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 11 years old, or your 15-year old teenager, here are some of the phones around for kids. We’ve highlighted options that blend value with ease of use, strong build and, 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.
Best kids’ phones 2020 UK – Best kids’ phone reviews
1. Moto G6
The Moto G6 might not be waterproof, but a water repellent coating is better than nothing and the phone looks better than ever.
For the tidy sum of £219, the G6 is a mid-range (almost budget) bargain with a great screen, dual cameras, decent batter life and a fingerprint scanner.
A combination of 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage won’t be enough for everyone so just spend an extra £20 for the better Amazon model.
Read our Moto G6 review.
2. 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 Realme 6 review.
3. 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 Oppo A5 2020 review.
4. 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 Apple iPhone SE (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 Moto G8 Power review.
6. Elephone P8 Mini
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.
7. Samsung Galaxy A3 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.
8. Samsung Galaxy A5 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.
9. Motorola Moto E 4G
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
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.
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.
We’ve focused primarily on sub-£200 budget phones in this chart, but also included some slightly more expensive mid-range phones.
If you’re after a phone for under £50 take a look at our Best basic phones roundup. If money’s no object here’s our list of the very best phones.
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 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 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.
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 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 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 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 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 storage 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.