The best phone plans for kids and teens in 2020
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.
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.
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. 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.
Younger kids (8 and younger)
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.
With phone sorted, OVO Mobile’s MiniPlus Mobile Plan is an affordable Prepaid place to start. You’re looking at $14.95 per 30-day recharge for unlimited talk and text, with no lock-in contract. OVO Prepaid plans also come with a free Family Zone subscription that protects your kid’s device and also lets you manage screen time, limit in-app purchases, and restrict access to content.
If MMS is important to have, consider Boost Mobile’s $20 Prepaid plan for a 28-day recharge period. This plan bundles unlimited standard calls and text, 5GB of data (with data rollover), and unlimited text to 35 selected countries (plus 100 mins of talk time) if you want your kid to stay in touch with loved ones overseas.
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 more recent 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 solutions between $50 and $200, such as the Optus Start X, or the Samsung Galaxy A20 through Vodafone and Telstra, just to name a couple. The catch is, most branded prepaid handsets sold through telcos tend to be network-locked, so you will have to pay a fee to unlock it if you want to use it with a SIM card from another provider.
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, Boost Mobile 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 that includes 5GB of data per 28-day recharge.
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. OVO Mobile’s MiniPlus Mobile Plan is great for kids of all ages (check out the perks above). If the 4GB of data in that particular plan doesn’t cut it, you can tap into the same perks albeit with 10GB of data on a 30-day recharge (for $19.95) with OVO’s Small Mobile Plan.
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 $189 for an iPhone SE or $289 for an iPhone 7. These phones are both speedy performers with great screens, solid cameras, and dependable standby battery life. They’re also great options for keeping your family’s devices within the iOS ecosystem.
Boost competes with numobile for refurbished smartphones, so definitely check between the two telcos for deals. For instance, you can nab a solid and dependable Samsung Galaxy S7 for $220 from numobile. If you want a later-gen Galaxy, jump back to Boost for the Samsung Galaxy S8 at $369. Around this sub-$400 price point, you can also buy speedy new phones from brands like Huawei and Oppo. It’s also worth checking Telechoice, Kogan, Dick Smith, EB Games and Apple for refurbished deals.
In terms of plans, OVO’s Small Mobile Plan is a great starting point for 10GB of data at $19.95 per 30-day recharge, while your teen can earn bonus data (up to 5GB) by streaming on the OVOPlay entertainment service.
Boost Mobile’s $30 Prepaid plan costs $30 per 28-day recharge but includes 20GB of data (and 15GB per recharge the first three times), plus unused data can be rolled over into subsequent recharges. Because Boost operates on the Telstra mobile network, this equates to dependable coverage wherever