Best phones for kids 2023

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 ensure 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. As you'll see on this list of choices, there are multiple ways to get a smartphone for your child. Some with custom software, others without, but all have the opportunity to be a great option for families.

Pinwheel Kids Smartphone

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)
Best overall

Reasons to buy

+
A platform that can grow with your child
+
Parents can allow third-party apps
+
Solid parental controls
+
Multiple phones to choose from

Reasons to avoid

-
Difficult to connect with a Family Link Google account
-
Must purchase the device from Pinwheel

Pinwheel is one of the smaller companies that's giving Google and other large brands a run for their money in the space of kids' smartphones. Pinwheel offers recognizable phone brands like Samsung, and instead of using regular Android, these phones run a custom version of the OS to provide deeper parental controls.

Once you pick a phone from the Pinwheel website, you can decide if you want to bring your own carrier SIM or purchase one from them. The magic of Pinwheel is built into Pinwheel OS and the parental companion app. Overall the software looks much like what Android users are familiar with, but some of the features are disabled. But can be reenabled depending on what you, the parent, decide.

During my review of the phone, I really enjoyed the flexibility offered by the phone's OS and the parental portal/app. Pinwheel has a solid set of parental controls that allow you to manage contacts, view communication, choose what third-party apps can be installed, and more. Those apps are all rated with descriptions of why Pinwheel scored them the way they did.

Parents can also track the phone's live location and where it's been. You can even create specific modes based on the time of day that will restrict access to specific functions and apps on the phone. These modes can also include tasks and reminders to help your child through their day. 

If you want to use Google's Family Link with Pinwheel, technically, it is possible, but it isn't easy. I struggled to get some of the features to work with the locked-down version of Android. You also have to purchase the phone through Pinwheel, which is understandable since it runs a custom version of Android. All in all, Pinwheel OS is a great way to get your child started with a phone that can grow with them as they get older.

The home screen of the Google Pixel 6a with wallpaper from Backdrops

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)
Best budget Android phone

Reasons to buy

+
Takes phenomenal pictures
+
Guaranteed major software updates through July 2025
+
Snappy performance
+
Works with all carriers
+
Excellent build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
The fingerprint sensor is just 'OK'
-
No wireless charging

Buying a phone for your kid is a balancing act of getting something they'll want to use and without spending a fortune. In our eyes, the Pixel 6a best fits that bill.

The value proposition offered by the 6a is phenomenal due to some of the best cameras in any phone, solid battery life, and regular security updates. Plus, there's no breaking the bank to get both the phone and a good case to help it last even longer.

Arguably the most jaw-dropping aspect of the 6a is its camera. The 12MP rear camera takes downright gorgeous photos, matching pictures' quality with much more expensive phones. Photos get a bump thanks to the first Pixel "a" device to run Google's custom Tensor processor. This also helps with faster on-device Google Assistant interactions. Even in low-light environments, the 6a's camera is a beast. So if you have a kid that's an aspiring photographer, you can't go wrong with the Pixel 6a.

Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Another highlight of the 6a is its software. It's currently running the latest available version of Android 13, and since it's a Pixel phone, it'll keep getting major OS updates and security patches through July 2025. 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 6a experience is just as strong, thanks to its 6.1-inch OLED display, 6GB of RAM, and 4,410 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 6a is that it will work seamlessly with Family Link, Google's parental control app for your child's account.

iPhone SE 2022 review

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)
Best non-Android phone

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent performance
+
Good cameras
+
Five years of updates
+
Compact design

Reasons to avoid

-
OK battery life
-
Charges using Lighting Cable

Yes, an iPhone is on this Android phone list — but it's an excellent phone and deserves consideration. The iPhone SE (2022) is Apple's budget phone, but it performs far better than the price might suggest.

Because it uses the excellent A15 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 five 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.

Gabb Phone Z2

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)
Best basic option

Reasons to buy

+
Device location tracking
+
No third-party app access
+
Kid-appropriate music streaming is available

Reasons to avoid

-
Have to use Gabb Wireless for the carrier
-
Limited parental controls

Gabb Wireless is another one of the small companies working to make a big difference in connected kid devices. I've had the opportunity to review this phone and the Gabb Watch, which, oddly enough, has better parental controls. But I'm getting ahead of myself.  

The Gabb Phone is much like what Pinwheel does, where Gabb Wireless uses existing brands of devices and puts custom software on them. So, you'll not only need to purchase the phone from Gabb but also will need to use their phone service. But you can port over an existing number if you'd like to. For parents interested in Gabb for an older child, consider the Gabb Phone Plus, as it's a more capable device with access to a few more features.

Gabb Phone Z2

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

The software on the phone is very barebones, with only the most essential apps like phone, calculator, calendar, messaging, and such. From the parental portal, you can add Gabb Music which offers kid-appropriate music without the grown-up content. The portal also allows parents to see a live location of where the phone currently is.

A downside to the Gabb Phone is that the parental controls essentially stop there. You can't manage contacts or see who's been contacting your child. Gabb does off Gabb Guard, designed to block up to 95% of unwanted calls and texts but will run an additional $.99/month. But for younger kids, the phone can be a great option as they are less likely to be adding many contacts other than family, and the stripped-down interface won't be distracting.

Samsung Galaxy A13 5G

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy A13 5G

Best affordable

Reasons to buy

+
Triple camera setup
+
6.5-inch display with thin bezels
+
5,000 mAh battery for long endurance
+
Expandable storage + headphone jack

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow software updates
-
Mediocre performance

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 Samsung Galaxy A13 5G.

Before we even talk about price, the phone on its own is rock solid. Samsung doesn't put the Galaxy tag on just any phone. While the specs aren't going to push the top-of-the-line options, it runs a capable Octa-Core processor, has 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and a very generous 5,000 mAh battery. Even though we'd like to see more RAM to offer smoother performance, 4GB isn't bad, and that's to be expected when you're spending this little money.

On the front of the Samsung Galaxy A13, 5G is a 6.5-inch HD+ display with a 5MP selfie camera. As for the back, the triple camera setup includes a 50MP primary sensor, a 2MP macro lens, and a 2MP camera for capturing image depth. While I wouldn't expect the photos to be museum-worthy, they should be more than capable for your child. Plus, because this is a Samsung Galaxy phone, there are plenty of great cases for the Galaxy A13.

Troomi Kids Smartphone

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)
Best middle of the road

Reasons to buy

+
Good quality Samsung phones
+
Nice set of parental controls
+
Customizable for kids of all ages
+
Optional third-party apps

Reasons to avoid

-
Parent portal is only accessible through a browser
-
Limited list of third-party apps
-
Service has to be through Troomi

Troomi falls in the same category as Pinwheel and Gabb, offering brand-name phones with custom software. Troomi falls in the middle between the two brands as it offers more parental controls and third-party apps than Gabb but has fewer of both compared to Pinwheel. 

Troomi's software is called KinSmart OS and provides a familiar Android appearance but with restricted access to functions that kids don't need to get into. Much of the software's features are managed via the Troomi Parent Portal, which, unfortunately, is only accessible via a browser window. But at least it is mobile-friendly. From the portal you can manage contacts, set schedules for various phone features, add third-party apps, and more.

During the review of the Troomi phone, I did appreciate that some popular third-party apps were available, but it was a much shorter and less curated list than what Pinwheel offers. The portal is also where parents can use the phone's GPS to locate the device as well as see where it's been.

You do have to purchase the phone from Troomi, which isn't bad, but you also have to use their cellular service. Pricing is competitive with most other carriers, but it's worth knowing you'll have to go that route. Troomi has a good set of features to make the phone work well for most kids as it can be customized by parents to grow with their child.

Gizmowatch 2 Lifestyle

(Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

GizmoWatch 2

Best for younger kids

Reasons to buy

+
Good call quality
+
Watch software is easy to use
+
Great safety features
+
Bright and vibrant display
+
Easy to set reminders and alarms
+
Generic design

Reasons to avoid

-
Missing a Do Not Disturb mode
-
Locked to Verizon
-
No Wi-Fi

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.

Ticktalk 4 Lifestyle

(Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

TickTalk 4 Smartwatch

Best for slightly older kids

Reasons to buy

+
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

Reasons to avoid

-
Still no geofencing
-
The watch is really thick
-
Location reporting can still be hit or miss
-
Only works with AT&T and T-Mobile

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.

Options to make kids and parents happy

Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

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 from Pinwheel.

Pinwheel offers phones with software we'd happily recommend to any parent. The range of devices to pick from that all offer the same custom Android experience is great. Pinwheel's library of optional third-party apps and solid parental controls allows parents to be in control of how the phone operates and when features are available.

Google knocked it out of the park with its midrange lineup, packing in all of the features anyone could ask for, which makes the Pixel 6a another top consideration. It has a great-looking design, vibrant display, ample performance, and goodies like a fingerprint sensor, excellent battery life, and a fantastic camera.

Whether you want a more traditional Android experience or one with custom software and more accessible parental controls, there are options out there to make both parents and kids happy.

Chris Wedel