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Deciding what age to buy your kid a phone is entirely up to you. There are a lot of things to consider as a parent, and only you can make the right decision based on careful assessment. Not all kids are the same, after all. But once you know the time is right, and your kid is ready to use a phone responsibly, you'll want to buy one that's reliable and easy to use. You should spend your money on a phone that helps you stay connected while offering a good set of features and the latest technology, which your child can get used to as they grow older. You should also be careful not to buy something too expensive because, well, some kids might drop, break, or even lose it.

Plenty of phones on the market fit the bill, so we decided to make it easier for you to pick the right one by highlighting the best options. Our collection of the best smartphones for kids includes great options that'll get you all the right features without burning a huge hole in your pocket. Let's dive in!

Our favorite smartphones for kids in 2023

Bark Phone
Bark Phone
Best overall

Full package with great parental controls

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.

  • Excellent range of parental controls
  • Can be setup for ages 8 and up
  • Get instant alerts for areas of concern
  • Limits you to Bark's wireless service
  • Can't buy the phone outright

The Bark phone is exactly the type of smartphone you'd want for your kids. While there is nothing special about it, it offers all the essentials to get the job done. As XDA's Mobile Section Editor Chris Wedel highlighted in his Bark phone review, it's an excellent, complete package phone that enables you and your child to have a great — and, most importantly, safe — smartphone experience. Bark currently offers the Galaxy A13 5G as hardware, but that's not a bad phone. In fact, it was one of the best cheap phones in 2022, with a massive 6.6-inch display, a 5,000mAh battery, a fingerprint scanner, and more.

The Bark phone can be set up for ages eight and up and comes with an excellent range of parental controls. The software is really the star of this particular phone, though, as it comes with everything you and your kids would ever need. It has a few essential apps, plus you can allow your children to get more from the Play Store. Notably, it also comes with the Bark Guard Dog and the Bark app, both of which are safety features that allow you to stay in touch with your kid. You can learn more about them in our Bark Phone review, which goes into more detail.

Gabb Phone Plus
Gabb Phone Plus
Basic phone to stay connected

Limited phone experience with many parental control tools

The Gabb Phone Plus from Gabb Wireless is a great option for older kids because it offers more apps and configurations compared to the standard Gabb Phone. While the Gabb devices will change over time, the Gabb Phone Plus is a platform running on a custom Android build to make it more secure and versatile for families.

  • No access to the internet, social media, or games
  • An easy-to-use parental companion app
  • A healthy list of pre-installed apps
  • A very limited list of third-party apps at this time
  • You have to use Gabb Wireless as a carrier

The Gabb Phone Plus platform is perfect for those who are looking to buy a simple phone for their kids. Your kids won't have access to games, social media, or the internet, so it cuts out all the noise and gives families a safe way to stay connected. It's essentially a Samsung Galaxy A10e that comes with a very limited set of preloaded apps like a calculator, calendar, and more. You also get three pre-installed Gabb apps that are used for some important functions. One is for pairing the phone to the MyGabb companion app, another one is for your kid's Gabb ID, and the Gabb Messenger is for sending instant messages to the MyGabb app on a connected phone and other Gabb devices.

The Samsung Galaxy A10e that's paired with the Gabb Plus platform is powerful enough to handle the things it offers. It sports a 5.8-inch LCD panel that's fast and responsive, and you also get an 8MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing shooter. You don't have to worry about the internals or the performance because you're looking at a very limited software experience with a slim selection of apps and services. You don't get a lot of apps to use on this phone, but there is a neat selection of safety features. In addition to restricting the apps that are allowed on the Gabb Phone Plus platform, parents can also create geofences or safe zones and get alerted when their child leaves them. Parents can also get a call and text log from their kid's phone, which is quite handy.

The phone itself costs $200, but you can choose a two-year contract to get it for free. Additionally, you'll also have to pay $29.99/month for the Gabb Phone Plus service, so keep that in mind.

Teracube Thrive
Teracube Thrive
Best value

Affordable Android experience for your kids

$149 $199 Save $50

The Teracube Thrive kids smartphone is a great option for parents who want to give their child a smartphone but still have some oversight. There are parental controls, but they are not as robust as some other brands, making this better for older kids. 

  • Excellent value
  • Access to the entire Google Play Store
  • Reliable performance for day-to-day usage
  • Parental controls aren't as robust as others
  • Cameras are just OK

The Teracube Thrive is our best value pick in this collection, as it's among the most affordable phones you can buy right now for your kids. You can pick this one for as low as $139 and use it with any T-Mobile-based network. It doesn't force you to stick with a dedicated network like the Gabb Phone Plus platform, so it gives you more options. You can, however, use Teracube's own wireless service that operates on T-Mobile's network for $15 a month too.

The Teracube Thrive is a relatively simple phone running Thrive OS that's built on top of Android 11. XDA's Mobile Section Editor Chris Wedel reviewed this phone a few weeks back and found Thrive OS to be a bit lackluster on the parental control front. It essentially needs both Teracube Parent and Google's Family Link app to work, but it still lacks a few important settings. We suggest you read our Teracube Thrive review to learn more about our thoughts on this phone.

Thankfully, the phone delivers on the hardware front, and your kid will have a good experience using it overall. It's an average-sized phone that's made out of 25% recycled materials. It sports a 6.1-inch HD+ IPS panel, and the internals are also powerful enough for day-to-day usage. Some other noteworthy features of the Teracube Thrive include a 4,000mAh battery, a dual SIM card slot, a decent set of cameras at the back, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, among other things.

A render showing the front and back of the Pinwheel Rugged 3 kids phone.
Pinwheel Rugged 3
Best rugged option

Durable phone to keep up with your kid's activities

The Pinwheel Rugged 3 is a durable phone that runs on the Pinwheel platform for kids. It offers a good experience overall, and it offers extra protection from drops, scuffs, and water.

  • Good design and durable build
  • Easy-to-use software with good parental controls
  • Good battery life
  • Not compatible with AT&T, Verizon or 5G

Pinwheel is one of the most popular platforms for kids to experience a smartphone. They have three different phones to choose from, but we've picked the Rugged 3 for this collection mainly because we wanted to add a good rugged phone to the list for those who want a durable phone for their kids. Like the Gabb phone platform, Pinwheel offers a custom version of Android that strips down a lot of features to make it safe for kids to use.

Pinwheel's parent side of the experience is handled through what is called a "Caregiver portal," which offers complete remote access to your child's phone. You can use it to customize everything from your child's scheduled phone usage, app access, screen time, and more. You can even lock down the device temporarily and track your kid's location remotely.

The Caregiver portal also allows you to choose the third-party apps that are installed on your child's phone. There's a good selection of apps compared to what the Gabb Phone platform offers, making it more similar to Troomi in that aspect, and their phones are capable enough to handle all of them. A really helpful part of the Pinwheel software experience is that for all of the apps available, Pinwheel breakdown what the app has access to, the type of content on it, and a recommendation of whether it's safe to install or not.

The Rugged 3, in particular, sports a 5.7-inch display, and it comes with an octa-core processor with up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. You also get a 5,080mAh battery and other thoughtful extras like a fingerprint scanner, a triple camera setup at the back, and more.

The Rugged 3 is a durable phone that offers dirt and water resistance, but you can also choose to go with Pinwheel's Slim 5 or the Plus 2, depending on whether you want something more premium or affordable. Pinwheel Rugged 3 will cost you $249 upfront, and you'll have to pay a monthly or an annual subscription for the Pinwheel software.

A render of the Google Pixel 6a in Charcoal black color.
Google Pixel 6a
Best Android phone for kids

Unrestricted Android experience with Family Link support

$249 $349 Save $100

The Pixel 6a is a great budget smartphone that will serve you well for many years to come. It packs a powerful set of cameras, Google's in-house Tensor chip, and a couple of other interesting features for around $300 right now.

  • Good hardware for the price
  • Complete Android experience with Family Link monitoring
  • Great cameras
  • No built-in parental control tools
  • Slow charging speed

Google's Pixel 6a fits the bill in our books as the best overall Android phone for kids. It's one of the most affordable phones out there that gives unrestricted access to Android and all its features. That's one of the main reasons why we picked it over something like the Gabb Phone Plus or the Pinwheel Slim 5 as our best overall pick. The fact that you get a full-fledged Android experience with the right parental control tools makes it better than the other options that offer a limited experience.

You'll have to manually install and configure the Family Link app on the Pixel 6a before handing it to your kids, but it's fairly simple and only takes a few minutes. You can check out our Family Link guide to get started. It lets you block out certain applications or limit your kid's smartphone usage if you are worried about them accessing inappropriate content or entering the wild west of apps and games.

The Google Pixel 6a also offers a better software experience overall, and it'll continue to get major OS updates and security updates for many years to come. It also brings better hardware to the tablet compared to all the other phones that are aimed at kids. You get a beautiful 6.1-inch OLED display, 6GB RAM, a 4,410mAh battery, reliable performance with Google's Tensor chip, and an excellent set of cameras for the price.

The Pixel 6a is a better phone overall that gives you all the parental controls you'd ever need with Family Link while also giving your kids some room to explore more apps and services when they need them.

A render of the Apple iPhone SE 3 in red color.
Apple iPhone SE 3 (2022)
Best iPhone for kids

Affordable iPhone for your kids

The iPhone SE (2022) is the most affordable iPhone you can buy right now. While it's not the most powerful one on the market, it still contains the great A15 Bionic chip, offering a lot of value for the money.

  • Excellent hardware
  • Good software experience
  • Reliable software experience with iOS
  • Relatively expensive
  • No built-in parental controls

If you are bound and determined to buy your kid an iPhone, then let it be the iPhone SE 3 (2022). Not only is it the best budget option in our selection of the best iPhones, but it's also one of the most compact ones. One of the best things about using an iPhone is the iOS operating system and its ability to pair with compatible Apple devices seamlessly. It's good for those who have a lot of Apple devices at their home and want their kids to get accustomed to the Apple ecosystem.

The iPhone SE 3 (2022) also packs impressive hardware, and it's significantly better at handling most things than a lot of other phones in this collection. From playing games to accessing educational apps and looking up information for homework, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) can enable you to do almost anything without a hitch. The only downside to buying an iPhone SE 3 for kids is that it doesn't come with a tool like Google's Family Link to access parental controls and impose restrictions remotely. Sure, you can enable screen time and restrict usage before handing it to your kids, but it would've been nice to have the option to monitor their usage, control permissions, restrict access, and more remotely. You will have to download — and possibly even subscribe to — a third-party app to handle that, so keep that in mind.

It's also a bit on the expensive side at $430, meaning you'll be spending a lot more money compared to other phones mentioned in this collection. It will, however, last for many years to come, so you don't have to worry about its longevity.

A render showing the TickTalk 4 smartwatch for kids.
TickTalk 4
Best kids smartwatch

Alternative to a full-fledged smartphone

TickTalk 4 smartwatch is a good alternative for those parents who don't want to buy their kids a full-fledged smartphone just yet. It offers a good set of features for the price, and it'll let you stay connected with your kids too.

  • Packed with features
  • iHeartRadio Family is included
  • Good battery life
  • No geofencing feature
  • A bulky watch to wear

TickTalk 4 is technically not a phone pick, but it's worth considering if you just want a device that stays connected. It's one of those smartwatches that can do it all, so you get a ton of amazing features to offer a great experience overall. The first thing you'll notice about TickTalk 4 is how different it looks from other modern smartwatches that are out there on the market.

The TickTalk 4 is a bulky smartwatch that comes packed with powerful hardware. You get a 1.54-inch display, a quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, and also a 1,000mAh battery and two 5MP camera sensors. It also houses a large speaker, and you get support for things like GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular connectivity. You also get Bluetooth support, with which you can connect a pair of headphones for media consumption or calling.

Parents can control and tweak their kid's experience of using the watch via the companion app. You can't install a lot of apps on this watch as you would on other phones mentioned in this collection, but you can set up things like daily activity goals, alarms, reminders, and more. It also comes with iHeart Radio Family integration, which means your child can stream kid-friendly music directly from their watch. It's a great smartwatch overall, and it's a good alternative to a full-fledged smartphone for your kids.

A render of the Garmin Bounce kids smartwatch with a green-colored band.
Garmin Bounce
Best watch with safety features

More modern-looking smartwatch

The Garmin Bounce is one of the most feature-packed smartwatches for kids out there. It comes with all the essentials like LTE and Wi-Fi support, the ability to track your kids' whereabouts, and more. It's also relatively affordable, making it an excellent option for parents and kids alike.

  • Great battery life
  • Offers geofencing
  • Stylish design
  • Proprietary charging cable
  • No voice calls

The Garmin Bounce is also a good option to consider if you don't want to buy your kids a smartphone just yet. It retails for $150, and it offers a set of hardware and software features for the price. Your kid can't make voice calls with the Garmin Bounce, but there is an option to send text and voice messages. It can also be used to send the location information manually, which is a good addition.

The highlight of the Garmin Bounce is its design and build quality. It looks more modern and sleek compared to the TickTalk 4 and is also more comfortable to wear. The Bounce smartwatch sports a 1.3-inch LCD panel which can be used to access some basic smartwatch features. It's a relatively small display, and you don't get any fancy features like a camera or iHeartRadio support on this. This combo lets it offer good battery life.

As far as features are concerned, kids can play some basic games on the Garmin Bounce smartwatch, like Puzzle Slider and Toe-to-Toe. It also supports steps, sleep, and activity tracking. It also includes a social aspect where your child can connect and compete in challenges with those who have other Garmin devices. One thing we like about the Garmin Bounce, in particular, is that it supports geofencing. It's a great safety feature to have, as it automatically alerts you when your child leaves or enters the virtual fence you create on a particular location.

Best smartphones for kids in 2023: Final thoughts

That brings us to the end of this collection, in which we've highlighted the best smartphones to consider for your kids in 2023. We recommend picking up the Bark Phone, which is essentially a Galaxy A13 running custom software. It offers an excellent software experience for both you and your kids, and you also get a ton of impressive parental controls that can be used to monitor and control your kid's smartphone usage remotely. The Galaxy A13 is also a good phone for kids as it can handle pretty much any task they may throw at it with ease.

It's true that you can buy pretty much any Android or iPhone out there and use parental control apps and services to turn it into a kid's smartphone. That's exactly why we've also added the Pixel 6a and the iPhone SE 3 to this list. They're both equally good and offer a good experience without compromising on quality. But going this route can leave out some of the parental controls found on devices made specifically for kids. So, this is a better option for older kids. We've also added some excellent smartwatches for kids to the mix to ensure there are alternatives for those who don't want to buy a smartphone for their kids just yet.

Bark Phone
Bark Phone
Best overall pick

Full package with great parental controls

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.