The days of mobile phones just being for adults are long gone. Whether you’re choosing your child’s first phone or you’re looking for something suitable for a teenager, here’s a guide to the kind of features you might want to look out for when choosing a phone for your child.
Look into mid-range phones
You might not be looking to spend a lot on your child’s phone – particularly if you’re replacing a mobile which has already met an unfortunate end. There are plenty of mid-range phones like the Google Pixel 3a, the Sony Xperia L4, the Huawei P Smart 2019, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 that offer phone features your kid will love, at a price that’s a bit friendlier on the wallet.
If you’re worried about your child dropping their phone, something with a plastic or metal case might make more sense than a glass exterior. The Huawei P Smart 2019 comes with a plastic back and sides and a pre-fitted screen protector. If you opt for a phone that does have a plastic rear (like the Google Pixel 3a and the Sony Xperia L4) but a glass front, you might want to consider a sturdy case and screen protector for peace of mind.
And if you’re worried your child might end up spilling something over their phone or dropping it in some water, a phone with a good water resistance rating could be the answer. This is where iPhone SE and iPhone 7 are especially well-suited to accident-prone kids - they're splash, water, and dust resistant and can withstand being in water 1 metre deep for up to 30 minutes.
Battery life that lasts
If you want to make sure you’ll be able to stay in touch when your child is out and about, choosing a phone with a good battery life will give you peace of mind. iPhone SE has a powerful battery capable of playing up to 13 hours of video on a single charge, and can even fast charge from zero up to 50% in 30 minutes. iPhone 7 also has a hardworking battery that’s designed to last the day. Your child can even switch to Low Power Mode on iPhone models so apps running in the background don’t drain the battery power, and dim the screen brightness to prolong battery life.
The Google Pixel 3a’s battery is also designed to last all day, while the Huawei P Smart 2019 has a decent sized battery. Just remind your kids to charge their phones regularly.
It’s worth bearing in mind that even if the phone you choose has a powerful battery, battery life will vary for every phone, depending on how frequently your child uses it. If they’re constantly using it while they’re out for the day, they may need to charge their phone while they’re out with a portable charger.
The right screen size for them
If you’re looking for a phone for a pre-teen or an older child, you might want to look for a smaller screen size that’s easier to hold in smaller hands. iPhone 7 and iPhone SE have an easy-to-handle 4.7-inch Retina HD display - so it’s perfect for kids who need a more petite model and a phone which fits easily into a pocket. The Google Pixel 3a comes with a slightly larger 5.6-inch screen, and even though the Xperia L4 has a 6.2-inch display, it's designed to be easily used with one hand. It displays apps on the mini display feature and apps can also be viewed down the side of the phone's display, meaning kids can easily switch between them.
For teenagers that like to game, the cinematic aspect ratio of the Sony Xperia L4's 21:9 Wide display means an immersive gaming experience they’ll love. It also brings big-screen viewing to their phone for teens that enjoy watching movies and shows.
A great camera
Whether your child wants to take the perfect selfie or spend their time documenting the family dog, a great phone camera will give them hours of creative fun.
If they love to take lots of pics on the go, a camera like the P Smart 2019 with AI photography mode makes it easy to take amazing looking photos for their social media accounts. iPhone 7 is a good choice for slightly older children who are just starting out with a camera phone - optical image stabilisation will keep images clear even if they’re a little shaky, and high-definition 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto lenses capture easy-to-miss details even in low light. iPhone SE is also perfect for budding photographers - its single 12-megapixel rear camera has Portrait mode, which places the focus on the subject, Portrait Lighting, and Depth Control. It's even got Smart HDR, which recognises faces and relights them for more natural-looking photos.
The Google Pixel 3a takes multiple photos at once, with a Top Shot feature that then lets kids pick the one they prefer – handy if you’re usually the photographer in a lengthy shoot. It also comes with Portrait Mode, perfect for high quality group shots, selfies and pics of their favourite pet.
An easy-to-use interface
If you have younger children, you'll know that smaller hands can struggle with large screens. The best phones for small children tend to be the ones they can easily hold with one hand, with clear displays for calling and texting. Older children, however, may want phones with a larger screen – especially if they’re into watching films or gaming.
Younger children may need features which let them quickly find their way around their phone. The Sony Xperia L4 has a side bar on its display that’s simple to find and allows fast switching between apps, and the Pixel 3a has Google Assistant. Just squeeze the side of the phone, ask Google to make a call or send a text, and it’ll do the rest.
Staying safe online
If your child will be downloading apps, you’ll need a phone which can offer frequent security updates to protect them from bugs and viruses. Apple’s iOS operating system includes protection to help make sure that any downloaded apps are free from malware and haven’t been tampered with, and encryption features to safeguard your child’s data. Plus, if their phone is lost or stolen, you can remotely ‘wipe’ it.
Android’s OS also offers a range of security features, from the Find My Device app - which allows you to track, lock, and wipe a phone – and Safer Browsing mode. Safer Browsing mode will show your child a warning if they are about to land on any dangerous sites or download dangerous files. Plus, two-factor authentication asks the bill payer to provide a second method of identification, such as an SMS code, if your child wants to buy something or download an app.
You should regularly check for and install updates to keep your child’s phone’s software up to date and running at the optimum level.
Staying in touch when you’re out and about
If you’re a parent with an iPhone and your child has an iPhone, you’ll be able to use FaceTime to stay in touch if they’re away for a school trip. Plus, the Find My Friends app could help to give you peace of mind that you know where they are – and you can easily locate them with your iPhone or iPad when they share their location with you.
Android phones also have similar apps - the Family Link app lets you see where your child is, and they can also see your location - handy if you get separated on a shopping trip or at the beach. And there’s also video calling on Google Hangouts.
If you've already got an older phone you're planning on giving to your child, why not take a look at our SIM only deals?
You can choose your monthly spend and decide on how much data, minutes and texts they need.
You can also read our expert guides to keeping kids safe online on our Digital Parenting page.
Here are four phones which we’d recommend for kids and teenagers.
A13 Bionic, the fastest chip in a smartphone. Portrait mode and 4K video. Beautiful 4.7-inch Retina HD display and Touch ID. And long battery life. It’s the iPhone that’s small in size but big on power.