What is the best phone for kids?
|Best kids' phones||RRP||Key specifications|
|Motorola Moto G4||£169||Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Snapdragon 617, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, 5.5in Full-HD, 3000mAh|
|Samsung Galaxy A3 2016||£269||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, Exynos 7578, 1.5GB RAM, 16GB storage, 4.7in HD, 2300mAh|
|Vodafone Smart Ultra 6||£125||Android 5.0 Lollipop, Snapdragon 615, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, 5.5in Full-HD, 3000mAh|
Long gone are the days when you can fob off a child with your second-hand phone. These days they know more about tech than most adults, and they want the best of the best just as you do. But if they don't drop it and smash it they'll likely leave it at school and lose it, or swap it for something ridiculous like a football, and you don't want to end up out of pocket. Here we round up what we think are some of the best phones for kids, those that blend value with ease of use, strong build and, importantly, enough power to play the latest games and watch YouTube.
Also see: Best Phone Deals
Best kids' phones 2017 UK: Price
How much you spend on a phone for your child is really up to you. While we wouldn't advise paying flagship prices on the very best phones, we do recognise that some parents will be prepared to dig deep. We've focused primarily on sub-£200 budget phones in this chart, but also included some slightly more expensive mid-range phones. You can also go cheaper (check out our round-up of the best basic phones under £50) or more expensive (check out the very best phones).
Sometimes buying a Chinese phone can be a very good way to get an attractively priced phone with much higher specifications than you would otherwise get in the UK. However, if you do decide to buy a Chinese phone, unless your child is especially techy we'd advise steering clear of Xiaomi and Meizu models, which don't always preinstall Google Play and can sometimes pop up Chinese-language notifications that may be confusing to a child. If you buy from China, first read our advice on buying grey-market tech.
One thing to keep in mind is that your child will be using the phone on a PAYG basis unless you're prepared to take out a contract in their name. If you want to go down this route you'll save money by buying the phone upfront and choosing a decent SIM-only deal. A good compromise for a PAYG deal that you can keep an eye on is offered by GiffGaff, which lets you purchase low-cost one-month goodybags that offer a certain number of minutes, text and data, and no more. Your child won't need to keep tabs on what they're using and neither will you.
You should also consider own-brand PAYG handsets offered by mobile operators, which are often subsidised by the operator in order to get you on their network, which means you get more phone for your money. The Vodafone examples in our chart below are very good examples, but remember that they are locked to the Vodafone network so ensure you are happy with the operator's PAYG terms before you buy. Such phones will usually be sold with a non-negotiable £10 top-up, which will add to the initial cost. Also see: Best new phones coming in 2017
Best kids' phones 2017 UK: Android vs iPhone
Whether you choose to go down the iPhone- or Android route will largely depend on your budget, what your child is used to, and how loudly they scream. If they have been using an iPad or all their friends have iPhones then they will be familiar with the iOS operating system that runs on both platforms and will likely want to go on using it. However, iPhones are expensive.
Most iPhones will be well over budget for a child, but it is still possible to buy older models such as the iPhone 5s secondhand. The colourful iPhone 5c is perhaps the cheapest and best fit for a child, but if they demand a current-generation iPhone look to the slightly cheaper iPhone SE rather the iPhone 7. Even this, though, might be more expensive than what you had in mind.
If they have been using an Android tablet then you have many more options, and much cheaper ones to boot. Indeed, 19 of the phones we recommend in this article run Android, and if your child hasn't already made up their mind that they want an iPhone then Android is every bit as good (and typically has many more free apps). It's also very simple to use and they'll pick it up in no time. Read our Android vs iPhone comparison to get a better idea of the key differences.
Both platforms are equally suited to children in the respect that they can be locked down so that your child accesses only what you want it to. Read our advice on the best parental control software.
And, despite what you may have read, neither platform - although it is possible - is likely to get a virus. We've rounded up some mobile antivirus options here. Also see: How to remove a virus on Android.
Best kids' phones 2017 UK: Design, build and specifications
You know your kid better than anyone, and when it comes to the time that they are ready to own their first phone you will likely have a good idea in your mind of what's suitable for them. Most likely they'll be used to playing games on a tablet before getting their own phone, and will be used to the larger screen that offers. But a large-screen phone is much easier to drop and smash on the floor than a more compact model that will fit in their pocket. The type of mid-range phones we are looking at here will typically have HD or full-HD screens under 5in in size. Also see: Best kids' tablets 2017
Because we all know kids can be clumsy, a waterproof phone or rugged phone would be ideal. In this chart are three options: the Moto G 2015, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, and the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua. (Note that in Apple's offerings only the latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are waterproof.) A metal-framed phone is likely to be tougher than a plastic phone, but these do tend to be more expensive unless you opt for a Chinese phone or a UK mobile operator-subsidised model. Whichever phone you choose, we highly recommend you also purchase a case to go with it.
Adults can often overlook front-facing cameras, but for kids who love to take selfies, mess around with Snapchat and video chat, they are highly important. Don't even consider buying a child a phone that doesn't have a selfie camera. Most are specified at around 5Mp, though it is possible to get much higher-rated front cameras.
You needn't worry too much about the core specifications, since most phones these days have or are capable of everything a child requires: casual gaming, YouTube and a camera. The one thing you should look out for, though, is storage: we'd advise avoiding anything with under 16GB of internal storage (thankfully such phones are becoming much less common these days, and many - at least of the Chinese offerings - have 32GB).
Look for a model with microSD support that allows you to add on more storage, and be sure to take advantage of cloud services such as Google Photos to back up multimedia online so more storage can be made available for apps and games. Backing up photos and videos through the cloud will also mean they aren't lost when the phone ultimately is lost or broken. Also see: How to back up Android.
- Reviewed on: 18 November 16
- RRP: £169. US$245 (TBC)
Although the new Moto G4 is more expensive than the third-generation, Motorola is offering a Full HD screen, better processor, more storage and memory. Not everyone will enjoy the jump to 5.5in or the lack of full waterproofing but this is still a brilliant phone for under £200. Just bear in mind that the 3rd-gen Moto G is now a great buy at £149 and the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 offers similar specs for just £125 (albeit SIM-locked).
Read our Motorola Moto G4 (2016) review.
- Reviewed on: 26 May 16
- RRP: £269
The all-new Samsung Galaxy A3 for 2016 is a great upgrade over the 2015 model with an excellent design and very good battery life. It’s priced higher than its faster rivals, but Samsung phones tend to rapidly drop in price - exactly how much the price goes down will decide this mid-range Android’s fate.
Read our Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review.
- Reviewed on: 4 August 15
- RRP: £125
The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is worth its £125 price tag without a doubt. It's one of the best experiences we've had with a budget smartphone, and nothing about this phone suggests that it's budget apart from its price tag. Compared to the Smart Prime 6, this is definitely the better option to go for and we'd definitely pay the extra £50 for it – it's more powerful, has better cameras and a larger, higher quality display. It won't run the latest 3D mobile games but for every day use, it's a great phone and the fact that you can add up to 128GB of external storage means that there’s more storage than you can shake a stick at. Great work Vodafone.
Read our Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 review.
- Reviewed on: 29 June 16
- RRP: £75 Pay as you go
We like the improved design of the Smart Prime 7 and Vodafone has even dropped the price, even if it is by £4. You get a decent phone for the money but we can't help but be a little disappointed by the downgrade to a Snapdragon 210 and that the camera is suddenly limited to 720p. Prime 6 owners have little reason to upgrade and although you can't go too wrong for just £75 you might be better off spending a little more on a better rival.
Read our Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review.
- Reviewed on: 7 February 17
- RRP: £399. US$419
The Galaxy A5 2017 is a fantastic mid-range phone, with the looks of a flagship and some decent performance and all-round specs. Our only real concern is that Samsung is pricing itself out the market, with just a small difference in price separating this and the Galaxy S7 - we like the new Galaxy A5, but we'd choose the higher-spec Galaxy S7 every time.
Read our Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 review.
- Reviewed on: 18 May 16
- RRP: From £149 inc VAT
With various upgrades including a waterproof design, great cameras and stock Android, the new Moto G 2015 is a great affordable phone. The device is still a bit chunky and it's a shame to see the stereo speakers gone. It's worth opting for the model with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. Now with a price cut to £149, the Moto G 3rd-gen is the best budget phone you can buy.
Read our Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) review.
- Reviewed on: 19 July 16
- RRP: £135
Vodafone’s Smart Ultra 7 in our opinion isn’t really an upgrade over the Smart Ultra 6. It’s £10 more expensive than the previous model and doesn’t really perform as well – the Smart 7 had worse benchmarking results than its predecessor in GFXBench, scoring 13fps compared to 14fps in T-Rex and 5.3fps compared to 5.7fps in Manhattan, although the Smart Ultra 7 bested the 6 in Geekbench 3 with results of 3002 compared to 2469. The camera, though the same on paper, seems to have had a slight downgrade too, producing rather washed out photos during testing. On the other hand, the 5.5in 1080p HD display is vibrant and crisp, and one must remember that the smartphone only costs £135 so if you are on a budget, it’s still a solid option.
Read our Vodafone Smart Ultra 7 review.
- Reviewed on: 3 March 15
- RRP: £109
The new Moto E 4G is a worthy upgrade over the original Moto E, with upgrades in every area. For an extra £20 it adds 4G LTE connectivity and a front-facing camera, plus performance and storage improvements. It might not be as fast as the grey-market Doogee F1 Turbo Mini, but this Moto E 4G is a much better deal than the EE Kestrel, making it the best budget 4G phone intended for UK sale we've seen.
Read our Motorola Moto E 4G review.
- Reviewed on: 26 November 15
- RRP: £129 inc VAT
For a brand-new smartphone maker's first effort, we're impressed with the Wileyfox Swift. It's a stylish little handset which offers essentially the same specs as the Moto G for less money. We love the customisation available in Cyanogen OS but elements such as the cameras aren't as good as rivals. Vodafone's Smart Ultra 6 remains a better option for slightly less money - unless a 5.5in screen is too big in which case look at the Smart Prime 6 as an alternative.
Read our Wileyfox Swift review.
10. EE Harrier Mini
- Reviewed on: 7 July 15
- RRP: £99
We're much keener on the Harrier Mini than we are its bigger brother. While both phones offer very good value, £99 sounds much more appealing than £199, and we prefer the Mini's more compact design. Performance is slower and the screen isn't as good, but you won't get top-end specs from either phone. But as much as we think the Harrier Mini is a great deal, the Vodafone Smart Prime 6 offers better value. It's £20 cheaper and has a larger, better screen, and it seems more adept in photography. Buy the Harrier Mini over the Smart Prime 6 only if you'll benefit from Wi-Fi Calling once it becomes available.
Read our EE Harrier Mini review.
- Reviewed on: 21 October 15
- RRP: £109 inc VAT
If you love Samsung Android phones then you'll like the Galaxy Core Prime. It does lack a few features, but the missing ambient light sensor is one cut corner too far. For only £79, we prefer Vodafone's Smart Prime 6. It has a 5in 1280x720 screen, better cameras and an ambient light sensor. Plus it runs an essentially plain version of Android.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Core Prime review.
12. UMI Z
- Reviewed on: 31 January 17
- RRP: £192.40. 239.99
The UMI Z is an excellent-value Android phone with a large battery, a decent screen, the most powerful MediaTek processor you can get and a very good selfie camera. Unfortunately the primary camera doesn't quite live up, but it's otherwise difficult to fault. With full UK 4G connectivity it's a great buy.
Read our UMI Z review.
- Reviewed on: 22 October 15
- RRP: £429 inc VAT
The Xperia Z5 Compact is the best small phone around, but then there's not much competition in this area anymore and there are a number of phones offering decent specs for a lot less. Those looking for Z5 design and specs in a smaller frame will be pleased but it's a shame about the chunky design with the sharp edges. The fingerprint scanner is a great addition and the Snapdragon 810 with almost stock Android provides slick performance. However, the camera isn't as good as Sony makes it out to be.
Read our Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review.
14. Honor 8
- Reviewed on: 5 September 16
- RRP: £369.99 inc VAT. US$399
The Honor 8 is a fantastic smartphone, but the price has gone up from the Honor 7. In return for the additional expense you get a fantastic dual-camera, a sleek and stylish design, a faster fingerprint sensor and a beautiful display, which combined make the Honor 8 a worthy competitor to the OnePlus 3.
Read our Honor 8 review.
15. Google Nexus 5X
- Reviewed on: 12 April 16
- RRP: £299 inc VAT
Those looking to upgrade from a Nexus 5 will be happy and sad in almost equal measure. The 5X is a fantastic phone overall, with excellent cameras, a good turn of speed and an excellent screen. But it's noticeably bigger than its predecessor despite the small increase in screen size, it has limited storage compared to the Nexus 6P and it lacks a couple of camera features due to the slower processor. The absence of wireless charging is another blow for some, but additions such as the fingerprint scanner will make it a great upgrade for others.
Read our Google Nexus 5X review.
16. OnePlus X
- Reviewed on: 15 June 16
- RRP: £189 (Onyx)
The OnePlus X was the best value smartphone of 2015. We love the premium design in a smaller form factor to the firm’s other phones. Software is a strong point and you get a gorgeous screen. However, cuts had to be made somewhere and the X is lacking features such as NFC, 11ac and Wi-Fi. It also is missing the fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C port found on the OnePlus 2. Battery life isn’t great and cameras aren’t best in class but this is a great phone for the price.
Read our OnePlus X review.
17. iPhone SE
- Reviewed on: 11 April 16
- RRP: £379 inc VAT (16GB); £429 inc VAT (64GB)
The SE is what many iPhone fans have been asking for, and it's a great upgrade if you're still using an iPhone 5. For 5S owners, things aren't quite as clear cut. If you're not happy with the 5S's performance, the SE should solve that problem. However, unless you really want to shoot 4K videos, you're not going to notice a massive improvement in photo quality. There's a much bigger jump in quality if you're coming from an iPhone 5 (or earlier), however. Make sure 16GB is enough before you order: we'd recommend the 64GB version for most people.
Read our iPhone SE review.
18. Moto Z Play
- Reviewed on: 11 November 16
- RRP: £379.99 inc VAT. US$449.99
The Moto Mods accessories are the main reason to buy the Moto Z Play, but it's a decent mid-range phone regardless. For an affordable price Lenovo offers premium design, good specs and a well-rounded software experience. You only really need to splash out on the Moto Z for the Quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 and OIS camera should you feel the need for those features (but also bear in mind the more expensive version has no headphone jack and a smaller battery).
Read our Moto Z Play review.
19. Asus ZenFone 3
- Reviewed on: 25 October 16
- RRP: £284.05. 361.69
The ZenFone 3 is a good all-round mid-range phone with decent performance and some nice extras under £300, but also a fair amount of bloatware. It's quite an update on the ZenFone 2, and definitely worth considering as an upgrade.
Read our Asus ZenFone 3 review.
- Reviewed on: 6 October 16
- RRP: £379
The Sony Xperia X Compact is an odd little smartphone. On the one hand its build quality, lack of waterproofing and lack of a standout feature make it harder to recommend compared to the older Xperia Z5 Compact. However, if you want a sub-5in Android smartphone with excellent battery life it’s the best current option out there. For all its flaws, we also kept coming back to the phone largely due to its sheer portability. Just don’t buy the blue one.
Read our Sony Xperia X Compact review.
- Reviewed on: 30 July 15
- RRP: £230
The mid-range smartphone market is always tricky, especially with budget devices getting so good. If you are looking for something around this price, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is a solid choice although the Honor 6 is worth a look for extra features. It offers flagship-like design, a great camera and a user-friendly Android Lollipop.
Read our Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review.