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The best kids' phones for keeping you in touch

Want to give your child some freedom but still remain connected? The best kids' phones have strong performance, location-tracking technology, and long battery life.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer and  Allison Murray, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Nina Raemont
Apple iPhone SE (3rd gen) | Best phone for kids overall
iPhone SE
Apple iPhone SE (3rd gen)
Best phone for kids overall
View now View at Apple
Moto G Pure | Best starter phone for kids
moto-g-pure
Moto G Pure
Best starter phone for kids
View now View at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G | Best kids' phone for Samsung families
samsung-galaxy-a32-5g
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G
Best kids' phone for Samsung families
View now View at Walmart
Gabb Phone 3 Pro | Best budget phone for kids
Gabb Phone 3 Pro
Gabb Phone 3 Pro
Best budget phone for kids
View now View at Amazon
Google Pixel 6a 5G | Best secure phone for kids
Google Pixel 6A
Google Pixel 6a 5G
Best secure phone for kids
View now View at Amazon

Giving your kids a phone is a smart idea that benefits you, too. You can gain peace of mind with the ability to track their location and contact them directly no matter where they are, or who they're with.

But we understand: The decision to give your child a phone can be complicated. When are they old enough? What kind of phone should you buy? Are there kid-specific plans? And what about parental controls? These questions can be overwhelming, but we can help. 

Also: The best kids' tablets

My wife and I have gifted two out of our three children a phone when they reached a certain age. We wanted a way to contact with them at school, during sports practices, and after hours when they're at a friend's house.

Of course, not all phones are built equally, and you may have certain features in mind for your kid's phone. I rounded up five of my top picks for kid-friendly phones. I recommend the Apple iPhone SE, but I also include other phone models, and even one smartwatch -- keep reading to find out why.

The best phone for kids in 2023

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Most affordable iPhone
  • Strong performance
  • Good battery life
  • Great camera
Cons
  • Display is somewhat small
  • Old design
More Details

Apple iPhone SE tech specs: Display: 4.7-inch | Processor: Apple A15 Bionic | Memory: 4GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB | Rear cameras: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP FaceTime Camera | Battery: 2,018 mAh | Cost: Around $429

Apple's iPhone lineup spans a wide range of models at varying prices. The most inexpensive iPhone is the iPhone SE, which starts at $429. Apple revamped the iPhone SE in 2022 with the same processor as the more expensive iPhone 13 lineup. The end result is an iPhone 13-like experience in a phone that's half the price. 

The phone features a 4.7-inch display and a Touch ID home button that your child can use to secure their iPhone with a fingerprint. The rear camera takes photos that are nearly as clear and crisp as higher-end iPhones, while the front camera provides a solid FaceTime experience. 

In addition to excellent hardware at a reasonable price, you're also getting access to Screen Time parental controls, Find My, Family Sharing, and the rest of Apple's software services. For a family that's heavily invested in Apple products, the iPhone SE is a great starter phone for kids. 

Review:iPhone SE

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Large display
  • Good battery
Cons
  • Somewhat slow performance
  • Low internal storage
More Details

Moto G Pure tech specs: Display: 6.5-inch | Processor: MediaTek Helio G25 | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB, microSD card support | Rear cameras: 13MP, 2MP, depth sensor | Front camera: 5MP | Battery: 4,000 mAh | Cost: Around $159

The Moto G Pure is an incredibly affordable phone that offers a basic experience. It's often on sale from the retail price of $100, which makes it a good starter phone for children learning how to take care of a device for the first time.

In fact, both of my kids started with a Moto G model in order to prove they could take care of a phone without breaking, losing, or leaving it somewhere it could be stolen. The Moto G Pure has a decent camera setup, 3.5mm headphone jack, large battery (helpful for kids who love playing games), and large display, 

However, there are two potential downsides to the G Pure: Storage and speed. With 32GB of internal storage, you'll want to add a 512GB microSD card to make room for pictures, videos, apps and games. 

Performance will be slower than what you'd find on an iPhone and other phones on this list, but for a child's first phone, it's totally okay. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Good price
  • Great cameras
  • Solid battery life
Cons
  • Limited internal storage
More Details

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G tech specs: Display: 6.5 inches, 90Hz | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 | Memory: 4GB | Storage: 64GB, with microSD support | Rear cameras: 48MP main, 8MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro, and 2MP depth sensor | Front camera: 13MP camera | Battery: 5,000 mAh | Cost: Around $160

Samsung isn't known for low-end smartphones. But since LG recently exited the smartphone business, Samsung has begun to improve and iterate its entry-level phones. 

Also: The 5 best Samsung phones

The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G looks and works just like a high-end Galaxy S22, but it only costs $160. It also features a 5,000 mAh battery, which is powerful enough to survive a full day of use for most people (even kids). Plus, the 48-megapixel camera and rear-facing cameras are solid. 

With only 64GB of internal storage, you'll want to add more using the built-in microSD card slot that allows up to 1TB of additional storage. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Entirely parent-controlled
Cons
  • Monthly fees for the best features will cost you between $25-$35/month, plus an additional monthly contract fee
  • Limited to Verizon network
More Details

Gabb Phone 3 Pro tech specs: Display: 6.6-inch | Processor: Octa-Core 4x2.0 GHz Cortex-A55 & 4x2.0 GHz Cortex-A55 processor | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Rear cameras: Quad Core camera with wide (50MP), ultrawide (5MP), macro (2MP), and depth (2MP) lenses:| Battery: 5000mAh battery | Cost: $100

The Gabb Phone 3 Pro was made specifically with kids in mind, and it has kids-centric features parents will approve of. These include 100 Gabb-reviewed, parent-managed apps (but no social media or internet), clean music streaming from Gabb Music, and Gabb Messenger, which filters text messages for safer communication. Other third-party apps can be additionally downloaded, but app downloads are entirely controlled by the parent. 

Through the phone's GPS tracking, parents can also create "Safe Zones" where they can be notified when their child leaves or enters a designated area.

On the outside, it still looks and feels like a "grown-up" smartphone, with specs like a 6.6-inch Infinity-V display, Quad Core camera with wide, ultra-wide, macro, & depth lenses, and crisp 1080p@30fps video capture. 

The Gabb Phone 3 Pro uses the Verizon network and an Android OS.

Google Pixel 6A
https://www.amazon.com/Google-Pixel-6a-Smartphone-Megapixel/dp/B0B3PSRHHN
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Excellent security
  • Great cameras
  • Solid battery life
  • Quick charge
Cons
  • Pricey
  • No microSD card support
  • No wireless charging support
More Details

Google Pixel 6a 5G tech specs: Display: 6.1-inch | Processor: Google Tensor | Memory: 6GB | Storage: 128GB | Rear cameras: 12MP wide, 12MP ultrawide | Front camera: 8MP | Battery: 24 hours | Cost: $349

The Google Pixel 6a is one of the most secure phones you can buy for your child. The Google Tensor processor's security core works with the Titan M2 security chip to make the phone resistant to hacking, tracking, and spying. 

Review: Google Pixel 6a

It also uses a fingerprint reader to unlock, so only you, your child, and authorized users can access the phone for calls and texts. The phone is also IP67 rated for water- and dust-resistance, which means a little rain or spills won't ruin it. 

With a 24-hour battery life and quick-charging feature, you can stay in touch with your kid all day. 

What is the best phone for kids?

Apple's iPhone SE is the best phone for kids because it has long software support and offers the best performance you can get in a phone under $500. Battery life and camera performance are just bonuses.

Here's how the best phones for kids compare on price, screen size, and operating system:

Phone for kids

Price

Screen size

Operating system

Apple iPhone SE

$429

4.7-inches

Apple

Moto G Pure

$159

6.5-inches

Android

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

$160

6.5-inches

Android

Gabb Phone 3 Pro

$100

6.6-inches

Android

Google Pixel 6a 5G

$349

6.1-inches

Android

Which is the right phone for your kid?

Deciding which phone is right for your kid depends on a few factors, including age, overall cost, and which operating system you prefer. Once you know those details, you can narrow down your search and make a choice based on personal preference. 

Choose this kids' phone…

If you want…

Apple iPhone SE

The best all-around kids phone that will be supported for years and it features a good camera and excellent battery life. 

Moto G Pure

A budget-friendly starter phone for children that's affordable, has a large display, and a good battery. 

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

A good mix of affordability and performance for parents with a solid battery life your kids will love.

Gabb Phone 3 Pro

A budget-friendly smartphone. It comes with parent-approved apps and parental controls, and doesn't allow social media or internet browsing.

Google Pixel 6a 5G

A secure phone with great cameras, quick charge capabilities, and a solid battery life. 

How did we choose these phones for kids?

I've reviewed phones for more than a decade. Not only have I tested these devices myself, but I've experienced my own kids reaching the age of needing their first phone.

All five of these picks are something I would (and have) trust(ed) my kids to take care of. I also considered the following factors: 

  • Privacy: Keeping your child's information and data is of the utmost importance with any tech device, so we picked phones with privacy features like encryption and parental controls so you can contact your child if need be. 
  • Battery life: A phone serves little purpose if it's out of battery, so we looked at devices with long battery lives so you don't have to constantly recharge. 
  • Price: These days, smartphones can range dramatically in price. Since this will likely be your child's first phone and they simply need something more basic, we kept the prices a bit more affordable. 

What about parental controls for a kids phone?

Both Apple and Google have their own respective solutions for adding parental controls to an iPhone or Android phone. For iPhone users, you'll want to enable Screen Time on your child's phone. For Android phones, you can set up Google's Family Link

Also: The 5 best parental control apps

Both options offer you control to schedule when the phone can and can't be used, which apps can be installed, and even who the child can talk to. 

What's the best cellular plan for a kid?

Sticking with your current carrier and adding a line to your account is going to get you the best deal on a new phone. However, if you want to buy a phone outright without getting locked into device payments, you can always start with a prepaid carrier like Republic Wireless or Visible. The plans are cheap, and you're not committed to paying the carrier back for a phone if your child loses it. 

If you opt to add a line to your account, most carriers allow you to mix and match plans. For example, you can have your number on a plan that allows unlimited data usage at full speed, and then give your child a plan that forfeits data speed when the network is busy. It saves you money while still giving your child access to everything they need a phone to do. 

Are there apps built in to keep track of my kid's location?

Yes! If you set up Screen Time on an iPhone, you'll also set up Apple's Family Share feature that includes Find My. Find My is not only what you use to track down a lost iPhone, iPad, or Mac, but it's also used to keep tabs on friends or loved ones. 

Google Family Link offers the same functionality, or you can add your child to Google Maps' Location Sharing feature. 

Also: Did you lose a device? Here's how to track it

Are there alternative phones for kids worth considering?

Of course! There are countless phones for children available. From refurbished iPhones to used devices off of Swappa, or a similar second-hand website. The iPhone 12 is the oldest device currently sold by Apple, but it's $599 and comes with an older processor and arguably a worse camera than the iPhone SE. However, it has a larger display, Face ID and comes in tons of colors. 

As for Android devices, well, you really have your pick of the sea. From well-known brands like Samsung and Motorola to lesser-known device makers like TCL and OnePlus, the list of phones that are worth considering is long. 

As for smartwatches that replicate a phone-like experience, Verizon's GizmoWatch 2 is also a respectable option. 

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