Best phones for kids Android Central 2021
When trying to figure out the best phone for kids, there are many factors to consider. Deciding what age your child should get a phone is entirely up to you, but when it's time, you want to make sure you're getting something worthwhile. As a parent or guardian, the most important features to look for include security, ease of use, and of course, budget. Lucky for you, there are tons of great handsets that your kid, and wallet, will equally love. We think the Pixel 4a is the best all-around choice, but if it's not catching your fancy, there are plenty of other stellar phones on this list.
- Best overall: Google Pixel 4a Android Smartphone
- Best battery life: Moto G Power (2020)
- Best for avoiding distractions: Relay
- Best non-Android phone: iPhone SE 64GB
- Best under $200: Motorola Moto E 32GB
- Best affordable: Nokia 2.4 Android 10
- Best big phone: TCL 10L Android Smartphone
- Best for small hands: Palm Phone
- Best for younger kids: GizmoWatch 2
- Best for slightly older kids: TickTalk 4 Smartwatch
Best overall: Google Pixel 4a
Buying a phone for your kid is a balancing act of getting something they'll want to use and having excellent security, all without spending a fortune. In our eyes, the Pixel 4a best fits that bill.
The value proposition offered by the 4a is phenomenal due to the fantastic camera, good battery life, and regular security updates. Plus, there's no breaking the bank to both get the phone and a good case to help it last even longer.
Arguably the most jaw-dropping aspect of the 4a is its camera. The 12MP rear camera takes downright gorgeous photos, matching pictures' quality with much more expensive phones. Even in low-light environments, the 4a's camera is a beast. So if you have a kid that's an aspiring photographer, you can't go wrong with the Pixel 4a.
Another highlight of the 4a is its software. It's currently running the latest available version of Android 11, and since it's a Pixel phone, it'll keep getting major OS updates and security patches through May 2023. You can rest assured that your kid's phone is always as safe as it can be and protected from new vulnerabilities that pop up.
The rest of the Pixel 4a experience is just as strong, thanks to its 5.8-inch OLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor, 6GB of RAM 3,140 mAh battery. The 128GB of internal storage should offer plenty of room for all of your kid's apps/games, although microSD card support would have been nice. A bonus with the 4a is that it will work seamlessly with Family Link, Google's parental control app for your child's account.
- Takes phenomenal pictures
- Guaranteed software updates through May 2023
- Snappy performance
- Fingerprint sensor and headphone jack
- Works with all carriers
- Very affordable
- Storage is not expandable
- No water resistance
Best battery life: Moto G Power (2020)
Motorola's G-series has become famous for offering quality experiences at low price points, and the G Power is no different. It's built incredibly well and paired with a water-repellent design; you can rest assured it'll be able to withstand any adventures your kid embarks on. Further contributing to this is the massive 5,000 mAh battery, which can last for three days on a single charge.
Your kiddo is treated to an excellent 6.4-inch Full HD+ display, which is colorful, sharp, and paired with slim bezels — making it a great canvas for watching YouTube or playing games. The G Power is also plenty fast for these activities, thanks to the responsive Snapdragon 665 processor and 4GB of RAM. Rounding out the phone are three rear cameras that are a lot of fun to use, 64GB of internal storage that can expand with a microSD card, and support for all major U.S. carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
The biggest downside to the Moto G Power is that Motorola only promises one major software update. That means it'll get upgraded from Android 10 to Android 11 at some point down the road, but other than occasional security patches, that's it. That's certainly not ideal, but as a first or second phone for your kid, it shouldn't be that big of an issue.
- Works with all U.S. carriers
- Large display with Full HD+ resolution
- Plenty of power for most apps/games
- Up to three-day battery life
- Headphone jack and expandable storage
- Only promised one software update
Best for avoiding distractions: Relay
The Relay is like a walkie-talkie for the modern era. With only three buttons — a power button, volume button, and a large talk button — usability is straightforward and has no range restrictions.
Unlike your typical two-way radio, the Relay connects via Wi-Fi and cellular to talk to other Relays set up on your account or to you via the app on your phone. You'll need to give app permission for your kid to talk to other people.
When communicating with the Relay, your child will press and hold the large button on the front and then release when done speaking. Your response comes through it like a speakerphone, but there is a headphone jack for quieter conversations.
There's no screen for your child to get sucked into games or watching videos, so this device is perfect for those need-to-have discussions. There is an LED light circling the talk button to convey the device's status. Battery life could be a little better, but it can make it through the day just fine. There is location tracking in the app, and should the need arise, an SOS feature on the Relay for emergencies.
- Can only communicate with you
- Simple operation
- No screen for distractions
- Secured from outside contacts
- Limited calling options
- Needs charging every night
Best non-Android phone: iPhone SE
Yes, an iPhone is on this Android phone list — but it's an excellent phone and deserves consideration. The iPhone SE is Apple's budget phone, but it performs far better than the price might suggest.
Because it uses the excellent A13 Bionic processor, little can't be accomplished with this phone. From playing games to looking up information for homework, your child will be able to get it done. The design isn't the most appealing from an aesthetic standpoint, but the SE's overall compactness is suitable for smaller hands. Unfortunately, the battery is on the small end, meaning it will need daily charging with the proprietary Lightning Cable or a wireless charger.
The iPhone SE cameras are good but not great, but the pictures should be satisfactory for most. Apple is well-known for its software updates and security — the SE is guaranteed four years of updates. While it isn't an Android device, there are still plenty of Google apps on the App Store if you want to stay in that ecosystem.
- Excellent performance
- Good cameras
- Four years of updates
- Compact design
- OK battery life
- Charges using Lighting Cable
Best under $200: Moto E
The Moto E phones have long been excellent devices that offer many great features at a low cost, and the 2020 model keeps that trend alive.
The Moto E has a 6.2-inch display utilizing narrow bezels to give this phone a modern look, although it won't win any resolution awards at only 720p. This year's Moto E added a second camera to the back for added depth information to take portrait photos. Unfortunately, the images are a bit on the blurry side, no matter the style of picture taken.
Moto phones run an easy-to-use Android skin, with nice features for launching the camera and turning on the flashlight. The rear fingerprint scanner is fast and will help in keeping people from accessing the phone. However, Motorola has stated that the E will not get any significant software updates, and the security patches will be scarce, so bear that in mind when considering this device.
- Solidly built device
- Large display for taking notes/drawing
- Has a headphone jack
- Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor
- Works with all carriers
- Photo quality isn't great
- Only 720p display
- Won't get updated to Android 11
Best affordable: Nokia 2.4
We fully understand if you're trying to keep costs as low as possible when buying a phone for your kid. Going too low can result in a lot of crap handsets to sift through, but one option that sticks out as a worthy contender is the Nokia 2.4.
Before we even talk about price, the phone on its own is rock solid. The polymer back features a wonderful texture that looks great, and that's paired with a diecast metal chassis to keep the package nice and sturdy. On the front of the Nokia 2.4 is a 6.5-inch HD+ display with a 5MP selfie camera, and the back housing dual 13MP + 2MP camera sensors.
Other specs featured in the Nokia 2.4 include a MediaTek processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage, and a very generous 4,500 mAh battery. The processor and RAM combination is one of the weaker ones on this list, but that's to be expected when you're spending this little money. It's also worth pointing out that the Nokia 2.4 only works with GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. So if you rely on Verizon, this isn't for you.
Rounding out the Nokia 2.4 is the fact that it's part of the Android One program. This means it's guaranteed to get software updates through January 2022 and security patches through January 2023. It's a similar guarantee offered by the Pixel 4a, but at a much lower price.
- Textured back with aluminum chassis
- 6.5-inch display with thin bezels
- 4,500 mAh battery for long endurance
- Expandable storage + headphone jack
- Only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile
- Mediocre performance
Best big phone: TCL 10L
If you're looking for an option with a massive screen, we'd suggest picking up the TCL 10L. It's one of the first self-branded phones TCL has ever offered in the U.S., and it's pretty darn great.
What makes the TCL 10L so impressive is just how many features and specs are crammed into it. That all starts with the display, which measures 6.53-inches and has a crisp Full HD+ resolution. It also benefits from TCL's NXTVISION technology, which promises more accurate colors and vibrant images. The only potential downside here is the size of the 10L display, which may be a bit too large for some kids' hands.
Powering the phone is the same Snapdragon 665 processor found inside the Moto G Power, but the RAM is increased to 6GB. There's 64GB of storage that can be expanded to 256GB, a 4,000 mAh battery for long endurance, and four rear cameras (though the image quality isn't the most impressive).
You get two other neat features with the TCL 10L, the first of which is its "Smart Key." It's just an extra physical button that you can customize to do whatever you want, and it's handy to have. Also offered is NFC for Google Pay support, which could help an older kid with their debit card.
- High-quality Full HD+ display
- Plenty of RAM and storage
- Has a headphone jack and fingerprint sensor
- Customizable button
- NFC for Google Pay
- Might be too big for some kids
- Disappointing cameras
Best for small hands: Palm Phone
The Palm Phone is one of the most interesting devices we've seen in recent years. While it failed to capture the heart and soul of Palm devices of yesteryear, it ended up being a good phone for kids, thanks to just how tiny it is.
Smartphones seem to be getting bigger and bigger with every day that passes, and for small kid-sized hands, managing them comfortably isn't always possible. However, the Palm Phone is under four inches tall with a screen size of just 3.3 inches, meaning it's incredibly portable and easy to use by even the tiniest of hands. It's also running a customized Android version, which is much more simplistic than what you'd find on other devices.
On the specs front, the Palm Phone delivers a Snapdragon 435 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 12MP rear camera, 32GB of expandable storage, and an 800 mAh battery. You'll get a better specs-to-price ratio with the other phones on this list, but if your kid wants something that's a good fit for their hands, the Palm Phone is worth considering.
- It's so tiny!
- Perfect for kids with small hands
- Simplified version of Android
- Expandable storage
- Dust and water-resistant
- Not as feature-rich as other phones on the list
- Weak battery
Best for younger kids: GizmoWatch 2
This pick isn't technically a phone but rather a smartwatch that stays connected with a SIM card. So if you aren't quite ready to give your kid a fully-fledged smartphone but still want them to be within a phone call or text, the GizmoWatch 2 is kind of perfect.
Available in blue and pink colors, the GizmoWatch 2's design won't overwhelm younger kids and is still customizable with its removable strap. There are some fun screen backgrounds that your child can choose from, and it has IPX7 water resistance plus a full day of battery life with the easy-to-use charger.
The GizmoWatch 2 gives you access to a companion app that helps you manage the watch remotely. You can access calls and messages, choose which contacts your kid has access to, and even create GPS-based safe zones. You can also set up an emergency contact to activate by pressing and holding on to one of the watch buttons.
While the GizmoWatch 2 is missing Wi-Fi, this does use Verizon as its exclusive wireless carrier. That means that in most places, it will have excellent reception and call quality.
- Good call quality
- Watch software is easy to use
- Great safety features
- Bright and vibrant display
- Easy to set reminders and alarms
- Generic design
- Missing a Do Not Disturb mode
- Locked to Verizon
- No Wi-Fi
Best for slightly older kids: TickTalk 4 Smartwatch
Like the GizmoWatch 2, the TickTalk 4 is a connected watch for kids, but with a twist. The smartwatch can not only send messages and make voice calls, but it can also send pictures and make video calls with its onboard dual cameras. The TickTalk 4 has activity tracking and adds in free music streaming with iHeart Radio Family preloaded with kid-appropriate streaming stations.
By connecting to either Wi-Fi or through a cellular connection using T-Mobile, AT&T, or the TickTalk partner Red Pocket Mobile, you and your child can have a video chat. This added feature can come in handy in situations where a regular call just won't cut it. Of course, with the built-in security features, your child can only communicate with the contacts you allow.
Using the companion app on your phone, you can set reminders for your child and put the watch into Do Not Disturb mode for those times when notifications are unwanted. There's also a route tracking feature that lets you see where your child has been and the path taken for added peace of mind.
The TickTalk 4 comes in Titanium Black, Galaxy Blue, and Laser Pink. There are also accessories like Bluetooth headphones, a charging stand, and Chums that can attach to the watch strap to customize the watch's look. Chums are rubberized icons like guitars, skateboards, rainbows, and other things to help your child further personalize their watch.
- Step tracking has been added
- Much improved battery life
- Added dedicated GPS for location tracking
- iHeartRadio Family is included
- The display is much better than the previous version
- Secure calling and messaging
- Still no geofencing
- The watch is really thick
- Location reporting can still be hit or miss
- Only works with AT&T and T-Mobile
Buying a phone for your kid can be a stressful task, but it doesn't have to be. This list is proof that there are plenty of phones out there that are an excellent match for you and your kid, with the best one being the Pixel 4a.
The Pixel 4a is a phone we'd happily recommend to anyone, not just kids. Google knocked it out of the park with its midrange lineup, packing in all of the features anyone could ask for. It has a good-looking design, vibrant display, ample performance, and goodies like a fingerprint sensor, headphone jack, excellent battery life, and an amazing camera.
You cannot only buy the Pixel 4a with confidence and know that your kid is getting a great Android experience, but it also won't bleed your wallet dry. That's a win-win if we've ever seen one, and it's why the Pixel 4a is our top pick for the best Android phone for kids.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joe Maring is formerly an Android Central Senior Editor and has loved anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He's been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop.
Chris Wedel is a fan of all things tech and gadgets. Living in rural Kansas with his wife and two young boys makes finding ways to get and stay online tricky. By utilizing his years of experience with the tech and mobile communications industries — success is assured. When not conquering connectivity challenges and testing new gadgets, Chris enjoys cruising a gravel road in his UTV with some good tunes.
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