Your buying guide for the best kids’ phones in 2020
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.
Whether you’re buying the first phone for your child who’s 10, or your 15-year old teenager, here are some of the best phones around for kids. We’ve highlighted options that blend value with ease of use, strong build and, perhaps most importantly, enough power to play the latest games and watch YouTube.
If you’re after a SIM for your child also see our guide to the Best Kids’ SIM Deals.
1. Realme 6
The Realme 6 is hands-down one of the best budget phones we’ve ever tested.
It’s slightly chunky size won’t be for everyone but this is currently the cheapest phone you can buy with a 90Hz display and it also has some decent cameras, speedy performance and solid battery life.
There’s very little to dislike, especially when you can get it for just over £200. It can rival phones more than double the price.
Read our full Realme 6 review
2. OnePlus Nord
An outstanding affordable buy for 2020 with great performance, 5G, OnePlus’ signature snappy and clean Oxygen OS user experience and a more diverse camera setup than the company has ever used on a phone. What’s not to love?
Better yet, swing for the 8GB RAM, 128GB storage SKU and you’re nabbing a killer phone for under £400 (based on launch pricing).
Read our full OnePlus Nord review
3. Apple iPhone SE (2020)
The iPhone SE is a phone devoted to function over form, prioritising raw performance and camera capabilities over design or aesthetics (though battery life gets caught in the crossfire), all in the name of hitting its £419/$399 starting price.
That makes it a very un-Apple iPhone, but that’s unlikely to help it win over Android users, who can still get a lot more for less by resisting the Apple allure – with the exception of the impressive inclusion of the top-tier A13 processor at a mid-range price, along with luxuries like wireless charging and waterproofing.
It’s hard to entirely forgive the choice to save money on a budget 720p LCD display and dated design, and you’ll be committed to carrying a battery pack with you every day. Still, if you want a reliable camera, fast performance, and guaranteed iOS updates for years to come without breaking the bank then this is the iPhone for you.
Read our full Apple iPhone SE (2020) review
4. Oppo A5 2020
The Oppo A5 2020 is a great affordable option without making too many compromises. With a huge 5000mAh battery, a classy exterior design and a big display, you’d find it hard to believe that it’s priced at just £179.99.
Of course the quad camera doesn’t quite match up to it’s rivals – with just a 12Mp main lens and limited options, especially when it comes to low light. However, at this price compromises are expected, and these downfalls don’t quite detract from what is a powerful entry-level phone.
Read our full Oppo A5 2020 review
5. Moto G8 Power
If battery life is your main concern the Moto G8 Power is the best budget phone for battery right now, and one of the best for simple software too, with stock Android shipped as standard.
On the downside it’s not much of a looker, it can get a little sluggish, and while the main camera lens is fine the additional shooters – an ultra-wide, telephoto, and macro – don’t add much.
This price point is all about compromises and priorities though, so you’ve got to decide what matters most to you. And if that’s battery, then look no further.
Read our full Moto G8 Power review
6. Nokia 5.3
The Nokia 5.3 does offer a lot for a phone of its price point. The main camera lens produces clear and sharp images with very vivid colours, and the 4,000mAh battery doesn’t disappoint with around a day and half’s worth of usage.
But at this price, compromises have to be made. The downsides of 5.3 include the poor quality speakers, the lower resolution screen and the secondary camera lenses which downgrade the quality of images significantly.
If you use your phone for watching lots of videos, the Nokia 5.3 probably isn’t for you. If however you’re looking for a cheaper phone that does the basics well, then you should still consider this handset.
Read our full Nokia 5.3 review
How much should I spend?
It’s 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.
Dirt-cheap, basic phones are great phones for kids, which they can use on the trip to and from school. They won’t get distracted by TikTok, the latest game or attract thieves; and it won’t matter too much when the inevitable happens and they lose or break it.
Sometimes buying a Chinese phone can be a good way to get an attractively-priced phone with much higher specifications than you would otherwise get in the UK.
However, steer clear of Meizu or Huawei’s most recent models, as they don’t always pre-install 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 likely be using the phone on a pay-as-you-go (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. We’ve separately looked at the best SIM-only deals that are best suited to children.
Is an Android phone or iPhone better for my child?
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.
Most iPhones will be well over-budget for a child but it is still possible to buy older models like the iPhone 8, secondhand or refurbished from MusicMagpie for under £300. If they demand a current-generation iPhone, look to the slightly cheaper iPhone SE 2020, which starts at £419. Even this, though, might be more expensive than what you had in mind.
Most of the phones we recommend run Android, which is every bit as good as iOS (and typically has many more free apps). It’s also very simple to use, but 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 them 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, for extra peace of mind, though.
Related: How to remove a virus on Android
Specifications and features to look for in a kid’s phone
Most kids are 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-screened phone is much easier to drop and smash on the floor than a more compact model.
Related: Best kids’ tablets 2020
Because we all know kids can be clumsy, a waterproof phone or rugged phone would be ideal. 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 TikTok and video chat, they can be highly important. Don’t even consider buying a child a phone that doesn’t have a selfie camera.
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 against anything with under 16GB of internal space. Look for a model with microSD support and be sure to take advantage of cloud services, such as Google Photos, to back up media online so more storage can be made available for apps and games locally.
Backing up photos and video through the cloud will also mean they aren’t lost when the phone ultimately is lost or broken.
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