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Technology.

11 November 2021

Best smartphones for kids

Looking to buy a first mobile phone for your child, but not sure which one to pick? Let us give you a helping hand
AA
Amy Axworthy
Child mobile 1

If you’re buying a mobile phone for your child, it can be tricky to know which is the best to buy. Here, we pick out our top choices, what you need to know if looking at second-hand phones, and how to set up parental controls.

The first thing you need to think about is what your child will be using the mobile phone for. If you just want them to have an emergency phone with mammoth battery life, to keep in the bottom of their school bag, it’s worth checking out our simple mobile phone reviews.

But if you want them to have a mobile that gives them fast internet, a decent camera and a few apps, you’ll need to invest in a smartphone. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, though – we cover this, below.

We highlight five smartphones we think offer terrific value for money – and stick a warning flag on two that might make your child understandably unhappy. You may be considering a refurbished or second-hand phone and we'll give your our top tips for doing this safely. 

Just want to know the best of the best? Head straight to our Best Buy mobile phones.

How much do you need to spend on a smartphone?

The prospect of buying a new smartphone fills many of us with dread as they can be pretty expensive, and going for an iPhone or Samsung can feel like a safe bet - even if they are pricey options.

But the truth is you don’t need to spend top dollar for top quality. While some smartphones cost more than £600 to buy outright, we’ve found several worthy of our Best Buy recommendation that cost less than £300.

Looking for a great price? See our list of the Best mobile phone and Sim-only deals.

You might be wondering about the cheapest way to pay for a smartphone. If you’re willing to shop around, it’s almost always cheaper over time to buy a phone outright and take a Sim-only deal rather than going down the contract route.

If you do decide to take the bigger initial hit of buying outright, be careful to find the best Sim-only deal. Some providers charge more than their rivals for a smaller offering.

If you’d rather spread out the cost of a smartphone, and don’t mind too much that you’ll likely spend more over time, you can take out a contract. To get the best one for you, consider how much data you need. Some of the cheapest contracts offer 500MB of data, but that's only useful for those who rarely use the internet.

In many cases, you can reduce the monthly cost of a contract if you spend a little more upfront. This might be a good middle ground for those who don’t want to fork out the full cost of the phone to start with, but who want to reduce monthly costs where possible. You can compare mobile phone deals here.

Looking for something a little larger? Read our guide to best tablets for kids

Our pick of the best smartphones for kids

We’ve selected five mobile phones that offer great value. They’re not necessarily the very best we’ve seen, but they have decent battery life, clear displays and good cameras – plus, they’re easy to use.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? for instant access.

Best smartphones for kids

  • 77%
    £232.00

    This phone comes with an attractive price and a lot of the perks you get with more expensive models. It has a long battery life and clear display. The cameras aren’t perfect but they produce detailed images in daylight with vivid colours.

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  • 77%
    £249.00

    The photos and videos aren’t perfect but this phone performs brilliantly in every other area. It’s easy to use, has a great battery life and is impressive on a quick 15-minute charge. It is worth bearing in mind that it doesn’t have 5G.

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  • 75%
    £279.00

    This model is one of the cheapest 5G phones we've tested, and one of the best cheap models on the market, too. It has the processing power and high definition display of a much more expensive phone, plus it has a long lasting battery that does well on a short charge.

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  • 73%
    £245.00

    This cheaper offering from a brand better known for high-end phones doesn't compromise on quality. The battery lasts an amazing 44 hours, plus it's quick and easy to navigate around the beautiful display. It's one of the best phones at this price point.

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  • 73%
    £449.00

    This phone has a speedy processor, beautiful display and sleek design. You won't have any trouble using or setting up the phone either. The battery life isn't the best but it will get you through a full day.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of November 2021.

Here are two smartphones to avoid

If you don’t do your homework, you could end up buying a smartphone that will leave you, and your child, feeling frustrated – especially if you’ve spent a fair amount of money on them. To help you avoid making a mistake, we’ve highlighted two mobile phones that shouldn’t be anywhere near your shortlist.

  • 28%
    £99.00

    A slow processor, woeful cameras and poor battery life make this cheap smartphone one of the worst we've ever tested. Also, considering that the face scanner is practically unusable, there's absolutely no reason to buy this cheap phone.

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  • 39%
    £113.47

    You deserve better than this phone when buying an affordable smartphone. You don’t get much in terms of storage and it has a slow processor, which can become very frustrating when waiting for things to load. Its short-charge battery life is pitiful so you would always need to remember to fully charge it overnight.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of November 2021.

Buying a second-hand phone

You might be interested in buying your child a second-hand phone; they can be better for the environment and for your pocket. However, there are a couple of easy traps to watch out for if you're buying a second-hand or refurbished phone:

  • Understanding the terminology. When researching online, you'll often see slightly different terms like 'refurbished', or 'used'. These have slightly different meanings. When a manufacturer or retailer has refurbished a phone, this is your safest bet because they have fully reconditioned it to be like new and you are guaranteed a warranty. A used phone is usually sold by a private seller, but be careful, private sellers may not tell you about certain faults and they are unlikely to give you a warranty. 
  • Make sure the phone is supported. Smartphone brands have different policies for security and software updates. This could mean you could end up buying a phone that isn't supported, or will very shortly lose its support. Read our guide on mobile phone security and use our phone support calculator in this guide to look up the phone you are considering. You can also check the tech specs section in our mobile phone reviews to see security update information for every phone we test.
  • Make sure the phone is unlocked. Sometimes phones are locked to certain mobile providers, so make sure the phone is unlocked to prevent you having any issues with your own sim.
  • Look out for common faults. The most common faults with second-hand phones are a poor battery life, a faulty charging port, faulty buttons and missing accessories. Check these points with the seller - they may have included a new battery or accessories, for example.

Find out more about buying a second-hand phone.

How to set up parental controls

As smartphones are connected to the internet, they’re a window to the whole world. While there’s a lot of wonderful and educational content your child has access to, there’s other content you may want to protect them from.

The good news is there are steps you can take to restrict certain content, but these work slightly differently for Android and iOS devices.

Android

Android is an operating system made by Google used by many smartphone manufacturers. While it works similarly across most Android phones, many manufacturers like to put their own stamp on how everything is presented. This means the advice below might not exactly match with what you see on your smartphone, but it should be pretty similar.

If you want your child to have access to apps, games, music, TV shows and films on the Google Play Store, but you still want some restrictions in place, you can follow these steps:

  • Open the Play Store app.
  • Go to Menu, then Settings, then Parental controls.
  • Turn parental controls on.
  • Create a PIN, to stop someone who doesn’t know the PIN from changing the parental control settings.
  • Select the type of content you want to restrict access to.

If you want to restrict any kind of access to the Google Play Store, you can follow these steps:

  • Go to Settings on the smartphone, then Users.
  • Click Add user and confirm that you do indeed want to set up a new user.
  • Click Skip Setup. This will prevent this account from downloading content from the Google Play Store.

iOS

If you decide to buy an iPhone for your child, and want to restrict the content they can see, you can follow these steps:

  • Go to Settings, then General, then Restrictions.
  • Tap Enable Restrictions.
  • Create a passcode. You’ll need to remember this if you want to change your settings, or to turn off restrictions.
  • Choose which types of content you want to impose restrictions on.

You can remove access to apps and features, such as iTunes, Safari and Camera. You can also stop someone from installing or deleting apps.

If you’d rather limit the types of content your child can look at, but don’t want to completely remove access, you can do this too. For example, you can prevent access to certain websites.

Plus, you can stop privacy settings, as well as general settings, from being changed.