You’ve done the research, read the articles, consulted with your gut over and over again. The time has come: You’re getting your child a mobile phone. At this point, the data on national averages of cell phone ownership — which, by the way, is now 10 years old, down from 12 in 2012 — has become obsolete. You’re doing this. The constant nagging from your child for a cellphone is over.
Congrats — you have now graduated to a higher-level debate with your child: Which smartphone to get. The odds are pretty much guaranteed that your child will be making an airtight case for an iPhone. Little surprise there. But is an iPhone the best first phone for your child? Possibly. Before signing on the dotted line, however, it’s important to take many factors under consideration, and that goes beyond your kid’s favorite form of data: What’s cool.
Before you make decision, it’s incredibly important to factor in a few details: Kids don’t only lose phones, they’re also the most common victims of stolen devices. Surprised? As many as two thirds of mobile phone thefts are taken from 13-to-16 year olds. A sobering statistics before you decide to pony up for the latest and greatest device on the market. In England and Wales alone, 2,000 iPhones are stolen per day.
Then there’s the issue of durability, an important issue not just for kids, but also their parents! Many parents understandably want to their child’s first phone to be an affordable one. There’s always time for that fancy iPhone later. But keep in mind some of the less expensive options are also less durable. Sometimes a single slip from hip-height (even adjusted for kids!) is all it takes to end up with a shattered screen. Ditto considerations for water resistance. Can your kid’s phone survive a dip in the toilet? It’s an important consideration when you’re investing this kind of money.
When Should I Buy My Kid Their First Phone?
According to researchers at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, roughly 40% of kids have cell phones by 5th grade. 20% have a cell phone by 3rd grade. 11-13 year olds have cell phones about 70% of the time. When should your child get their first cell phone? The answer differs for each family, but experts do agree that your child’s maturity level is generally more important than their biological age. Do you trust them to make good decisions in general? Would you feel comfortable letting them stay home alone? There are also the very practical considerations to take into account: Does your child lose things easily? Are they clumsy?
Expert also urge parents not to mistake technical savvy with preparedness for their own device. Sure, your child may know how to upload their own videos to YouTube, but that may not indicate that they’re ready for cell phone ownership.
Motorola Moto G4: A Seriously Great Deal With Bonus Durability
The Great News: If an amazing value is what you’re doing for, it’s hard to beat this Android smartphone. It’s got a generous sized screen and its high durability factor will be a boon for clumsy kids. The best part, however, may be the price. On Amazon, it will cost you approximately $150. (Keep in mind that price comes with lockscreen Amazon ads in perpetuity. For an additional $50, you can get an ad-free version.) What’s especially great is that the Moto G4 doesn’t look like a bargain. It’s a thin phone, evoking the sleek design of that far more expensive iPhone.
The Not So Fabulous News: This is not a speedy device. In fact, with certain apps, such as Pokemon Go!, the Moto G4 slows to a snail’s pace… which could seriously cramp your kid’s style. Parental Controls are not available on the device level, and will need to be purchased via third-party apps.
Motorola G4 Drop Test
Sporting the Corning Gorilla Glass, the Motorola G4 shows promise right from the start when it comes to durability.
From a 2 foot drop, the phone holds up wonderfully with minimal scratching and no cracked screen–even when making direct contact with the ground. The 4-foot drop was enough to make the casing on the back of the phone pop off when it landed on its side — but no permanent damage to the phone. Even when dropping the phone from a full 6 feet from the ground — landing right on it’ display side face–the screen would not crack! This thing doesn’t give up! The 8-foot drop finally did this thing in and caused a the screen to crack.
Galaxy J3 by Samsung: Great price, durability and battery life.
The Great News: Here’s another affordable smartphone option that offers good design, a great price and a few standout features that make it worth considering. Among its core strengths is the battery, which has an advertised time of 22 hours of talk time, a sizeable increase from competitor products. In other words, if you want to preempt the “dead battery” line of excuses from your kid, this is the phone to get.
The Not So Fabulous News: Have a budding photographer on your hands? You might want to skip this one. Despite many great features for the affordable price, the camera is not great. Lag time will mean your budding photographer will miss some shots; and poor resolution means the results will be less than stellar.
Galaxy J3 Drop Test:
The unfortunate news here is that the affordable price often comes at the expense of durability. Even at two and a half foot front-facing drops, the J3s consistently resulted in shattered screens. And we’re not talking rooftop drop heights here. Parents looking to buy their kids’ very first smartphone should consider the fact that at average kid-hand height, screens were shattered with a front drop. Side drops didn’t fare much better: That sleek gold case often came back dented as a result of drops from heights as low as three feet.
Google Pixel: The Android Alternative to an iPhone
The Great News: In many ways, this is Google’s answer to the iPhone. An extremely high-end looking and functioning device, the Pixel boasts a glass covered back and polished aluminum casing, along with features such as a Siri-like Google Assistant that can answer your every voice-activated question, concern or command. It also comes with a five-star camera, unlimited Google Photos storage at full resolution, and seven hours of battery life after a 15-minute charge. Verizon is the exclusive carrier of Pixels in the US.
The Not So Fabulous News: One way that Pixel does not match up to Apple’s latest iPhone 7 — it’s not water resistant. This seems like a serious omission for a device priced between $649 and $869, and a potential deal breaker for parents needing protection for smartphone novices (toilets, thunderstorm and the like).
Google Pixel Drop Test:
Deep breath: While sleek and gorgeous, it turns out some of those design points may cost you in the durability department. In drop tests, that gorgeous glass back panel didn’t survive a 6-inch drop, let alone a 6-foot one! The front drops came back with pretty ugly results: One five-foot drop completely shattered the face of the phone. For a top-of-the-line Android, that’s definitely something to consider before placing in the hands of your child.
Apple iPhone SE: An iPhone Experience for Way Less Money
The Great News: OK, your child wins. They get the iPhone. But you win with this one too: The iPhone SE is way, way less expensive than the later-model versions. Starting at $399, it offers nearly every iPhone 6S feature, including Live Photos, Touch ID and a top-of-the-line camera. Other standouts: Great battery life, and lots of protective case options for durability. For many parents, however, the greatest perk getting a more affordable iPhone for their kids will be the fact that iOS-accustomed kids will have very little to no learning curve when its comes to the interface.
The Not So Fabulous News: If your child plans on doing significant amounts of reading or video watching on their phone, its compact, 4-inch size, may feel too small.
iPhone SE Drop Test:
From (adult) waist height, the SE can do ok. Higher than that, however, and the results are decidedly not pretty. Despite the metallic spine and backplate, the glass backed SEs mostly did not do well when it came to front falls. While there was some minor denting on the body, the screens typically split after a handful of corner drops and face down drops only got worse.
Moto Z Droid
The Great News: Yes, this is most definitely a top-of-the-line Android phone. Starting at about $625, this is a considerable financial investment for a first phone. That said, there are some exceptional features that make this a standout choice for specific kids. Namely, its snap-on interchangeable “Moto Mods” make for a totally unique Legos-meets-smartphone experience that can transform your child’s cell phone into a movie projector, boombox or battery powerhouse. Other perks: Its “Shattershield” screen makes it seriously durable.
The Not So Fabulous News: While the device does offer “water repellant nano-coating,” meaning it can withstand light spills, it doesn’t have the resistance needed to survive a dip in the toilet, no matter how quick.
The Moto Z Droid Drop Test
Does the ShatterShield technology live up to its claims? For the most part, yes. In a variety of front-facing drop tests from different heights and onto different surfaces, the screen survived. In one extreme case, while the screen survived, the display didn’t. But for the most part, the Moto Z Droid gets very high durability marks, even if the frame did show some scuffing.