It's official—school is back in session. And if your house is anything like mine, the first question you'll hear on that first day (other than "Do I really have to go back?") is "When can I get a phone?"
The decision whether or not to trust your child with a phone is a complicated one that's full of hard-to-answer questions. Will they lose it? Is it durable enough to withstand being mishandled? Can you see or control what they're doing on it?
If you're looking for an iPhone, you might be tempted to go with a iPhone 7 or even an iPhone 6 if you can find one. I'd recommend against both. With the iPhone 11 just around the corner, both devices are on their way out. In fact, the iPhone 6 won't even be supported by iOS 13. Better to go with a device that's been around long enough that it no longer commands a price premium (well, for an iPhone at least), but is still a solid performer. With a 4.7" Retina HD display, crisp resolution, and the addition of TrueTone, the iPhone 8 offers an incredibly clear picture. The 8 series iPhones are where Portrait mode made its debut as well. The iPhone 8 has fast charging, 13 hours of battery life and wireless Qi charging. The A10 Chip of the iPhone 8 also has a neural engine onboard, assisting with image and speech tasks. If you're a fan of buttons (well, virtual ones anyway), this is the last model to sport Touch ID. Depending on how you feel about facial recognition software, it's a very secure Face ID alternative. You can get AppleCare for your iPhone to replace it for $100 if its destroyed or lost. Though, with a solid build and waterproof guts, destroying the iPhone 8 is hard to do. It's also got a finder app built in so that you can track down the phone if its lost (and also, the child attached to it). With Screen Time you can keep an eye on what they're doing and limit their time online. At $599, an iPhone 8 is a big ask, but it'll give you everything you want without compromise.
I will readily admit that I'm an Apple snob. Whenever anyone asks me why their Samsung Galaxy is acting weird or wondering why there are five different bloatware apps on their phone that all seem to do the exact same thing, I'm more likely to chuckle darkly to myself than offer actionable advice. The one exception is when it comes to Google's Pixel phones. Stock Android is a wonderfully developed, smartly designed mobile OS that's a seamless extension of Google's apps and services. All of your contacts, calendars, photos, and documents are there on your phone as soon as you sign in. No backups, no restoring. Google's official phones are like a window into your online life. And the Pixel 3 is the perfect way to stay on top of all the action.
With a recent price drop to $499, the 5.5" OLED screen of the Pixel 3 barely sips battery and sports the deepest blacks you'll find on a mobile device. The Night Shift camera takes low light pics that Apple can only pine after. Plus Google Assistant is built in - screening spam calls, helping you translate conversations, get directions, and more. You can also purchase Preferred Care, which gives you two accidental damage claims and reduced fix/replace payment for incidents after that over two years. Maps has Location Sharing built right in so that family and friends you allow to see your location can do so in real time. One place where Android falls short is monitoring and controlling online activity. Their Digital Wellbeing feature is focused on the individual user, not the phone of a minor being maintained by someone else. Even so, I'll admit that when I need machine intelligence to get something done, I pop open the Google apps on my iPhone. If you're not in the Apple ecosystem, then Google's Pixel 3 is the phone you want.
I’ve been writing about technology, gadgets, and pop culture for the past two decades. I’ve seen the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple. I've watched c-beams glitte...
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