Are you considering purchasing your child their first smartphone this Christmas? Here’s our recommendations for Canadian parents:
Every year we are asked by parents, “What kind of a smartphone do you recommend for our child’s first cellular device?” In 2017, we wrote an article called, “Is My Child Ready for a Cell Phone?” (1). Although it is two years old, many of the principles in that article are still very sound today, and we believe that blog post should be read by all parents who are considering the purchase of a cellphone for their child this Christmas season. Many of the popular smartphones on the market today are very costly and often technologically overpowered—especially when it comes to a teen’s first phone. We decided to look for an entry-level, non-flip, “smarter” cellphone that we could recommend to parents who are considering gifting a phone to their child this Christmas season. We also want any phone that we are going to recommend to fulfill the following specifications:
#1: We wanted a reliable phone that is under $100.00CAD before taxes. Given how these phones get treated by many first-time teen users, the likelihood of breakage or the accidental loss of the phone is a real possibility. So, we wanted to find a phone that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to purchase or replace if needed.
#2: Although we love iPhones, they are expensive and very restrictive when it comes to adding a third-party parental monitoring and filtering option. This is why we are now recommending an Android phone as a teen’s first device, given that their operating system, unlike the iPhone, allows for third-party installations. Once your child shows responsible digital citizenship and stewardship of the phone itself, then consideration can be given that maybe their next phone can be a more premium Android or even an iPhone instead.
#3: We didn’t want the purchase of the phone to come with an expensive, 2-year contract that a parent would be locked into. We looked for a phone that had no carrier commitments and no contracts. We wanted to find a reasonably-priced, month-to-month, pay-as-you-go option given that these types of plans offer the most flexibility for parents.
#4: We wanted a phone plan that also offered free voicemail, free caller ID, free call waiting, and free incoming text messages.
#5: We also wanted to find a phone plan that is flexible and offers several specific options:
- phone only
- phone and text-only
- and lastly, phone, text, and data combined.
Again, we wanted a plan that offers the ability to fit the needs of a specific child and their family.
#6: We wanted to identify an Android phone and operating system that supports the parental monitoring and filtering software that we will be recommending in this article.
The entry-level phone that meets the above-noted specifications that we are recommending for a young teen’s first smartphone this year is the Figo Orbit 2, which is presently being sold online, or in-store, if available, by 7-11 Canada for $79.99CAD. https://www.speakout7eleven.ca/phones
Until Jan 2020, 7-11 is also offering a further discounted rate on this phone with the purchase of what they call a “Top Up.” https://www.speakout7eleven.ca/deal?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrou-od3b5QIVFq5kCh1a_gJhEAAYASAAEgKtd_D_BwE This plan will allow parents to purchase the phone for $29.99 with the purchase of their “Top Up” feature that they can apply to any of the below-noted, month-to-month, pay-as-you-go plans.
There are a variety of pay-as-you-go monthly plans through “Speak Out Canada,” a cellular carrier that has partnered with 7-11 and uses the Rogers cellular network. We recommend starting with the 200 Canada-wide minute plan, which includes unlimited texting, for just $20.00.
As your child progresses and shows greater responsibility with the phone, you can then add on a further 100MB data plan for $10.00, or even a premium month-to-month, pay-as-you-go plan https://www.speakout7eleven.ca/plans/. However, it’s our recommendation that before you give them too much cellular data, you start with the $20.00 plan first, then (if needed) add on the $10.00 data plan second, and then consider the smartphone plans as the last step once they show good digital citizenship with their phone. We believe that incremental steps are always an ideal way to teach youth responsibility with their first phone. Remember, even without a data plan your child will still be able to access the internet for free via Wi-Fi at home, school or any other open Wi-Fi source.
Once you have purchased the phone and have decided on the appropriate month-to-month, pay-as-you-go plan, you will also have to purchase a SIM card for $10.00.
A 200-minute plan with unlimited texting in Canada (no data) and a sim card means the total cost for the phone (without the Top Up option) will be $110, plus all applicable taxes. This is a FANTASTIC DEAL!
For the phone WITH the Top Up feature that you can apply to the 200-minute plan for 5 months plus a SIM card, the cost will be approximately $140, plus all applicable taxes. In our opinion, this is the BEST DEAL!
Again, this is an entry-level smartphone that does not have the same quality, power, responsiveness, or features as a premium smartphone. We want you to think of this phone as “tech training wheels” that a pre-teen/early teen will have to learn how to master and respect first before upgrading to a more expensive and more powerful phone.
Another challenge that we identified with the Speak Out Canada cellular carrier is that it piggybacks onto the Rogers cellular network. What this means is that if there is no Rogers network in your area, then you will not have any coverage. Here’s a link to Speak Out Canada’s coverage area: https://www.speakout7eleven.ca/support/coverage/. Also, this phone and the Speak-Up phone plan is not available in Quebec, Yukon, North West Territories, and Nunavut.
Now that your child has a fully functioning, smarter phone, we also think you should consider the following three recommendations:
So, it’s Christmas Day, and your child has just opened their gift to reveal a brand-new smartphone. Given that the Android platform allows parents to add third-party parental monitoring and filtering software, we recommend that you now also consider downloading the “Boomerang App” onto their phone: https://www.thewhitehatter.ca/monitoring-and-filtering-tools. Once you click on the provided link, choose “Purchase Boomerang” to purchase and download it onto your child’s new phone.
We also recommend, based upon financial ability, to further layer parental oversight by considering the installation of “Circle” onto your home Wi-Fi. Information on Circle can be found in the above-noted link.
To provide those under the age of 13 with a safer online experience where they can learn how to text, message, and share pictures with other family members, and even friends, we recommend that you also download a messaging app called Kinzoo: https://kinzoo.com. We have worked with Kinzoo, a Canadian-based company, and their family messaging app was built with privacy and security as its foundation. They do not sell any personal information about its users to any third parties. The Kinzoo app for Android should be available for download by early 2020. (Note: Kinzoo for iPhone is already available.)
The last step is to download and implement our free “White Hatter Family Collective Agreement” that can be located here: https://www.thewhitehatter.ca/parents This document clearly outlines acceptable and unacceptable use of digital devices, both inside and outside the home. Once read and signed by all family members, this document should be posted in a public place in the home for all to see as a constant reminder.
We here at The White Hatter team believe that this phone, combined with the Speak-Up Canada month-to-month, pay-as-you-go plan, is a sound, entry-level smartphone that is not going to cost you a fortune this holiday shopping season.
Merry Christmas 2019
The White Hatter Team