What's the best kids' phone you can buy in the UK?
Your buying guide for the best kids' phones in 2018
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. Find out how to keep children safe on the internet.
Here we round up what we think are some of the best phones for kids, those that blend value with ease of use, strong build and, importantly, enough power to play the latest games and watch YouTube.
Also see: Best Phone Deals
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 Snapchat or the latest game or attract thieves; and it won't matter too much when the inevitable happens and they lose or break their device.
Sometimes buying a Chinese phone can be a very good way to get an attractively priced phone with much higher specifications than you would otherwise get in the UK.
However, steer clear of Xiaomi and Meizu models, which don't always preinstall 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 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.
A good compromise for a PAYG deal that you can keep an eye on is offered by GiffGaff, which lets you purchase low-cost one-month goodybags that offer a certain number of minutes, text and data, and no more. Your child won't need to keep tabs on what they're using and neither will you.
You should also consider own-brand PAYG handsets offered by mobile operators, which are often subsidised by the operator in order to get you on their network, such as the Vodafone models in our chart. Such phones will usually be sold with a non-negotiable £10 top-up, which will add to the initial cost.
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 such as the iPhone 5s secondhand. The colourful iPhone 5c is perhaps the cheapest and best fit for a child, but if they demand a current-generation iPhone look to the slightly cheaper iPhone SE rather the iPhone 7. 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 it 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. Also see: 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-screen phone is much easier to drop and smash on the floor than a more compact model that will fit in their pocket.
The type of mid-range phones we are looking at here will typically have HD or full-HD screens under 5in in size. Also see: Best kids' tablets 2017
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 Snapchat and video chat, they are 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 avoiding anything with under 16GB of internal storage. 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 stora.ge can be made available for apps and games.
Backing up photos and video through the cloud will also mean they aren't lost when the phone ultimately is lost or broken.
1. Moto G5
- Reviewed on: 12 September 2017
There’s plenty of competition in Android’s budget market, but the Moto G5 is one of the best. The build quality alone feels like it belongs on a much more expensive phone, while the fingerprint gesture controls genuinely improve the Android experience.
The benchmarks and battery hold it back, but they're not unreasonable given the price. You'll find better specs in Chinese phones, but if you don't need a dual-SIM phone and you want the peace of mind of a proper UK warranty, it's a solid choice.
But do check out the G5s as well if your budget can stretch a little.
Read our Moto G5 review.
- Reviewed on: 25 July 2017
A similar performer to the UK’s best budget phone, the Moto G5, but with enhanced cameras and more storage, the Elephone P8 Mini is a great buy if you’re happy to import it from China.
Read our Elephone P8 Mini review.
- Reviewed on: 27 March 2017
Overall, the A3's improvements for 2017 are pretty significant and make this nice-size, reasonably priced phone even more appealing if you like the idea of the Galaxy S7 but can't quite stretch your budget that far.
Its waterproofing and fingerprint sensor are both convenient and practical, and the good-looking design makes it easy to forget that this phone has a price tag that's way under half that of many flagship phones.
Read our Samsung Galaxy A3 2017 review.
4. iPhone SE
- Reviewed on: 21 March 2017
The SE is what many iPhone fans have been asking for, and it's a great upgrade if you're still using an iPhone 5. For 5S owners, things aren't quite as clear cut. If you're not happy with the 5S's performance, the SE should solve that problem. However, unless you really want to shoot 4K videos, you're not going to notice a massive improvement in photo quality. There's a much bigger jump in quality if you're coming from an iPhone 5 (or earlier), however. In 2017 the SE might be more expensive but Apple has doubled the storage making it a more attractive buy.
Read our iPhone SE review.
- Reviewed on: 29 June 2016
We like the improved design of the Smart Prime 7 and Vodafone has even dropped the price, even if it is by £4. You get a decent phone for the money but we can't help but be a little disappointed by the downgrade to a Snapdragon 210 and that the camera is suddenly limited to 720p. Prime 6 owners have little reason to upgrade and although you can't go too wrong for just £75 you might be better off spending a little more on a better rival.
Read our Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review.
- Reviewed on: 7 February 2017
The Galaxy A5 2017 is a fantastic mid-range phone, with the looks of a flagship and some decent performance and all-round specs.
It's a good cheaper option that can be found for around £200, though if you can afford it you might want to look at the Galaxy S7, an older flagship that has a stellar camera and better specs than the A5.
Read our Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 review.
- Reviewed on: 18 November 2016
Although the new Moto G4 is more expensive than the third-generation, Motorola is offering a Full HD screen, better processor, more storage and memory. Not everyone will enjoy the jump to 5.5in or the lack of full waterproofing but this is still a brilliant phone for under £200. Just bear in mind that the 3rd-gen Moto G is now a great buy at £149 and the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 offers similar specs for just £125 (albeit SIM-locked).
Read our Motorola Moto G4 review.
- Reviewed on: 21 November 2017
There's much to like on the Monqi. The bespoke software gives parents an impressive amount of control over what their progeny can see and do online, while the monitoring features also mean that letting the little ones out into the world isn't quite as traumatic as it could be.
This is let down by the hardware, with its slow performance and poor battery life. For £150, you should expect a lot better than this. If Monqi can find a better base phone without increasing the price, then it will have something quite special on its hands.
Read our Monqi Kids Smartphone review.
- Reviewed on: 3 March 2015
The new Moto E 4G is a worthy upgrade over the original Moto E, with upgrades in every area. For an extra £20 it adds 4G LTE connectivity and a front-facing camera, plus performance and storage improvements. It might not be as fast as the grey-market Doogee F1 Turbo Mini, but this Moto E 4G is a much better deal than the EE Kestrel, making it the best budget 4G phone intended for UK sale we've seen.
Read our Motorola Moto E 4G review.
10. UMIDIGI Z Pro
- Reviewed on: 21 April 2017
The UMIDIGI Z Pro offers fantastic value at just over £200. It has a large battery, a decent screen and powerful performance. The dual-camera doesn't offer quite the relief we were hoping for following poor performance from the UMI Z, but this is still a great phone.
Read our UMIDIGI Z Pro review.