First Phones for Kids: What Parents Need to Know

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-08-11 Print this article Print

Hyers added, as an interesting side note, that there's a trend of kids becoming disenchanted with the iPhone, because so many of them are using old ones. Hyers said he thought the data coming in couldn't possibly be right, but he looked around and found other researchers finding the same thing.

"We found that the iPhone and iPad were being viewed as an older person's device, and not as cool as they once were."

Prepaid plans can start as low as $10 a month for limited service and often a parent can just buy the SIM—an ideal scenario for passing on a hand-me-down device where the SIM is accessible.

Among the many, many prepaid offers out there, Cricket Wireless, for example, offers contract-free talk-and-text only plans starting at $25 a month for 300 minutes.

For a teen who wants a data plan, but who maybe hasn't yet proven himself responsible enough for an annual plan, Walmart's Straight Talk Wireless offers a SIM-only (use your own phone), no contract, unlimited 30-day plan for $45 a month.

Consumer Reports, in a January report on prepaid services, said it found people in its surveys were happier with the service from Straight Talk than with prepaid plans from any of the major carriers.

For those who'd rather that the whole family stay on one plan, T-Mobile now separates the matter of buying a phone from buying phone service, which makes it very straightforward to consider pricing options.

On a T-Mobile Family Plan, three lines start at $90 per month—the first line is $50, the second $30 and the last $10. Each phone gets unlimited talk, text and Web, though after each hits 500MB of data, users are knocked down to a slower network. For four lines, under the same conditions, the monthly rate is $100.

On the Verizon Wireless network, Share Everything plans are tallied by adding the price of the amount of data you want to the price of the device you'd like to connect. Smartphones are $40 each per month, tablets are $10 and feature phones are $30. While 500MB is $40 per month, that's a bucket of data that all three smartphones would be sipping from—versus 500MB each on T-Mobile.

A near equivalent would be to pay $60 for 2GB (plus unlimited talk and text) that the three phones could share, for a monthly total of $180.

AT&T's Mobile Share plans work much like Verizon's, except the cost per device goes down the more data you buy. If you buy 2GB for $50 a month, the price per smartphone is $45. Three smartphones and 2GB to split between them (with unlimited talk and text) would be $185.

The Sprint network is a little different. Up to 10 lines can be added to an Unlimited, My Way plan. For three lines, the first is $50, the second $40 and the third $30. (The next four to 10 lines are $20 each.) Subscribers then have the choice of $20 a month per line for 1GB of data or $30 per month per line for the phones to have unlimited high-speed data, plus unlimited talk and messaging. Three smartphones with 1GB each per month would be $180 a month total. 


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