Best Cell Phones for Each Age Group

Best Cell Phones for Each Age Group

There are so many phones on the market that sifting through them to find the right one can be difficult, especially if you're buying for someone else, like a child or an older relative. Kids and older adults aren't going to want the same type of phone, and neither are teenagers and adults.

Throughout the various stages of life, we look for different features and new capabilities and designs from our phones. Older people, for example, tend to value ease of use and accessibility features in a simple mobile phone, while a teenager is more likely to look for a fashionable phone that lets them use apps to talk with friends. Let's break down popular phones for different age groups and some of the features to look for.


Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers

While phones for young children used to sound a little far-fetched, now it's pretty common for kids to have phones. Common Sense Media found that before the age of 11, most kids have their own smartphones. Parents are always looking for ways to keep their kids safe, and that includes being able to reach them at any moment and know where they are.

Phones are a great solution, offering GPS tracking and easy communication with trusted contacts. However, full, unrestricted access to the internet can be risky. Safe phones for kids are heavily restricted and basic so they can only be used for the necessities. Some phones for toddlers are entirely screenless.

Another approach to finding the best cell phone for kids is to use a regular phone and enlist the help of parental controls. Both Android and Apple operating systems can use third-party apps like Google Family Link and Bark, but Apple also has some strong parental controls built into iOS. With these controls, parents can eliminate all but the most basic features, such as texting and calling trusted contacts. Other possible control features include monitoring screen time and tracking locations.

Restrictions can apply to factors like:

  • Internet access.
  • App downloads.
  • Trusted contacts.
  • Screen time limitations.
  • Texts, voice, video calls and email access.
  • Photo and video capabilities.
  • Access to music, including explicit content.
  • Monitoring capabilities.

Some good phones for kids — and one almost-phone — include:

  • Palm: The Palm phone offers a smartphone feel with minimalist features that are great for kids. It's durable enough to stand up to drops and spills, has both front-facing and rear cameras and is about the size of a credit card — making it a good fit for small hands. It runs a few apps and has parental controls from Google's Family Link app. Monthly plans are very affordable and start at $5 a month.
  • Relay: The Relay offers the bare necessities of GPS tracking and a push-to-talk button reminiscent of a walkie-talkie — and it comes in fun colors. You can set up a geofence around specified areas, such as your child's school or the house, and receive notifications if they leave them. Relay is a little large, but if you don't want a screen at all, it offers some of the most valuable security features without additional risks or distractions.
  • Pinwheel: The Pinwheel was designed for kids and comes in a "grown-up looking" design and a rugged model to match the level of protection appropriate for your child. These devices are a little smaller than an iPhone, have rear and front-facing cameras and operate through a Caregiver portal accessed on the adult's phone or computer.

Grade-Schoolers and Middle-Schoolers

Some good phones for middle schoolers include:
• Apple
• iPhone 8
• Palm
• Nokia 4.2
• Samsung Galaxy J3

Grade-Schoolers and Middle-Schoolers

As kids enter the tween years, they may start to want more access and a "cooler" phone that doesn't make them feel like a kid. They'll probably want to have all the apps that let them talk to their friends or the processing power to play popular games. Of course, parents still want to keep safety measures in place, so controls come in handy. These controls will likely vary from kid to kid, depending on how you want to let them use their phone.

Remember that kids can still be pretty irresponsible. You don't want to spend $1,000 on a phone they lose or break in a month. Instead, finding phones for 10-year-olds to 14-year-olds requires balancing the cool and functional needs of your pre-teen with the safe and cost-effective requirements of parenthood.

One option is to buy older versions of popular phones. They're a lot more affordable — especially when you buy used — and come with a wide selection of cases and screen protectors to help keep the phone in good condition.

Some good phones for middle schoolers include:

  • Apple iPhone 8: Grabbing an iPhone 8 on the used market offers simple communication without a lot of frills. You can get an iPhone for kids at a lower cost. This phone has a solid camera and wireless charging, but it might be a little slower than more modern options. Keep in mind that Apple likely will support the phone only for a few more years, so if you want the latest security patches and updates, you might need to upgrade in the future.
  • Palm: The Palm phone remains a strong choice through the middle school years. It still offers strong functionality and access to their favorite apps, but it's affordable and connects with safety features to keep parents in the loop.
  • Nokia 4.2: Nokia is a brand known for durability, and the 4.2 offers strength in a sleek, budget-friendly package. It looks like a grown-up phone with front and rear cameras, a long-lasting battery and connectivity with the Android operating system and its parental control options.
  • Samsung Galaxy J3: A super affordable smartphone, the Galaxy J3 runs all the popular apps on the Android operating system. It has a 5-inch screen, front and rear cameras and sizeable battery life.

High Schoolers

Consider the following smartphones for teens:
Google Pixel 4a
Samsung Galaxy S20 and S21
Apple iPhone SE
Moto G8
Nokia 225 4G
Samsung Galaxy A20

High Schoolers

Moving onto the high school years, these phones are pretty close to the ones that adults use. Parental controls still come in handy, and you'll want to keep the responsibility of the individual child in mind. Some kids are likely to break their phones while others can keep them safe for years. Still, many kids can handle themselves at this age and keep a more expensive phone in good condition. For those who can't, consider cases and protection plans.

Consider the following smartphones for teens:

  • Google Pixel 4a: The Google Pixel 4a is a nice mid-range phone that offers excellent photos, an all-day battery and Google security features. The 5G version has a bigger screen, faster processor, larger battery and more camera features.
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 and S21: The Galaxy S20 lineup was one of Samsung's flagship collections when it came out. The S21only recently replaced the S20, so it still has a lot of bells and whistles. Both come in several fun colors and have stellar cameras with features like Space Zoom and Night Mode. They run on fast processors and have touch-free payment features, long batteries and wireless charging. If your high schooler wants a lot of features and some great hardware, the Galaxy phones are a solid choice.
  • Apple iPhone SE: The iPhone SE is a pared-down version of more recent iPhones with an older body design and a lower price point. It still has strong durability, great cameras and a modern, speedy processor. Other valuable features include parental controls and tracking capabilities through the Apple iOS. The iPhone SE is also a handy solution for kids who want to be included in iMessaging, which offers smooth threads, reactions and other messaging features.
  • Moto G8: The Moto G8 comes at a great price with all the smartphone features a teenager needs, like a good camera and strong battery life. It's firmly average but makes for an affordable smartphone for a teen.
  • Nokia 225 4G: If you're looking to spend less than $50, but still give your teen the basics like 4G calling, texting, a few games and internet access, the Nokia 225 4G can deliver. It doesn't have a touch screen, and Nokia's known for durability, so hopefully, it will stick around for a while.
  • Samsung Galaxy A20: The Galaxy A20 is another solid mid-range phone with a great camera, water resistance and a two-day battery. Plus, it has a huge screen for the TV- or game-obsessed teen in your life.

If cost and responsibility aren't a concern, you could always get them one of the phones for adults that we'll discuss in the next section. If cost is a significant concern, there's no shortage of prepaid phones you can grab for $50 or less at a local electronics store. Many of these phones still have large touchscreens, so they won't look out-of-place for a socially conscious teenager.


For the grown-ups of the world, you get options that are a little more fun, with all the bells and whistles. You can take advantage of the newest tech if you want, including touchless payments, secure face identification and stunning cameras. Of course, if you don't need all of that and would rather get a simple phone, there are many mid-range options for adults, as well. Flagship phones usually start in the $700 range but can jump to $1,200 for more premium versions. Tech Advisor defines mid-range phones as those that cost between $350 and $850.

  • Apple iPhone 12 or 12 Pro: Apple's flagship phones are flagship for a reason — the iPhone 12 has all the latest and greatest features, including ultra wide and wide camera lenses and one of the fastest smartphone chips available. It also features water resistance, wireless charging, Haptic Touch feedback and a beautiful True Tone display. The 12 Pro has all of that, along with a telephoto lens, 60 frames-per-second recording, a larger optical zoom and a light detection and ranging (LiDAR) scanner.
  • Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+ or S21 Ultra: Similarly, the Galaxy S21 lineup offers a range of exceptional features, like 8K video, 30x digital zoom, an attractive Infinity-O display, smooth 120-hertz refresh rate, wireless charging and water resistance. The S21 Ultra offers an even better camera and a glass back with curved edges for a more premium feel, among other upgrades.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20: The Galaxy Note 20 has a sleek yet tough design and a huge screen that pairs well with the S-pen for drawing and taking notes. It also looks great for games and streaming. And, of course, the camera and video features are top-notch, too.
  • Google Pixel 4a or 5: Google's Pixel phones come in 4G and 5G versions, with full high-definition screens, great cameras and long-lasting batteries. The newest version, the Pixel 5, has wireless charging, water and dust resistance and a speedy processor.

Older Adults

Older adults need to communicate with loved ones and stay safe during emergencies. Some will be confident using the latest tech, while others will need something a little simpler.

Older Adults

Older adults need to communicate with loved ones and stay safe during emergencies. Some will be confident using the latest tech, while others will need something a little simpler. Regardless of how fancy they are, mobile phones for seniors often have features like large buttons and text, SOS alerts, loud speakers and hearing aid compatibility. Senior-friendly phones make it easy for older people to stay connected and safe without exorbitant prices or hard-to-use tech. Most of these phones for elderly people are available with prepaid plans that let them avoid long-term contracts.

One important component of phones for older people is health care alerts, which many people prefer over wearing a bulky SOS necklace. These alert systems can vary widely and typically require an additional monthly fee. They might include:

  • SOS alert buttons that connect the user to a dispatch operator.
  • Urgent care connections to nurses and doctors.
  • Updates for family members and caregivers.
  • Ride service arrangements.

While many phones are designed for this age group, older adults can also use regular smartphones, which often have "easy" modes with larger text and fewer icons. Even without this mode, customization and accessibility options are extensive, and users can typically change everything from the text size to the color contrast on the screen.

Here are some of the best cell phones for seniors:

  • Lively Smart: The Lively Smart comes from the makers of Jitterbug, a well-known brand of phones for older adults. This one offers a list-style menu, strong speakers and a large touchscreen for easy navigation, along with standard features like GPS, video calls and apps. Lively Smart is also compatible with hearing aids and offers medical alerts for an additional monthly fee. Amazon Alexa assists with voice-controlled texts, calls and more.
  • Lively Flip: Another Lively phone, the Lively Flip offers similar features in a more conventional design. For those who like the tactile sensation of buttons instead of a touch screen and a phone that closes up, this flip phone is a great choice.
  • Alcatel Go Flip 3: The Go Flip 3 Go Flip 3 is another great choice if you're after the best flip phone. It has large, tactile buttons, hearing aid compatibility and a small external display. Google Assistant enables voice communication, which is a nice feature for those with mobility problems.
  • Apple iPhone SE: The iPhone operating system is fairly user-friendly and has exceptional accessibility features, along with simple fingerprint unlocking. The iPhone SE offers the more advanced features of smartphones like streaming video and taking photos without an overwhelming interface. Still, it may take a little training for less tech-savvy users to get up to speed.

Finding the Right Phone for Any Age Group

Whether you're buying a phone for yourself, a child or an older adult in your life, you have a lot of options.

Finding the Right Phone for Any Age Group

Whether you're buying a phone for yourself, a child or an older adult in your life, you have a lot of options. From simple cell phones to the latest and greatest, there's something out there for everyone. Hopefully, we've made the task of finding the right phone a little easier.

If you're replacing an existing phone, be sure to trade-in the old one to an ecoATM kiosk, where you can get cash for it. We'll give it a chance at a second life or ensure it is properly recycled. You must be 18 years of age or older to trade-in a phone at an ecoATM kiosk. Learn more about ecoATM kiosks or find one near you to get started.