When is the right time to buy a phone for a youngster? It’s certainly a difficult question to answer. We feel the key is selecting the right one at the right time.
Pay as you go handsets help to prevent “bill shock” as kids can’t run up enormous bills. Once they run out of phone credit, it can’t use any more until you/they top it up.
Older children may want to use a smartphone and there are good-value choices which offer some ‘smart’ functions, without unfettered access to the web.
Veteran security writer Graham Cluley says, “Choose a phone with a slower connection (i.e. no 3G or 4G) - and few apps beyond texting”. He also advises that cheaper is better as he says that “children losing phones isn’t a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’. With a cheaper model, it’s just £10 for a new one, which won’t break the bank.”
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Motorola Moto E- £90
Best for: Getting smart
This phone is ideal for young teenagers and is one of the best sub-£100 handsets out there. It’s an Android smartphone (Google’s operating system) and offers apps, films, music and social networks such as Facebook. Android is more complex than iPhone, but not beyond the reach of tech-savvy teens. The 4.3-inch touchscreen is bright and clear. Sadly there's no front-facing camera for selfies (when you take fun pictures of yourself) but there is a decent 5MP camera on the back.
Star rating: 5/5
Samsung E1200- £10
This bargain-basement handset offers limited web browsing, games and music and a Content Control feature stops under 18s from accessing anything inappropriate on the web. It’s small, grippy and durable, and the size is great for smaller phone users.
Star rating: 3/5
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Vodafone Smart 4 Mini - £50
Best for: Voice control
This budget smartphone at a wallet-friendly price runs Android. It'll let you download apps, send emails and browse the web and you can customise the home screen to include the apps you use most. It’s also pretty robust - and includes Google’s new voice controls for quick searches for maps, contacts and information.
Star rating: 4/5
Sony Xperia E1- £65
One for music fans, this affordable phone from Sony benefits from the maker's Walkman app, making it a great music player. It's even got 100 decibel speakers built-in so teenagers will enjoy showing off on the bus (even if fellow travellers won’t). Add to that a 3MP camera on the back and a great 4-inch touchscreen and you've got yourself a great all-rounder.
Star rating: 4/5
Nokia Lumia 635- £150
One for slightly older teenagers, the Lumia 635 runs on Windows 7, unlike most of the other phones here which run on Google's Android operating system. What that means is that it has a nice and simple tile-based interface that will look familiar to anyone who's used a Windows 8 PC or an Xbox. The high price also gets you 4G - most phones use the slower 3G connection - so you can access maps, websites and apps far faster.
ALCATEL 2010G- £30
This clam-shell handset’s folding design gives the keyboard and screen a little extra protection from any knocks or bumps. There's no 3G connection, so children won’t find it easy to use for web browsing - but there are more than 500 basic apps to choose from including Facebook. Use the free Vodafone Guardian app to limit app use and communication if you are giving this to a younger child.