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Gabb vs. Troomi: What’s the Best Phone for Kids and Teens?

Looking for a safer smartphone for your teen or tween? They can have a great camera, limited (but functional) features, and still have help from the parents in making good tech choices. Both Gabb and Troomi offer safe phones that look just like smartphones — but the features and plans are incredibly different! Here’s our family’s experience…

A few months ago Leah asked for a tech meeting with Mom and Dad. She presented a list of reasons why the Gabb phone wasn’t fulfilling her needs, and she wanted to move up to a smartphone.

She’s 13 years old and had only had her Gabb phone for about 6 months.

Were we ready to open up the wide world of the Internet (including social media) to her?

child on phone

What’s the Best Phone for Kids and Teens?

Her presentation was sooooo well done and very convincing, and we wanted to say yes…but I hesitated. And thank goodness I did, because I learned about the Troomi phone just a few days later on a meet-and-greet call with the company. It literally fulfilled EVERY request Leah had made! It was almost like the Troomi features went through her presentation point by point.

This phone would be exactly what we wanted – kind of a smartphone yet with tons of safety features, limited browsing, and no social media.

At the end of the call, the founder of the company says to me, “So – can we send you a phone?”

I had three thoughts simultaneously:

  1. Leah is a fortunate kid because this is going to save her $180.
  2. Paul, the big brother, is going to be jealous because it was less than a year ago that he had to pay for his own real smartphone. 😀
  3. Dang! I have a cool job when people just offer me a phone.

Leah has been loving the Troomi since the moment she tore it out of the mailbox and RIPPED it open, so I’m really confident in recommending it to older kids (and there’s even a Gabb-style level for younger kids).

We parents love the parent portal and the oversight we can have, and we definitely love the fact that there’s NO social media and a very limited browser.

The only problem is that I’m a little jealous because her phone takes better pictures than mine. 😮

Best phone for kids and teens

Want $50 Off a Troomi Phone?

Use code KCRF at checkout to get $50 off a Troomi phone.

Yep, I’m an affiliate and will earn a commission, but we obviously use and love this phone. Leah is working for her cell plan by doing these videos! My kids planned, filmed, and edited this video on their own. 🙂

Honest Review of Gabb Vs. Troomi: Kid-Safe Smart(ish)phones

If you can’t see the video above, view our Gabb vs. Troomi Review directly on YouTube.

If you’re curious about some of Leah’s points, they included:

  • Wanting a better camera (this phone that you’ll get has an awesome one, better than the one on my phone)
  • A note-taking app
  • The ability to text photos and group text
  • Getting emails on her phone
  • Being able to check schoolwork on the phone
  • Listening to music and audiobooks more easily (possible on the Gabb but super complicated and didn’t always work) Leah has motion sickness, so audiobooks for long trips save her.

There were a few more but all have been fulfilled by the Troomi phone.

The Best Phone for Kids Grows With the Child

Because we waited until our kids were older than many to get a smartphone, Leah was ready for the top-tier plan. We can still give her less restricted access to the Internet, so she doesn’t have the full breadth of this plan yet. I wanted to explain how the three Troomi plans can really grow with your child

Plan #1: Do

This plan has the same features as Gabb’s lowest tier (but for less money). Your child can talk and text unlimited, you can be in control of every number that’s allowed to contact them, and GPS can keep track of their location in an emergency. 

That’s it! Simple, safe, connected. 

girl on the phone

Plan #2: Dream

This plan has all the same features as “Do” but adds photo and video texting plus group texts. It allows your child one more step into responsibility but still seriously less access to the Internet (i.e. none) and far fewer features to distract and addict than a regular smartphone. 

The camera on this phone, the A12 that Leah has, is excellent, and she’s so thrilled. See the video for a side-by-side of Gabb and Troomi photos. The other phone Troomi offers is more expensive and has an even BETTER camera, but Leah and I watched some reviews and decided that for the cost, it wasn’t something she needed. 

This plan also has an equal plan at Gabb, but Troomi is currently less expensive (and no contract at all). 

Plan #3: Discover

This plan gets kids much closer to a “real” smartphone but still has a lot of parental controls to ease the transition from “some responsibility” to “too much responsibility.” I’ve always been a big proponent of giving kids more and more independence, little doses at a time. I call it, “letting out the apron strings” or “increasing the boundaries,” and I’m tickled that Troomi literally allows this with technology in a way I’ve never seen another company do. 

Discover includes:

  • talk, text, photos, group text (everything from the other 2 plans)
  • KidSmart Safe Browser
  • KidSmart Safe Apps

Parents have to approve each app through our portal or our own smartphone app – both super easy to use, and I hate new technology. 😉 

All apps have already been vetted by Troomi to make sure there’s no way strangers can communicate with the kids and no backdoors to pornography or other harms. The company takes recommendations from the community for new apps and is constantly adding more. But never any social media, which is great, because brain science is continually finding that kids’ and teens’ brains aren’t ready for the scrolling addictiveness and comparisonitis and false views of the world that social media brings. 

girl taking picture with phone

The KidSmart browser is incredibly limited — we get to approve each and every URL that Leah can view. That sounds annoying, but it feels worth it. 

She can check her grades and schoolwork, get recipes from her favorite few sites (ahem, Kitchen Stewardship®!), and go to a select few other sites she’s requested. She can’t search and stumble across anything nefarious. If she wants to look something up, like most homes I’m sure, we have computers she can use which are a lot easier for parents to peek at over a shoulder and harder to take places in your pocket. (We still have Disney Circle to attempt to filter what comes up in any search on devices in our home as well.)

Parents Love Troomi Too

Troomi has done a brilliant job creating a stepping stone technology option that keeps the worst of the Internet away from my kids while allowing them to connect with their friends and use functionality that helps their life, rather than hindering it. 

I don’t think I could have thought of a better system myself, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to! 

We were THIS CLOSE to accepting Leah’s proposal because she was so organized and supported her points so well. But I was having heart palpitations thinking about how I was going to manage the social media issue. Troomi saved the day


Another Option for Teens: Pinwheel Phones

I recently had Pinwheel phones recommended by Andrea Davis of Better Screen Time as another great option for a smartphone for teens.

Pinwheel allows parents to choose a safelist of contacts, has vetted apps, GPS locator, screen time schedules, no social media, and it allows you to add the phone to your carrier. You pay a monthly fee for the phone rather than buying it outright, so there’s less upfront cost, but a larger monthly cost.

Worth checking out if you’re in the market for a smartphone for a teen!

Share this with your friends with teens!
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.
Category: The Reviews

9 thoughts on “Gabb vs. Troomi: What’s the Best Phone for Kids and Teens?”

  1. I ordered today the Troomi phone with the $19.95 monthly plan with unlimited minutes and text but noticed an extra monthly charge of $8.95 for taxes. I think this is way too high, I’ve searched more info on this, but Troomi does not mention it anywhere, nor any review online. Does anybody who has this service knows anything about this extra charge?

    I mean, we all know paying taxes is a must, buy my question is why Troomy hides this info, so we parents can decide and adjust our budgets, to me it seems like a misleading advertising, since none of their phone plans mentions, that taxes are not included.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      That sounds very frustrating Carlos. I know cell phone taxes are always pretty high, and I do find it odd that they don’t have an asterisk that says +tax or something like that where they show their prices. I’d reach out to the company and explain your disappointment, maybe they’ll make some changes to their site!

  2. I hate that I am late in joining the party! My daughter currently has a Gabb phone but was looking about changing to the Troomi after seeing this post. Missed the discount but was wondering if you would be offering it again, as that would make it worth the switch?

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      You can use the code in the post for a $50 discount still! The free phone was a limited deal and we don’t know when or if Troomi will offer it again. Sorry you missed it!

    2. Troomi has a flaw in one of the apps that opens up a full, unrestricted browser. My son found this flaw and told us about it on the very first day of having a Troomi phone. We switched from Gabb to Troomi because they wanted a few more apps but we had to disable that app because of the ability to open up a browser.

      Troomi is nice because you can read the texts from a browser and you have more control over their contacts and can even set limits but this one problem really goes against the entire reason for the Troomi existence. Even turning off “web access” did nothing to fix that problem.

      1. Wow that is an issue! Have you contacted the company? I wonder if it is something they can fix?

  3. Thanks Katie what a great find! One of the other things I struggle with in the decision on when/what to get when it comes to kids phones is the EMF exposure. Wondering if/how this might have played into your decision? Also what age did you start the gab phone with your kids? Thank you!

    1. Hi Michelle! I’m super late responding to this, my apologies – the No More Picky Eating Challenge has taken up many hours (but it’s making a difference for families, so worth it!).

      As for EMFs, I sort of wave the white flag on that one. 🙁 I tell my kids to avoid putting a laptop on their laps, encourage them to hold phones away from their heads when calling (not that kids ever call anyone though!), and we have some of the shields for a few devices, but even those I’m a bit jaded about because if you’re only blocking one side of, say, a laptop…can that really help exposure? Sigh. This is a good reminder to chat with the 2 kids who do have phones about not leaving them in a pocket/on their person when they’re at home and it’s not necessary, keeping the phone in the backpack at school instead of pocket since they can’t use them in school anyway, etc. So those are the mitigation strategies I use. I won’t go for a wifi watch for younger kids b/c I do think that’s unnecessary EMF exposure though! Baby steps…

      My 2 kids got their Gabb phones at incredibly different ages! I was thinking I told the whole story in this tech time for teens posts but I didn’t! I added that to my post idea list. 🙂 In a nutshell, the kids had to present to the parents why they thought they were (a) responsible enough for a phone, and (b) had a genuine need for one. My son made his presentation at about 13 years old, I think, and we told him he needed to demonstrate more responsibility and we’d have monthly meetings to discuss progress and goals. He didn’t end up getting a Gabb phone until he was 15! He graduated to a smart phone a few months after he turned 16 because of needs with driving. Honestly he could alllllmost still be on a Troomi if that had existed when we leveled him up. My daughter made her presentation quite well a few months before she turned 13, got the hand-me-down Gabb phone from her brother, and then leveled up to a Troomi at about 13.5 years old. Kids are different! 😉

      Best, Katie

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