Today, smartphones are everywhere. Your parents have them, your grandparents might have them and now it’s quite possible your child has one–or really wants one. But, how do you go about finding a phone that is a reasonable option for a young child?
Stopping by your local carrier store will give you an idea of what devices can be had and possibly what features are available for said devices. However, this isn’t always the best or the only place you should be looking as you start your research.
There is an assortment of small and inexpensive Android-based phones that are perfect for young ones. Unlike Apple’s iOS based devices, which primarily come in only a few varieties and at a high price, many Android devices can regularly be found in the $50 – $200 range in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and colors.
After looking at the cost factors of adding a device to a plan and considering safety and usability concerns that many have, it’s time to choose a phone. Sometimes you can find a promotion through a carrier to receive a free phone when you add a line or a discounted rate if you add enough lines to a new or existing plan. However, if you just want to add a phone to your plan, you can look for an unlocked device from a retailer and add it to an existing plan.
Here’s an overview of what to look for when shopping for an inexpensive phone for a young one.
Screen size – Too small, too big or like Goldilocks says… “just right.” Have your child hold the phone, if possible, to make sure it’s not going to be cumbersome. Larger screens generally add weight and reduce battery efficiency. Small screens can be hard to see and difficult to navigate.
Memory – This is a big one. Never ever buy a phone that has less than 16GB of main storage, even if it has expandable options. A lot of apps are required to run from main memory and even if you expand the storage for things like music, movies and some applications, you will still find that 8GB severely limits overall usability.
Battery – Battery size is important, but it’s not just the size of the battery that you want to watch for–some smartphones have the capability to recharge much faster compared to others, and this could be crucial to allowing a child to get back to using his or her phone. Some high end smartphones allow for wireless charging, which could be great for a young one that might have trouble plugging in a standard USB charging cable.
Accessories – Be sure to check for recommended accessories. Consider over-the-ear headphones, a spare battery, car charger, and carrying case. If your child is rough with his or her toys, find some protection for that phone. A rugged case and screen protector can go a long way to prolonging the life of your investment.
Here’s a short list of inexpensive and fully functional phones that you can purchase outside of a contract upgrade or installment billing agreement. Be sure to pay attention to which devices are available for their respective carriers and whether or not the device is new or refurbished.
- Studio ONE 4G LTE (16GB) Unlocked [AT&T, T-Mobile] $129.99 – $149.99
- R1 HD 4G LTE (16GB) Unlocked [AT&T, T-Mobile] $109.99
- Vivo XL 4G LTE (16GB) Unlocked [AT&T, T-Mobile] $149.99
- Vivo 5 4G LTE (32GB) Unlocked [AT&T, T-Mobile] $199.99
- MOTO G (4th Generation) 4G LTE (16GB) Unlocked [AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint] $139.99 – $199.99
- MOTO G Play 4G LTE (16GB) Unlocked [AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint] $99.99 – $149.99
- Galaxy J3 4G LTE (16GB) Unlocked [Verizon] $139.99 – $199.99
- Galaxy S4 Mini 4G LTE (16GB) Unlocked [AT&T, T-Mobile] $74.95
- Galaxy Express Prime 4G LTE (16GB) [AT&T] $129.99
- Honor 5X 4G (16GB) [AT&T, T-Mobile] $129.99 – $199.99
- ZTE Zmax 2 4G (16GB) [AT&T] $49.99 – $99.99
- Axon 4G LTE (32GB) Unlocked [AT&T, T-Mobile] $199.98 – $249.99
With a large variety of smartphone options available within the Android marketplace, there should be one that works quite well as a “first phone” for a child. Look around for deals on refurbished and used devices as these often come with extended warranties. I was able to find my daughter a refurbished iPhone 5S at a great price, and then later she upgraded to an iPhone 6S with a free phone promotion from our carrier. Warranties and device protection are important for young ones as well. If your child is not the most careful person, consider an insurance plan or extended warranty at the time of purchase.
Safety, price, availability, contract vs. off contract, and durability all play a part in choice, but considering the importance that smartphones play in our lives, it’s best to be diligent in research before making your final decision. Happy shopping!