Best iPhone for Kids iMore 2021
So, the time has come to purchase an iPhone for your child. Which one should you buy? Our top pick is the iPhone 12, which happens to be Apple's current flagship device. It's a highly-rated smartphone that comes in the sweetest colors on the planet and is also packed with the awesome features your 21st-century kiddo expects and wants. We've gathered other noteworthy models to help you choose the one that fits your needs best.
- Best Overall: iPhone 12
- Best Alternative: iPhone 11
- Best Small Display: iPhone 12 mini
- Best Best Budget: iPhone SE (2020)
- Best Premium: iPhone 12 Pro
- Best Large Display: iPhone 12 Pro Max
Best Overall: iPhone 12
The iPhone 12 was introduced alongside the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Available in Blue, Green, PRODUCT (RED), White, and Black, the model is available with 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage. Like the other 2020 iPhones, this model is compatible with MagSafe accessories and wireless chargers. It also features 5G wireless, where available, for super-fast downloads and high‑quality streaming. The iPhone 12's battery is designed to allow for up to 17 hours of video-playing between charges, 11 hours when that video is streamed, and up to 65 hours of audio playback. With fast-charge, you can get up to a 50% charge in just 30 minutes.
Phones and kids sometimes mean unexpected falls, which is why we highly recommend this model. It offers a ceramic shield front that provides four times the protection of previous iPhone models. However, you should still consider one of the best iPhone 12 cases to add further protection. The phone's body is made from aerospace-grade aluminum, and it provides water resistance to a depth of six meters for up to 30 minutes.
This year's flagship iPhone comes with a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display, an A14 Bionic chip, currently the fastest in any smartphone. On the back, you'll find a dual 12MP camera system (Ultra Wide and Wide); on the front, there's a 12MP TrueDepth camera. Together, kids have all the tools they need to take high-quality photos and videos. They can also take advantage of Animoji and Memoji, which they can send to their friends.
There are four main areas where the iPhone 12 compares unfavorably with the much higher-priced iPhone 12 Pro. Only the Pro models feature a Telephoto camera and a LiDAR Scanner for Night mode portraits, faster autofocus in low light, and next-level AR experiences. The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are also the only two 2020 models to include surgical-grade stainless steel. And finally, only the Pro models come with up to 512GB of storage. Most kids won't need these additional features.
If you love the look of the iPhone 12 but think it's too big for your child, keep reading and consider the iPhone 12 mini. Otherwise, understand the iPhone 12 is the best iPhone for kids this year.
- Today's flagship
- Same internals as the Pro models
- 5G wireless
- No triple camera on the back
- No 512GB option
Best Alternative: iPhone 11
Last year's best iPhone for kids, the iPhone 11, is still a terrific choice, especially for kids, who want a 6.1-inch display like the iPhone 12, but have parents who want to spend less.
This handset, made with aerospace-grade aluminum, includes a glass-front Liquid Retina HD display and a dual 12MP Ultra-Wide and Wide camera system. On the front, there's the 12MP TrueDepth camera. Available in Purple, Green, Yellow, Black, White, and PRODUCT(RED), the iPhone 11 is one of the most colorful models ever produced.
In terms of battery life, the iPhone 11 provides up to 17 hours of video-playing between charges, 10 hours with streaming video, and up to 65 hours of audio playback. Here you can also get up to a 50% charge in just 30 minutes.
When compared to the iPhone 12, the iPhone 11 is available with 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB of storage and uses Face ID for login purposes. Unlike the newer model, the iPhone 11 doesn't offer a ceramic front and back or an OLED display, nor will you find MagSafe capability. Water-resistance on the iPhone 11 maxes out at a depth of two meters for up to 30 minutes.
And yet, make no mistake, this is still a terrific phone that will provide your child with years of enjoyment and for two Benjamins less than the iPhone 12.
- Large display for less
- Six unique colors
- Dual camera system
- LCD, not OLED
- Front and back include glass, not ceramic.
- Less water resistance.
Best Small Display: iPhone 12 mini
In the iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 mini comparison, one thing immediately stands out; they are nearly the same. Excluding the iPhone 12 mini's smaller display (5.4-inches vs. 6.1-inches), the two handsets share the same internals, same camera systems, and same materials.
Beyond size, the smaller one provides less battery life; up to 15 hours of video-playing, 10 hours when the video is streamed, and up to 50 hours of audio playback. Pixel resolution is also ever-so-slightly less.
The bottom line: You should purchase this model for your child if they like everything about the iPhone 12 but want a smaller display. Price is less of a factor here since there's only a $100 difference between the two.
- Nearly the same as the iPhone 12 inside
- Small, compact design
- It's pricey for its size
- Battery life
- No triple camera on the back
Best Budget: iPhone SE (2020)
Not everyone wants to buy a new iPhone every year with the latest bells and whistles. For those folks, there's the iPhone SE (2020). The iPhone SE (2020) looks a lot like the iPhone 8, but at a much lower price.
Featuring Touch ID, not Face ID, the 4.7-inch iPhone SE (2020) is still packed with plenty of features that make it worth considering. These include a 12MP camera and 7 MP FaceTime HD camera, A13 Bionic chip with a third-generation Neural Engine, wireless charging, Haptic Touch, and more. Better still, the iPhone SE (2020) is available for hundreds less than other handsets on this list.
- Much less than iPhone 12 series
- Tried and true design
- Is a 4.7-inch display enough?
- Touch ID, not Face ID
Best Premium: iPhone 12 Pro
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max (see below) are identical except for their sizes, 6.1-inches vs. 6.7-inches. In turn, the Pro models are nearly the same as the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini internally, although key differences on the outside remain. For example, all four iPhone 12 models have an A14 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine, Face ID, 5G capabilities, and MagSafe support. The iPhone 12 Pro offers up to 17 hours of video playback, 11 hours of video-streaming, and 65 hours of audio enjoyment.
Beyond this, the Pro models have a stronger body (ceramic front shield and surgical-grade stainless steel), one more camera (Hi, there Telephoto), a LIDAR Scanner, and more storage options. They also come in different colors: Pacific Blue, Gold, Graphite, and Silver.
The biggest negative here shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The iPhone 12 Pro is expensive at every storage level.
- Same camera specs as Max
- Unique colors
- Telephoto lens
- Strong body
- Same display as iPhone 12
Best Large Display: iPhone 12 Pro Max
Display size isn't the only difference between this year's iPhone Pro models. However, it might be the only thing noticed by most buyers. Beyond display size, the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers a 5x optical zoom range on its camera system, versus the iPhone 12 Pro's 4x optical zoom range. The larger model also offers better battery life; up to 20 hours of video playback, 12 hours of streaming video, and 65 hours of audio. That's it!
Like with the iPhone 12 Pro, you need to ask yourself whether buying your kiddo an iPhone Pro is the right choice. If it is and they want the biggest iPhone display to date, this is the one to buy.
- Most prominent iPhone display to date
- Great rear- and front-facing camera
- Blazing fast
- Difficult to hold with one hand
The best iPhone for kids
If you're looking for an Apple handset for your kiddo, you'll quickly notice there's a wide selection from which to choose. Our advice is to go with the iPhone 12, which provides most of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max features, but for less. It also comes in more vibrant colors, which might be important to your son or daughter.
Among the features packed into this beast is Apple's A14 Bionic chip with the next-generation Neural Engine. You'll also find 5G support, MagSafe compatibility, and much more.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. I hope my 14-year old daughter doesn't see this post! As she would tell you, she's currently "stuck" with an iPhone 7 Plus. Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @bryanmwolfe.
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