What are the best first smartphones for kids?

There are plenty of reasons why you might consider buying a phone for a child – whether it's so they can get in touch with you in an emergency or simply to get them into technology as early as possible.

For that reason, we’ve put together this helpful list of the very best smartphones for kids, with the needs of the youngest users specifically in mind.

The first thing we looked at for a first smartphone was cost: you don’t necessarily want to be paying a lot for a child’s phone, so we’ve capped the budget at £100 for a handset on pay-as-you-go. 

Size was also a consideration – as larger phones aren’t always suitable for little hands!

Finally, we also looked at the all-important parental controls, where available. For more information on this important subject, take a look at our article on parental controls for Android.

Monqi Kids Smartphone

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The Monqi is a perfect phone for younger kids to use, featuring parental controls from the moment you first turn the phone on! It may not run the latest version of Android, but Monqi’s custom Android OS has all the features a parent might want, like asking your permission every time a game is installed or a new contact is added. The 5 inch screen is perfect for streaming CBeebies and other child-friendly video services, and a plastic case is included in the box to protect the phone from general clumsiness.

To make the most of the Monqi, you’ll need to install the companion app on your own phone during first setup. Once you’ve paired your phone with the Monqi software, you can take control. Don’t like your kids staying up all night playing on their smartphone? Set a time limit for when certain apps can be used and you won’t need to worry about them browsing the internet or playing Angry Birds until dawn. For younger children you can even disable the Play Store entirely, replacing it with Monqi’s own Jungle Store - packed full of kid-friendly apps and games.

You don’t even need to be near your child’s phone to set limits or approve installations, as your companion app takes full control no matter where you are.

We think Monqi is a great way to give the freedom of a phone to kids, while still keeping one hand on the controls.

Apple iPhone SE

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If you already use an iPhone, it makes sense to stick with Apple for the other phones in your household - especially when it comes to adding parental controls to a child’s phone. Not only can you set up family sharing for the apps you’ve already purchased, you can even set up restrictions to hide apps and features, disable the camera and even stop new contacts from being added.

We found the iPhone SE to be the most suitable Apple phone for children, due to its small size and reasonable price tag. It’s got the same fast processor as the iPhone 6s and still gets the latest iOS updates when they’re released, so you won’t be stuck with an outdated phone that can’t run new apps or games. The 4 inch screen might be too small for most adults but is perfectly suitable for children’s hands - just make sure to buy a protective case!

The amount of parental control you have makes this a great phone for kids of any age, whether you want to restrict everything for young children or give a bit more freedom to a teenager. Any parent will be happy to know even in-app purchases can be easily restricted, so no matter which app you allow none of them can surprise you with hidden charges.

Wileyfox Spark Plus

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The Wileyfox Spark Plus is another 5-inch phone, but with the added bonus of an HD screen, making it fantastic for media apps like Netflix. That does also mean it can chew through your data allowance pretty quickly – so consider using a capped data tariff to avoid any nasty surprises when the bill comes round!

This is very much a grown-up phone, in size as well as performance, so it probably isn’t best suited to younger children. However, it would be a great choice for a young teenager, as it'll do everything they could possibly want from a smartphone. Along with the HD screen, there’s a 13 MP rear-facing camera, which can also record in full HD – so if you’re raising a budding YouTuber, they’ll absolutely love this phone!

Obviously, with great power comes great responsibility – and while it’s important to place a certain amount of trust in your child, there’s no harm in taking a few precautions. Keeping hold of their Google account password for accessing the Play Store is a sensible move – or even better, don’t save any payment details to your account, and instead use gift cards to ensure you have full control over any purchases.

If you’re an Android user and want your children to follow suit, the Wileyfox Spark Plus is a great starting point. You can set some restrictions regarding purchases and content – see our article on Android parental controls for more information – but there’s a wide choice of more advanced apps available from the Play store if you want to monitor things more closely, or place stricter restrictions.

Motorola Moto C

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The Motorola Moto C is the first phone on the list to have a 5-inch display – so keep that in mind if your child only has small hands! But that’s an awful lot of screen for your money, and if you don’t mind your kids playing games on their phone they’ll definitely benefit from the extra screen area.

The Moto C is powered by a 1.1 GHz Quad-core processor and has 8 GB of internal storage. That should keep your kids going for a while, but it’s not huge by modern standards – so you might consider adding a Micro SD card to provide more space.

Helpfully, the Moto C runs the more recent ‘Nougat’ version of Android, which allows it to use the memory card for anything it wants. On older versions of Android you can only use the memory card for media files, like photos or music, but the Moto C can also use the extra storage space for apps and games, which comes in really handy.

ZTE Blade A110

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Another cheap and cheerful handset, the ZTE Blade A110 still won’t break the bank. It’s fairly compact, which suits smaller hands, but the 4-inch screen still gives you a decent amount of space to play on. While it may look small compared to some of the monster phones available, it’s actually the same screen size as the old iPhone 5.

With a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, and twice the storage at 8GB, this phone is a little more capable than the Alcatel Pixi 3 when it comes to entertainment – but it’s up to you whether that’s a good thing or not!

The Blade also trumps the Alcatel in the camera department, with a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing camera.

Which phone should I buy?

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As you can see, there’s a great choice of handsets available for children of all ages. With the right apps in place and a protective case, you can ensure that a cheaper phone is going to be safe and secure for your child to use – and any one of the above handsets will do the job, depending on your child’s age and needs.

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