So, you want your kid to be able to call home but you don’t want them to have a smartphone yet because a smartphone has YouTube and Fortnite and a screen that will definitely have nine cracks before the first week is up. Enter the “dumb phone”: A category of basic phones for kids (or adults who don’t want to always be tethered to the Internet) that can be used for conversations and some light fun but are free of such distractions as apps and web browsing. Despite their title, they are not dumb. They are a very smart concept.
Some dumb phones are reminiscent of the old brick-like cell phones you bought before the iPhone made you tap and swipe. Others are purposefully crafted to be both beautiful and minimal, choosing to not include the features that many phones consider standard. And finally, there are the phone alternatives, which provide a means to communicate with your son or daughter that, while effective, achieve this without a keypad or screen. All provide talk, some provide text, and none provide ease of access to social media, streaming, and social media like their high-tech brethren. Bonus: The low, low cost of these phones means you won’t need to take a second job should the device break. Here, then are the six best dumb phones for kids.
Nokia 3310 3G
Nokia once ruled the cellular roost before fading into nostalgia. Now, it’s riding that nostalgic wave back into popular culture with its 3310. This 3G-powered device can send texts and access Facebook, but the former isn’t nearly as smooth as your iPhone and the later — well, let’s just say you will be waiting a long time for a response. The 3310 has a modern engine under its durable retro shell, and Bluetooth connectivity for playing tunes through a wireless speaker thanks to Bluetooth connectivity. Even the classic game Snake, is included and upgraded.
Light Phone 2
The original Light Phone was meant as a supplemental device to your regular smartphone and could make and receive calls and store up to nine numbers. The Light Phone 2, which is estimated to ship in 2019, is still homing in on its exact functions, but it will add an alarm clock and messaging, with hints at including a music player and navigation system. Still, you won’t find social media apps, a web browser, or any other such time-sucks. Oh, and did you see? It’s beautiful, too. You might just buy one for the kid and one for yourself.
Republic Wireless Relay
The Relay, with its one-button communication, seems like a walkie-talkie. But with 4G LTE and WiFi connection ($7/month), it’s way more high-tech. Send the kid out with one of the brightly colored, rugged, and water-resistant squares, and you can communicate with him or her through an app on your phone or with a one-button push on a unit of your own. Unlike the traditional walkie-talkie, your channel is private, and you can track your child’s location in real-time via the app. More features are coming: Music channels administered by parental control, games, Google Relay, private channels, and voice messages are all promised.
Yes, the MP01 looks like a calculator, but take comfort in knowing that the worst thing you kid can get into on it is spelling “BOOBS” via numbers. The device lacks a web browser and doesn’t support apps, eliminating a huge source of risk, while battening down the hatches with a Gorilla Glass screen and reinforced body. Users can talk, text, and, well, that’s it.
Unihertz Jelly Pro
The Jelly Pro is small — about the size of a credit card. But it’s more or less a regular smartphone, powered by the Android 7.0 Nougat operating system and including apps, GPS, messaging, gaming, and just about every other feature we’ve come to expect. So why include it on this list? Exactly because it’s small. Without a sun-blocking silhouette, kids just tend to use it less. With its size, it’s not super useful for all of those features you’ve come to expect on a smartphone, making it an ingenious method of reducing screen time and usage.
Items that are made for the most rugged conditions in the world — military, first responders, Antarctic explorers, etc. — are uniquely engineered to withstand the rigors of childhood. That’s why the XP5s makes our list. Its rugged case comes with a three-year comprehensive warranty, meaning if your child somehow manages to break it, you’re covered. Meanwhile, texting and calls are in, while browsing, apps, and streaming are out. By the time your warranty lapses, your kids will be ready for a smartphone. Note: For now, the XP5s is only available on Sprint and AT&T carriers.