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The best phones for kids

Kids are people too, and often those little people are clamoring for the best smartphone tech money can buy, complete with the latest talk, text, games, apps, photos, and video conferencing features their parents are willing to buy for them. The good news is, you don’t have to mortgage your home to purchase a decent smartphone for your kid. With their (sometimes) smaller hands and more limited needs — and the reality that kids tend to lose or destroy delicate things more frequently than adults — there are plenty of choices for powerful handsets that are ideal for kids.

Whether they’re in the next room studying, yakking with friends, or out walking the dog at the park, their smartphone helps you to monitor their activities and keep them out of trouble. Double down on this by pairing their new phone with one of the best parental control apps or, for Android devices, Google’s Family Link. Here are our top picks for the best smartphones and cell phones for kids ranging in age from about elementary school to teen.

Nokia 3310

Nokia 3310
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Who wants to play Snake? It’s likely that if your child is of a certain young age, they will readily take to Snake and several other games that the Nokia offers in its updated, retro-styled Nokia 3310. The new version of the phone is plastic, comes in four friendly colors, and features a fresh custom interface with a 2.4-inch polarized, curved screen that’s clear and bright at all angles and even in sunlight. Light and compact, it will stand up to the rough and tumble of child play and keep on trucking with battery standby for up to a month.

Unihertz Atom

Unihertz Atom
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If your kid’s hands are on the diminutive side, check out the Unihertz Atom, a mini 4G cell phone running Android 9.0 Pie. It’s rated at IP68 to protect against vibration, shock, extreme temperatures, dust, and water. The fingerprint scanner and Face ID features provide more security and make it fast and easy to unlock the screen for calls and picture taking. Atom’s NFC features allow for mobile payments at thousands of retailers and online stores, so your little one doesn’t even have to carry a separate wallet. If your child is a wanderer, its GPS+GLONASS ensures that you won’t lose them. Its powerful 2,000mAh battery keeps it going all day long. Atom works on T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon in U.S.

GreatCall Lively Flip

GreatCall Lively Flip

While the Jitterbug brand may be popularly associated with the AARP crowd, the colorful, large button, easy-to-use phone has the same sort of appeal for kids who are primarily interested in touching base with parents, family, and friends. The Lively Flip has a large, bright screen and big buttons with a backlit keypad and a list-based menu for easy navigation. A powerful speaker ensures loud and clear communications, accompanied by bright photos from the phone’s 8MP camera. There’s an Urgent Response button on the keypad for emergencies and other tools to help kids stay safe and connected with parents. You can even use the Alexa Skill for faster calling and texting. Plans range from $15 per month.

iPhone SE (2020)

iPhone SE 2020
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For older grade school kids and teens who crave powerful features and understand their phone is not a toy, the iPhone SE (2020) is a superb choice. The phone’s 4.7-inch Retina HD display sits on a relatively compact handset, despite the phone’s vast array of features. While it’s the most affordable new iPhone out there, it’s not cheap. The new iPhone SE 2020 is powered by a speedy A13 Bionic chip and features a high-quality, single-camera system. It’s durable enough for fairly heavy handling, as it’s built with aerospace-grade aluminum and durable glass with an all-black front. It’s available in black, white, and (PRODUCT)RED. The new iPhone SE retains the older Home button design and uses Touch ID to securely enter passcodes, fill in passwords via iCloud Keychain, log in to apps, authorize App Store purchases, and make Apple Pay transactions.

Moto G7 Play

Moto G7 Play
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For kids with bigger hands who are into sports or gaming, you can get a larger phone at a good price. The Moto G7 Play, a grown-up style phone for an older child or teen,  features an advanced Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor and a 5.7-inch display with a 19:9 aspect ratio, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage, up to 512 GB with a MicroSD card. It runs Android 9.0. Because it’s water-repellent, with a P2i nano-coating and scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3, it can withstand considerable punishment while your kid gets a stable grip. It’s easily unlocked via the fingerprint sensor and facial recognition. It comes unlocked, but is compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Amazon Alexa, Music, Audible, and Shopping come preinstalled.

Nokia 4.2

Nokia 4.2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It may not be fancy, but for older kids, the real question is: How much can it do? With the Nokia 4.2, the answer is — plenty. That’s because this 5.71-inch large HD+ touch screen runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 octa-core 2.0GHz processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB internal memory with a MicroSD slot on Android 9.0 Pie. The cell connection is 4G LTE for downloading apps and games and streaming content. Its 19:9 cinema screen is perfect for viewing videos, photos, and games. Cameras include a dual 13MP and depth-sensing 2MP rear camera and a front-facing 8MP camera for selfies and videos.

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