Troomi is a great company to look at when trying to find a smartphone that you can feel at ease handing to your child, while also having the ability to grow with them. The list of apps available for parents to approve is a bit short, but it is growing.
- Good phones to choose from
- Lots of parental control options
- Apps and features are customizable for all ages
- Phone and service must be purchased from Troomi
- The existing app list is a bit short
- Must use a web browser to access Parent Portal
My oldest child is nine years old, and the idea of letting him have an internet-connected device without any sort of parental controls terrifies me. Then adding in the extra layer of calling and messaging that comes with a smartphone makes things even more anxiety-inducing. Troomi offers a solution for parents that allows kids to have their own smartphone, with peace of mind for Mom and Dad.
Troomi provides both the wireless service, phones, and the custom KidSmart OS in an effort to make kids begin learning how to use technology responsibly and safely. For parents, it means they can keep tabs on their child's location, the apps used, how often, and more.
So, how does it all work in practice? My son and I have spent over a month testing the software to give you a Troomi review, and hopefully help answer that question.
Troomi: Price and availability
Troomi launched in Spring 2021 with two phones, wireless service, and the custom KidSmart OS. Since the launch, new features and plans have come along to grow the platform. Currently, Troomi offers two phones, the Samsung Galaxy A12 and the Galaxy A32, for $179.95 and $279.95, respectively.
There are three different plans, all with unlimited talk and texting, but with added features per tier. Plans run from $19.95 to $29.95 monthly.
Troomi: What's good
Tech is constantly evolving, and so are the potential dangers for kids, on and off the internet. As a father of two, I am always trying to find ways to let my kids explore and learn new things, including gadgets, while still being kids. Though my six-year-old is nowhere near ready for a phone, as he heads to first grade this fall, he will be wearing one of the best kids smartwatches so we can stay in contact if needed.
As for my nine-year-old, he already has many friends with phones, so the pressure to join the crowd is definitely there. To compromise, my wife and I are exploring options from smaller companies that are doing a fantastic job straddling the line of allowing kids to explore the world of smartphones, while letting parents still maintain a level of control to keep their kids safe.
As of the time of publication, Troomi offers the Samsung Galaxy A12 and Galaxy A32, though the A32 is out of stock. The phones are no different than if you were to buy them from Samsung or Verizon. But buying from Troomi means it comes with custom software — which is different.
Called KidSmart OS, the operating system created by Troomi, appears to be just like what you'd expect to see on a modern Android smartphone. The special part of it is the Parent Portal, which provides a host of different layers of controls to let parents fine-tune the device for their child.
Once you have set up yours and your child's profile, you can enter the Parent Portal from the Troomi website. The Home page gives you access to support should you have questions or need help, but it also gives you a quick glance at some key points about the phone.
There are three widgets on the page showing the phone's last location via GPS, an overview of the device's status, and a usage summary from the past seven days. Here, you can see talk time, the number of calls, any blocked texts, and the number of sent and received texts. Clicking on the texts let's you see the who and when the messages were sent, as well as the content of the message.
Along the left side of the page, you can enter any of the other four categories, each with more options within. The Settings page brings you to the bulk of the parental controls. If you allow it, the phone can have internet access enabled or disabled. You can set schedules for weekdays and weekends if you choose to turn them on.
If you enable the internet, there are two browser options — KidSmart and Chrome. The KidSmart Browser is Troomi's safe option that lets you create a SafeList of websites you are OK with your child accessing. It also tries to block out inappropriate content. If you go with Chrome, it will work just like on your phone, with no SafeListing or filters available.
Aside from messaging with friends, most kids are probably interested in the apps on their phones. Well, Troomi has a toggle to allow app access, but it doesn't mean that the phone will have the full Google Play Store at its fingertips.
Instead, there are two categories you can go through to choose what apps can be on the phone and what can't. Basic Apps are comprised of nine options, with things like calculator, camera, clock, gallery, and others.
KidSmart apps are curated by Troomi to be appropriate for kids, but it's up to you whether you want to install the app on your child's phone or not. Here, you can pick from 60 apps that cover many options. The apps are broken into fourteen categories and are also searchable. You'll find things like Spotify Kids and iHeartRadio Family, along with Disney+, Google Classroom, Powerschool, and more.
Text Messaging Settings is where you can choose to allow texting or not. But there's also the option if you want to allow texting, but not the ability to send images or be in group texts. You can enable a schedule for texting as well.
Similarly, calls can be controlled in the Parental Portal with a toggle to turn it on, off, or set it to a schedule.
Contacts get a good set of controls in the Troomi Parental Portal. From the Contact Settings page, there are options for contacts to be added and used without approval, contacts to be removed if you don't approve it within 72 hours, of contacts cannot be used at all without approval.
Troomi put in toggles to block sending and receiving texts from non-contacts as well as an option for calls. You can also choose to block all contacts with the click of a button.
There is a tab for Screen Time, but when I clicked on it, I was met with a screen saying the feature was Coming Soon. If everything works out, this feature will add more options for scheduling access to different apps or features, overall screen time limits, and improved usage tracking.
The Contacts tab is where you can see contacts waiting for approval, already approved ones, and a place to add new contacts. When adding a contact or even once added, you can choose whether to allow your child to contact that person or not and if you want them to be an Emergency Contact.
Troomi also put an additional section under the Contact Settings specifically for Emergency Contacts. By default, it has 911, the Suicide Prevention Hotline, and the Human Trafficking Hotline loaded. There are spaces to add local police, fire, family doctor, and more. Adding these can be a quick and easy way for kids to find the number to help in specific situations.
While you can access the apps section from the Settings tab, Apps does get its own tab. Under it are Basic Apps, KidsSmart Apps, and Coming Soon sections. Here is where you can find the apps Troomi is working on to ensure they are safe to add to the list of choices available for the phone. Troomi also has a place to request an app if there is one you want for your child, but isn't available or listed as coming soon.
The Account tab is the final option. You can see your account info, shipping address, devices attached to your account, and payment info here.
Using the Troomi phone for the past month has been almost forgettable, and I think that's a good thing. Because the operating system that Troomi has put together is doing a great job of blocking out unnecessary distractions like games and social media, as well as inappropriate content from the web, I haven't had any worries about my son using the phone.
Troomi: What's not good
All in all, Troomi has built something great. I'm glad that the company has chosen to utilize quality phones that are some of the best cheap Android phones out there, rather than just finding the purely cheapest phones. That being said, it can be a pain point that parents who may have a perfectly good smartphone lying around can't use Troomi on it.
I understand that what makes Troomi phones special is the software that needs to be installed and tuned by them. However, this means that parents will need to spend more money than they would if they could just use a phone already available and install software themselves.
Along the same lines is the cellular service for the phone. You'll have to use the service provided by Troomi, rather than taking the phone to your preferred carrier. I don't get great coverage at my home with any of the big three in the U.S., but the Troomi network has done well.
Another issue with Troomi isn't significant, and even though 60 apps are quite a few for a child, it is still missing some popular options. Of course, what is missing and satisfaction with what is available will depend on each individual. However, things like Messenger Kids, Kindle, and more are missing. The available list is growing, and parents can request these apps. While 60 is better than nothing, it's nowhere near the current list of 436 that Pinwheel offers.
Lastly, I would like a Troomi Parent Portal app. Very much not a big deal, but as of now, the only way to access the portal is through a web browser. Overall, the website is mobile-friendly, but sometimes it requires scrolling sideways or zooming to see what you want. A mobile-first experience from an app would make adjusting settings on my child's phone much more effortless.
Competition in the smartphones for kids space is both broad and tiny. I say it is broad because you could get any Android phone, install Google Family Link on it, and get parental controls that way.
While this is far better than nothing, I have found that Google Family Link isn't quite as good as options where the rules are baked in at the OS level. That is also why I say the competition of smartphones for kids' space is tiny.
Because there are only two options to pick from outside of Troomi — Gabb Wireless and Pinwheel. Each option offers a secure way for your child to have their smartphone. Gabb, as of today, is going to be more barebones in the apps available. Currently, there are no third-party apps that can be installed. However, Gabb Wireless states that a curated list is on the way.
Pinwheel, on the other hand, has a robust list of apps with varying levels of parental control. This approach, perhaps, makes the Pinwheel the better choice for older kids, since it has more applications that can fit into their lives. While Gabb currently has fewer levels of parental controls, in part due to the limited amount of apps needed to care for, Troomi and Pinwheel are more closely aligned on this front.
All three of these phones provide great choices for parents to look at when trying to find a smartphone their child will enjoy and that parents can feel safe handing over. But keep in mind that no matter what other companies say they are doing to protect your child, ultimately, it's up to you.
Troomi: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You want a safe smartphone for a child.
- You want varying levels of parental controls.
- You want a phone that you child can use for years to come.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You already have a phone you want your child to use.
- An app your child needs isn't currently available from Troomi.
Troomi offers a compelling package for both parents and kids. The affordable phones and service plans that lets parents create a bubble of protection for their child while using the phone are great.
But, if you already have a phone you'd like your child to use with Troomi — you'll be out of luck, since the KidSmart OS has to be pre-installed. The other downer could be if there is a specific app your child needs to access and it isn't available from Troomi at the moment — you could request it, but when it is approved is unknown.
Troomi is truly a great option for kids and parents
It's hard to argue that what Troomi has going in its short time of being around isn't great. The company has a solid operating system on good phones that is backed with a Parent Portal offering multiple levels of controls. All are designed to allow parents and kids to be safe and enjoy the experience of using a smartphone.
Is the third-party app list a bit thin? Sure. But it is growing, and what's there is pretty good. I'd also like to see a Troomi Parent Portal app to go avoid the web page entirely, but it's not a big deal. My son and I have found very few issues in using Troomi, and think many other families could benefit from a Troomi phone as well.
I'd say if you are in the market to get your child a smartphone, take a good look at what Troomi has to offer.