Readers like you help support XDA Developers. When you make a purchase using links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read More.

Quick Links

Bark is known as the go-to app for parental controls for kids' devices, and the Bark Phone is its first all-in-one solution. I have reviewed many of the best smartphones for kids and smartwatches for kids, so although I've never used the Bark App myself, I was interested in checking the new phone out with my two young kids.

Like many kids' smartphones, the Bark Phone hardware is from another phone manufacturer but features a custom Android skin from Bark that restricts certain parts of the phone. Here, I'm reviewing a Samsung Galaxy A13 running Android 12. But one area where Bark stands out is its long history of helping parents monitor their child's online activity. The app and web portal are both full-featured, with multiple ways to restrict your child's device and their access. It can monitor what your child does, sees, or is sent, and will notify you if there is suspicious activity. The phone itself is a good device that likely won't win any style points, but your kid will have access to as much or as little as you allow. This means that your kid can have plenty of fun with their phone and its large range of apps, and you'll have peace of mind.

About this review: This was written after two months of testing the Bark Phone, which was provided by Bark. The company did not provide any input into this review.

Bark Phone
Bark Phone
Excellent kids phone
9 / 10

The Bark Phone combines the popular Bark app, wireless service, plus a device, offering a complete package that allows you and your child to feel confident their phone experience will be safe.

Brand and Model
Bark Phone - Samsung A13
6.5x3.01x0.35 inches (165.1x76.4x8.8 mm)
Operating System
Android 12
6.6-inch PLS LCD, 1080x2408 20:9, 400PPI
RAM and Storage
3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage
Exynos 850
Rear Cameras
50 MP, f1.8, PDAF: 5MP f/2.2 ultrawide: 2MP f/2.4 macro: 2MP f/2.4 depth
Front Camera
8MP f/2.2
5000mAh, 15W wired charging
4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Side-mounted fingerprint scanner
Ingress Protection
No official rating
3.5mm audio jack, expandable storage via microSD card, USB-C
  • Excellent range of parental controls
  • Can be setup for ages 8 and up
  • Get instant alerts for areas of concern
  • Lots of apps available for approval
  • Must use Bark's wireless service
  • Can't buy the phone outright

Pricing and availability

BarkPhone showing phone is secure

The Bark Phone was released back in fall 2022 to complement the company's other products. The pricing of the phone is a bit different from other brands. Instead of selling the device to you outright, you pay for the phone, service, and app features in a monthly payment starting at $49. You can only buy it through Bark's website. As of the time of publication, Bark only offers the Galaxy A13 as hardware.

Design and hardware

Nothing special, but a good option for kids

Back of the Bark Phone

As mentioned previously, we're looking at a Samsung Galaxy A13, which was one of the best cheap Android phones in 2022. So older kids won't feel like they are getting a smartphone that looks or feels like it's for little kids. They'll still get a slim phone with a large 6.6-inch display, a quad-camera setup on the back, a fingerprint reader, and more.

When you get a Bark Phone, it does come with a case, so you'll save money there. However, it is a basic black case, so you won't get extra style points. You'll also get a USB-C charging cable, but no charging brick to take advantage of the 15W charging and get that 5,000mAh battery filled back up (there are plenty of great USB-C chargers if you don't have one already).

The battery life of the Bark Phone has been pretty solid, making it through a day without any issues. This is solid considering that the phone is always connected to Bark's VPN to help monitor your child's activity. If the phone were being used sparingly, it would probably be good for two days, but that's a seldom truth for most kids.


Everything kids could want — if their parents let them

Child using an app on the Bark Phone

Since the software is the star of the Bark Phone, it needs to satisfy both the parent and child. My 10-year-old has been helping test the Bark Phone with me and has never complained about it being slow or apps not running smoothly. Now, will the phone bog down when trying to run some of the more demanding titles on our list of the best Android games? Yes. Is that the point of this phone? No. My son has played games on it, streamed music, chatted with friends, taken silly pictures, and it has handled it all wonderfully.

It does quite a bit to make kids happy, but the level of joy really depends on what you allow your child to access. On the surface, there are essentially no apps on the phone aside from basics like the camera, clock, contacts, and photo gallery. Then you have the two Bark apps: Guard Dog and Bark.

Check-in button for the Bark Phone

These two apps don't do much for the user but allow the safety and parental controls to operate. The Bark Guard Dog app shows the status of different functions and the Bark protections. The Bark app gives kids a big red button to press for a GPS check-in. So, out of the box, there aren't many things for a kid to have fun with. That changes after their parents have a conversation about expectations and then start adding approved apps.

Unlike other kids smartphones, they can have access here to the entire Play Store to install games, messaging platforms, social media, and anything else if you allow it. At the end of the day, you pick what can or can't go on the phone. So, while the Bark Phone can be a child's dream smartphone, it comes down to how much and when that dream gets realized.

Device management parents want

App drawer of the Bark Phone

Let's move on though to the most important feature: parental controls. Each of the top smartphones for kids offers different kinds. The Gabb Phone Plus has a minimalist approach to its phone by having a very limited number of apps available for download, which leads to a fewer number of necessary controls. The Teracube Thrive has the option for Google Play Store access on the device but puts the bulk of the parental controls onto Google Family Link.

While not a bad thing, I just prefer an approach more in line with what Bark is doing, which is handling everything through the Bark companion app. From here, you have the ability to adjust various settings for your child's phone; whether you allow texting and if your child can delete texts, screen time, location tracking, and more are all in one place. Each of the different areas is well organized and offers clear methods for adjusting, with explanations as to what each setting does.

I prefer an approach more in line with what Bark is doing, which is handling everything through the Bark companion app.

For screen time, you can set different rules among four different status options and when these modes run throughout the day. So when the phone is in School mode, you can disable video streaming, music, and social media but allow them back during Free Time mode. There are also Default and Bedtime modes, so you can choose what can and can't be done during those times. You can even set usage time for types of apps or specific apps. Bark also included a dedicated button to let you block all internet on your child's device for a period of time.

As a parent, you can allow the Google Play Store on the phone where your child can pick apps to install. Based on their age and your settings, some apps may be found in a search but won't have the option to install. If it's available, your child will see a notification that approval has been sent to the parent once they install it. They then can't use the app until you approve it.

Doing so is a simple process where you can choose to allow or not to allow an app. If you do allow it, you can set up different restrictions, like daily usage and what modes it will be available in. The other bit about the Play Store I think is great is if you choose to disallow access to the store later, any apps installed will still work as normal.

The number of controls you have over the different functions of the Bark Phone is quite impressive. You can disable the camera, add alarms, and even control who can contact your kid or who can get added to contacts. If you feel they're ready, your child can manage contacts on their own.

Perhaps the most unique part of the companion app is the Insights section. Here, you can view app usage times, device monitoring, the number of activities analyzed, alerts, recently installed apps, conversations and whether they are positive or negative, and internet usage for the number of sites analyzed and what was allowed or blocked. Having this level of insight into your child's usage is fantastic for allowing parents to better protect their children from the dangers of a connected world.


Not i-deal

Child using the Bark Phone

Bark has a unique approach to how it works to protect your child, but also how you get it in the first place. The only place you can get the phone is through Bark. That's not too out-of-the-ordinary, as many kids' devices have their own software layer pre-installed on the device for parental controls. The odd part is that you can't just buy the phone.

See, Bark offers different prices when you "buy" the phone. Each is tied to a different cellular plan because you have to use Bark's wireless service, which is a T-Mobile MVNO. So, if you don't get good service with T-Mobile where you live, the Bark Phone likely isn't for you. Below is a screenshot from the Bark website describing the different options.

Bark Phone plans

To me, the strange part is that you never own the phone. You are essentially getting a phone with Bark services directly integrated into the device, which does allow you additional features on top. Those differences are the ability to disable text deletion and add remote alarms, along with app and contact approvals. So the benefits are tangible. But should you decide to end your service, you'll be required to send the phone back to Bark.

Bark Phone: Should you buy it?

Child taking a photo with the Bark Phone

You should buy the Bark Phone if:

  • You want a phone that can grow with your child
  • You want to have a wide range of parental controls
  • You want to be alerted of suspicious activity on your child's phone
  • You want the option of apps for your child's phone

You shouldn't buy the Bark Phone if:

  • You want to purchase and own the phone outright
  • You don't have good T-Mobile coverage where you live

The Bark Phone isn't unique in terms of hardware, but it is in the approach to parental controls and how you purchase it. My son has enjoyed using the phone and the amount of freedom it can offer. My wife and I like it because of the flexibility it affords us when allowing our son to use it. By giving so many easy-to-use parental controls, we can tailor the device to work for our family.

Being able to choose what, if any, apps are allowed on the phone, check the device's location, adjust what functions are available, and so much more means we can have peace of mind when our son uses the Bark Phone. We can feel a bit more comfortable letting him explore the device and a connected world with a sort of safety net. But I'm not a fan of the buying process. I would like there to be an option to own the device after a period or to bring the added features you get with using the Bark Phone over the Bark app to a paid tier of the app.

If you are OK with the buying process and want a device that affords you and your child the ability to customize the experience on the smartphone, the Bark Phone is a great option.

Bark Phone
Bark Phone
Excellent phone for kids

The Bark Phone combines the popular Bark app, wireless service, plus a device, offering a complete package that allows you and your child to feel confident their phone experience will be safe.