The best phone plans for kids and teens in 2021
It used to be that contacting your kids meant calling the school or the friend’s house they were hanging out at. These days, having the peace of mind of knowing you can reach your children when they’re out and about is both accessible and affordable.
The Australian Communication and Media Authority found that 48% of children between the ages of 6 and 13 own or have access to a mobile phone. For 12 and 13-year-olds, that percentage jumps to 80.
Whatever the age of your children, with so many options for both first phone and first plan out there, let’s break down the best approach to picking the right one for your kids.
Below you will find a comprehensive guide on the best phone plans for kids, plus a few handset recommendations. For our deep-dive on the very best, check our guide to the best phones for kids.
Phones for younger kids (younger than 8)
For this age bracket, you’re really only looking to arm your kid with the basics. This means a not-so-smart phone (aka a “dumbphone”) that handles calls, text and not a whole lot else. The Nokia 3310 is a great place to start. It has tactile buttons, a clear screen, and a 2MP camera for budding photographers. More importantly, it’s rugged and built with text and talk front of mind.
The price is definitely right (under $100), and it has impressive battery life that, unlike today’s smartphones, can stay on for up to 27 days in standby. Alternatively, around the same price point you’ll find the Opel Mobile BigButton X. Technically, it’s built for seniors, but the app-lite phone focuses on text and talk, with some neat optional extras like FM Radio, predictive text, and a flashlight. And those big buttons make navigation easier for hands of all ages.
You can also opt for telco-branded phones like the Optus X Lite, but then you’re locked into using an Optus plan, the most reasonable of which costs $15 per 28-day recharge for unlimited talk and text, plus 500MB of data.
Phone plans for younger kids
With handset sorted, iiNet has a great Prepaid offering in its Mobile 6GB Plan. This plan operates on an actual monthly recharge cycle (instead of 28 or 30 days), offers unlimited national calls and text, as well as 6GB of data for the first six months (before reverting to $19.99 a month). Keep an eye on our best Prepaid plans page closer to that six months to see which plans are best on a budget.
If you’d prefer not to think about having to shift plans in six months, Woolworths Mobile’s Pre-paid Mobile $10 Recharge plan is a great pick. It comes with unlimited national talk and text, 1GB of data, and costs $10 per 30 days. It’s also a Telstra mobile network MVNO, has a 200GB data bank (as long as you recharge before expiry) and you can even get 10 percent off a Woolies shop once a month.
You can also see a range of cheap Prepaid plans below.
Phones for tweens (8 to 12)
The older your kids get, the more likely it is they’ll want a smartphone. This means that both data and unlimited talk and text are important, even though you may be able to prioritise data over SMS and chat if your kids end up using data-based messaging and chat services over cellular text and talk.
You’re looking at spending between $100 and $200 to buy an entry-level smartphone outright. If you don’t mind a slightly outdated handset, the LG K8 comes with the essentials: front-facing and rear-facing cameras and a bright 5.0-inch HD screen, from a brand renowned for solid smartphone battery life. Edge closer to that $200 cap, and you’re looking at something like the realme C2. The extra investment gets a 6.1-inch screen, bigger battery capacity, and better-resolution cameras.
Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all offer decent Prepaid smartphone handsets between $50 and $300. For the cheaper options, there’s the X Lite 4G from Optus ($49), Alcatel 1 2019 4G from Vodafone ($49.50), and Telstra has the Essential Pro 2 (A5 2020) for $89. For more expensive alternatives, the Samsung Galaxy A11 costs $229 from Telstra, the Alcatel 3L 2020 4G is $159 from Vodafone, and the Oppo A72 is $299 from Optus.
If durability is paramount, you can get a Nokia 2.2 that boasts an HD+ 5.71-inch screen, adaptive battery features to improve longevity, and updates for three years (hopefully around the time your kid outgrows the phone). For a bargain, Big W sells a V55 Prepaid Phone for $79, which has a decent 5-inch screen, 16GB of memory for multitasking, great battery life. Like the Optus X Lite phone, though, this locks you into a Boost plan, the cheapest of which (not including 7-day recharge options) is the $20 Prepaid plan that includes 5GB of data per 28-day recharge.
Phone plans for tweens
Ultimately, how your kid is using their phone will determine how much data is used. Basic instant messaging and web browsing doesn’t use much (unless high-resolution images and videos are involved), but music streaming and video streaming ups the monthly data requirement.
It’s tough to go past the value of iiNet’s Mobile 14GB Plan. That fee gets you unlimited national talk and text as well as 14GB of data.
As for the kid plans above, iiNet is offering the exact deal on the same Vodafone mobile network. You can see a range of other reasonably priced Prepaid plans with at least 10GB of data below.
Phones for teens (13 and older)
This is the age where data starts to really count, but also there’s greater potential for teenagers to be socially aware of the optics of their smartphone. There’s a good chance that entry-level phones with less familiar brand names won’t necessarily cut it.
Still, you can find a brand-name iOS or Android phone at decent prices. Boost Mobile, in particular, has a refurbished store for older-generation smartphones. You’re looking at $279 for an iPhone 7 or $379 for the iPhone 8. If Android is more your teen’s speed, you can nab a Samsung Galaxy S9 for $379 or a Google Pixel 3 XL For $399. All these phones are still speedy performers by today’s standards, with great screens, solid cameras, and decent battery life.
Boost competes with numobile for refurbished smartphones, so definitely check between the two telcos for deals. Around this sub-$400 price point, you can nab newer budget Android smartphones that are actually impressive for their price. Consider the Oppo A52 or Motorola Moto G8, for instance. It’s also worth checking Kogan, Dick Smith, EB Games and Apple for refurbished deals.
Phone plans for teens
In terms of plans, the iiNet Mobile 25GB Plan costs $15 a month for the first six months, before reverting to $29.99. It comes with unlimited national talk and text and 25GB of data.
You can see these two plans next to other Prepaid offerings below that have at least 15GB of data.
Phone considerations for kids and teens
The age of your kid will determine the appropriateness of the phone. For younger children, the three Rs apply: rugged, restricted, and the right price. The younger your child you’re seeking to buy a phone for, the cheaper the phone should be. They are devices that can, after all, be broken or lost. You may also favour a phone that has limited or no internet access.
The older your kid, the more features they’ll likely need, which translates to a higher cost. Regardless of their age, it’s important to shop for a phone that has better-than-average battery life to ensure they’re contactable between recharges. Finally, phones don’t have to be new: they can be refurbished to help save money.
Phone plan considerations for kids and teens
We prefer to stick with Prepaid plan recommendations because they’re a great way to avoid bill shock and control costs actively rather than reactively. With Prepaid, there’s a fixed upfront price. The plan you choose should also be shaped by the usage scenario. For younger children, there might be no need for data, but tweens and teens will benefit from plans with data.
It’s best to aim for Prepaid plans that have a minimum of 28-day expiry, just remember that you should count 13 recharges per year to calculate first-year cost (compared with the 12 counts for monthly Prepaid or 30-day alternatives). Also avoid Prepaid plans with auto top-up; if you can’t, pick a plan where auto top-up features can be disabled. Try to avoid contracts. It’s not just a case of kids not being able to sign contracts – they have to be 18 to even attempt that – no-contract plans offer flexibility and help eliminate potential exit fees.