Buying a phone for a child in 2021 can be a challenge, as parents often need to find a balance between pricing and current trends, in addition to looking for decent gaming performance and a manageable screen size, among other criteria.
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 A52 – mid-range price, good cameras and speakers, AMOLED display
- 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
Apple iPhone 12 mini
In addition, each modern iPhone supports a feature called Screen Time, which lets parents set content and privacy restrictions and see their child’s daily iPhone usage time.
Samsung Galaxy A52
Samsung Galaxy A21s
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 hundreds of quality games, suitable for kids of all ages.
Arguably the most appealing feature of the OnePlus Nord is its gorgeous 6.44-inch AMOLED display with 90Hz refresh rate. That high refresh rate means smoother-looking games and videos for a better experience.
The Nord is also a fast performer, capable of running the latest mobile games well, despite what its mid-range price may suggest. Downsides include it’s average-sounding speaker and lack of a headphone jack.
Google Pixel 4a
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 may also come in handy.
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 at an 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 keeps the 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 phone 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
For parents who simply want an affordable emergency phone for their child, that can take and make phone calls, send and receive texts, and not much more beyond those basics – the Nokia 3310 is a highly popular option with almost an entire month of promised battery life on a charge.
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.