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?
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:
- Leah is a fortunate kid because this is going to save her $180.
- 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. 😀
- 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. 😮
Want a Free Troomi Phone?
Use code FREEA14 at checkout to get a free Samsung A14 phone for new lines!
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.
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.
- 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.
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!