The 9 Best Phones to Buy in 2018 for Kids

Find the perfect smartphone for your child

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As parents, there’s a day when we have to let our kids out into the world on their own. While we might fret that day, modern technology has made it easy to stay in touch 24/7. There’s no question that no matter how hard we try, eventually your child is going to discover what a phone can do. Once that day hits, you have to make the tough decision on which phone is right.

The good news is there’s no shortage of choices. Some phones are tough enough to take a spill and others are full of advanced (and expensive) features. Parents who want to keep tabs on their kids' tech habits can find many devices with parental controls. On the list below, everything from throwaway to premium pricing is represented in some capacity. In this guide, we’re giving you all the tools to find the right fit for your family. 

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: LG K30

The best phone to buy for kids this year is the LG K30. Available unlocked for use on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, its rock-bottom price tag makes it an easy choice. However, low price doesn’t mean poor performance. A Snapdragon 425 quad-core processor matched with 2GB of RAM makes opening and closing applications a breeze. Along with 16GB of internal storage for music and apps, there’s expandable microSD storage up to 2TB.

For the kids, there’s an 8MP rear camera that’s perfect for capturing moments with friends. The same goes for selfies with a front-facing 5MP camera. Parents won’t have to worry about battery life thanks to all-day life with a 3000mAh battery. With average use, it’s not out of the question to get two days of use before recharging.

A 5.3-inch display is ideally sized for social media and watching YouTube videos. The display even adds a curved glass edge for a more comfortable grip (and less chance of accidental drops). But, if the phone does break, its wallet-friendly price tag makes it easy to replace.  

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Nokia 3.1 Android One

Nokia’s new ultra-affordable lineup has already proven to be a runaway hit. Featuring a friendly price tag, the value-to-feature ratio on the Nokia 3.1 Android One makes it an exceptional buy. It also has a clean design that fits comfortably in the hand. A 5.2-inch display with 1440 x 720 HD+ resolution is sharp, with crisp colors and overall great video quality. The Gorilla Glass display helps protect against scratches as kids tend to be a little more careless with their phones.

As an Android One device, there’s the most up-to-date Android software available. That gives kids immediate access to the Google Play Store and apps, games, music, movies and more. With 16GB of built-in storage, there’s plenty of room for downloads. A 13-megapixel camera is featured on the back and photos are more than good enough for social media or sharing with friends. The same goes for the 8-megapixel front camera.

Best for Teens: Apple iPhone 8

For the teen in your life, the iPhone 8 is a solid choice. It combines all those fun, advanced smartphone features with a price tag that isn’t quite as bank-breaking as the newest models. Like all Apple phones, the iPhone 8 includes access to the Apple App Store with over one million downloadable games, social media apps, and much more. Small by today’s smartphone standards, the 4.7-inch Retina HD display still looks great. There’s plenty of room for web browsing, Facebooking and Snapchatting. Inside the device, Apple’s A11 chip is fast, nearly 70 percent faster than its predecessor.

With photos ruling social media today, the rear 12-megapixel camera is among the best smartphone camera out there. Capturing 4K video at 30 or 60fps provides incredible Instagram-ready results.  

Parents will get a little peace of mind because the iPhone 8 is splash- and dust-resistant. (To keep it safe from drops, a case is still recommended.) As an added bonus, the iPhone 8 is AR (augmented reality)-capable with plenty of AR-ready apps in the App Store waiting for download.

Best Starter Smartphone: Unihertz Jelly Pro Phone

Billed as the smallest 4G-enabled smartphone in the world, the Unihertz Jelly Pro phone is a perfect beginner device. Slightly larger than a pack of bubblegum, the Jelly Pro is still surprisingly full-featured and a great first phone. And once you look past its diminutive size, there’s plenty to like.

Built-in GPS and a pedometer provide an easy way to track steps or time. It’s especially good for listening to music. Bluetooth support is hardly surprising, but Unihertz specifically draws attention to its small size as a perfectly portable MP3 player. With 16GB of onboard memory, there’s storage for plenty of songs. Bluetooth support also means it will connect to the hundreds of wireless headphones that are available.

Android 7.0 Nougat controls the operating system providing complete access to the Google Play Store. That’s going to come in handy with the 4G speeds making app downloads fly by. Network speeds are compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile LTE networks.

Best Value: Nokia 3310

Nokia 3310

Courtesy of Best Buy

There’s a good chance the predecessor to this device was a parent’s first phone back in the early 2000s. Now, nearly 20 years later, Nokia has revamped its 3310 phone. With 3G network speeds, this phone is not the “brick” phone from the prior generation. Sure, it still makes calls, plays music and can send texts, but now it does a whole lot more.

The rear 2MP camera won’t capture professional photos, but it’s good enough to have fun with friends. There’s also no front-facing camera, but that’s par for the course with a phone in this price bracket. The 3310 does, however, come in four fun colors for a little personalization. It also adds a 1200mAh battery for up to 22 hours of talk time, which is far more than what most of today’s flagship smartphones can offer. The easy-to-navigate menu relies on a four-way directional pad to move around and a center key that doubles as a “select” button. A microSD slot adds up to 32GB of additional storage which can be used for photos and music. 

Best for Parental Controls: Apple iPhone SE

As far as iPhones go, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value than the iPhone SE. Apple took the insides of its popular iPhone 6S and stuck it into an iPhone 5S frame, and the result was a shockingly fast device that’s perfect for kids (with a much friendlier price tag that the newest iPhones).

If you do take the leap, parents will find a reliable device equipped with deep parental controls. With iOS 12, parents can limit smartphone use any way they’d like. Features like “downtime” allow for parents to remotely schedule a block of time in which a device can’t be used. That’s perfect for evenings/overnight as well as homework time.

“App limits” allow parents to set a specific amount of time that any app can be used. Just 30 minutes on Facebook a day? No problem. “Activity reports” allows parents to monitor what their kids are doing. You can see exactly how much time is spent on each app, including games. Also, with iOS 12, parents can prevent kids from independently purchasing new apps or music.

Best Durability: CAT S41

Parents know that kids are pretty much guaranteed to drop their phone at some point. Enter the Cat S41, a phone made to survive bumps and drops. Manufactured to handle a six-foot drop onto concrete, it’s tough. Dust-, dirt-, and water-resistant with an IP68 rating, it also adds a scratch-resistant Full HD 5-inch screen. Alongside its durable design, CAT added a MediaTek processor and 3GB of RAM. It’s not the most powerful device, but applications load quickly and navigating menus offers no stutters. The phone is compatible with GSM carriers including AT&T and T-Mobile. Connectivity includes the usual suspects like Bluetooth and NFC, but also 4G LTE data speeds for fast browsing. The 5000mAh battery offers plenty of peace of mind for parents knowing their kids will have battery life for days.

A rear 13-megapixel camera captures photos and videos good enough for social media. The front-facing 8-megapixel camera is perfect for capturing selfies or video chatting with friends. 

Best for Gaming: Honor 7X

Equipped with a beautiful 5.93-inch edge-to-edge display at 2160 x 1080 resolution, the Honor 7X has plenty of room for gaming. That’s just 3/10 of an inch shy of the Nintendo Switch display and is sizeable enough for movies and YouTube videos. With its high resolution, colors look bright and sharp (which is especially impressive for a budget-priced phone).

It is powered by Huawei’s Kirin 659 processor and 4GB of RAM so there’s plenty in the tank for the latest Android games. It won’t compete against flagship devices, but it doesn’t have to. Apps open instantly and even with multiple applications running in the background, it shouldn’t slow down. When taking a break from gaming, there are dual 12MP and 5MP cameras on the back. The front camera is dedicated to selfies at 8MP. All of this is powered by a 3340mAh battery which should last all day.

Best Battery: Motorola Moto E5 Plus

Motorola has long been known for extended battery life and the Moto E5 Plus continues that tradition. Sporting a massive 5000mAh battery, Moto promises that, with average use, this phone can hold a charge for 36 hours. That’s well beyond what most flagship devices can promise. Even more promising is Moto’s “Turbopower” charger that adds six hours of battery life in just 15 minutes on the charger.

But battery life is just part of the E5’s story. The six-inch display could almost be mistaken for a tablet. At 1440 x 720 resolution, colors are vibrant and text is sharp. The lower resolution keeps costs down, but it’s still decent quality for movies and gaming.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 435 processor adds 3GB of RAM. It offers surprisingly good performance as apps open quickly and multitasking never caused apps to stutter. There are 32GB of storage for photos, music, and apps along with a microSD slot for up to 128GB. The 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front facing cameras provide good-but-not great photo capabilities.

See more reviews of our favorite Motorola phones available for purchase.

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