Buying a Cell phone for a child?

My son is 10 years old and wants to be a bit more independent.  But I would still like to be able to reach him when he is with friends or family.  I don’t want to spend a ton of money on cell phone service nor buy him a flagship phone.  I’ve done quite a bit of research and will share some of the options I have found that could offer a lower cost alternative to a traditional cell phone plan.

First, Amazon has a few offerings of a low cost unlocked phone for Prime members.  The Blu R1 HD is a GSM phone and starts at $49.00.  This is a great option for a casual user or a child. We found the phone to be fast and reliable. No problems with the phone at all.  I activated the phone on FreedomPop’s Global plan.  I went with the free plan which gave my son more than enough talk/text/data.  When at home, he connected to wifi so that it would not take up his data.  I am not sure if Freedompop is able to dial 911, so keep that in mind.  Also, it uses data to convert calls, so you have to have some data available in order for the phone to work.  Freedompop does have some drawbacks, but that is to be expected when you have free cell phone service.  In my opinion, it’s a reasonable tradeoff for a first phone.  Especially when you are not yet sure how much you are willing to spend or if your child is ready for a phone.

Another option I found is through T-Mobile.  They have a prepaid plan that costs $3.00 a month. Not a bad price for an “emergency” phone.  For the $3.00 a month, you only get 30 min/texts (combined) a month.  There is NO DATA on this plan.  If you have a smart phone, you can certainly use wifi.  But note that you still use your minutes if you call/text on wifi.  With this option, my advice would be to download a free calling/texting app like TextNow for calling/texting friends and keep the actual phone number from T-Mobile private (for calling mom/dad only).  Then when on wifi, the texting app can be used for goofing around with friends.  😁   The Blu R1 HD  that I mentioned above WILL work on T-Mobile’s network.  When I was in the store, they also had a promotion going on where you could get a FREE phone by putting $100 on the account in advance.  So, for $100, you can get the phone, a year’s worth of service and a little cushion in case you would like to add a data pack for a day/week or if there are any overages, etc.  Pretty decent deal!  A few things to know about this pre-paid plan is that you are NOT eligible for the fun extras offered by T-mobile, such as the T-Mobile Tuesdays, checking voicemail does use your minutes, any money you put on the account if you want to pre-pay will expire in a year.

Those were the lowest cost options I found.  Worth a mention are some other low cost options such as Tello and Ting.  Both offer low cost prepaid plans and phones.