is the best iPhone choice for kids as it is the cheapest and smallest, so you’ll spend less and they won’t struggle with a massive phone. Released in 2020 it means it’ll get software updates for four or five years, so get your child a case for its fragile glass construction and there’s no reason it won’t last that long.

There are tons of cases and accessories on the market, plus it comes with headphones in the box. If your family are all on iPhones, your kids won’t miss out on the family iMessage chat, plus you can share photos and other files easily over AirDrop.

You could get an older iPhone secondhand but if you want to buy new, the SE is the best choice. 

Read our in-depth iPhone SE review

Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Extensive specs for not much

Specifications
Weight: 215g
Dimensions: 165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.67-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Snapdragon 732G
RAM: 6GB/8GB
Storage: 64GB/128GB
Battery: 5,160mAh
Rear camera: 64MP+13MP+2MP+2MP
Front camera: 20MP
Reasons to buy
+Great gaming performance+120Hz screen
Reasons to avoid
-Mediocre camera

If your child wants to play games on the move, they'll appreciate the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC. It might have a mediocre camera but it makes up for it with exceptional gaming performance that's backed up with good battery life.

There's also the matter of its 120Hz wide color gamut screen which means everything feels smooth to use and looks great. It's those little things that will impress your offspring and it's all the better given you can buy these sorts of specs for a relatively low price. 

It might look a little basic and less than premium but the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC more than makes up for it where it counts. 

Read our in-depth Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC review

Moto G10

(Image credit: Motorola)

Tremendous value

Specifications
Weight: 200g
Dimensions: 165.2 x 75.7 x 9.2mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.5-inch
Resolution: 720 x 1600
CPU: Snapdragon 460
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Decent battery life+Android 11 support
Reasons to avoid
-Slow performance-Low resolution display

Cheap and mostly cheerful, the Moto G10 offers everything your child could need but not necessarily any extra bells and whistles. 

Its performance is a little slow and its camera unremarkable but its robust build quality means even the clumsiest of children will struggle to damage this one. Android 11 support means it'll last a while to come too. 

Read our full Moto G10 review

iPhone 8

(Image credit: Apple)

The best iPhone for tight budgets

Specifications
Weight: 148g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
OS: iOS 13
Screen size: 4.7-inch
Resolution: 750 x 1334
CPU: A11 Bionic
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 64/256GB
Battery: 1,821mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Should be cheap+Tons of cases available
Reasons to avoid
-Showing its age-OS support won’t last long

If it has to be an iPhone but you’re on a strict budget, try and find the now-discontinued iPhone 8. The range of cases on the market is unparalleled, and for undemanding use it’s still got decent enough specs. 

The camera is solid, it has wireless charging, and comes with all the advantages if your family uses Apple products like the iPad and Mac, too.

A downside is that it won’t be supported for more than another year or two with software updates, so if you want the latest security and features for longer, try the iPhone SE 2020.

Read our in-depth iPhone 8 review

Thinking of insuring your kid's smartphone?

While many phones for kids are built to last, they need to be given that children aren't always careful with tech. So with that in mind you might want to consider comparing the top contents insurance deals with GoCompare in the UK - it provides cover against accidental damage, loss and theft.

Carrie Marshall

Contributor

Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Carrie Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," she says. "And there's a lot of crap."