If you’re in the market for the first smartphone for your tween, the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone is well worth considering.
Buying a first phone for your child can be daunting. It’s a toss-up between a less connected (and less versatile) feature phone or a cheap smartphone that requires system configuration and third-party apps to make it safer.
Opel strives to find a balance between those two options with its SmartKids Phone, which is an entry-level Android smartphone albeit without cameras and with baked-in easy-to-access parental controls.
Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone price
It doesn’t get much cheaper than this. The cheapest smartphones start at around the $200 mark, and those are more targeted at adult users than younger people. At $249RRP, the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone is a reasonable starting price for a first smartphone that’s built with tweens in mind.
Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone design and setup
As you’d expect at this price point, the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone has a plastic back. That back is removable, too, and you’ll need to do that at least once to insert the battery, SIM card and, optionally, the memory-expanding MicroSD card. Given the lack of any cameras, though—one of the kid-protecting perks of the handset—the 32GB internal storage should be sufficient.
Refreshingly, the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone comes with a solid case and a screen protector as well as functional (but not great) in-ear headphones with a single contextual playback-control button. For the headphones, the volume doesn’t get too loud, but one of the tips was detached when I unboxed so I had to fiddle to get that reattached.
On the case, the buttons are closer to immovable than responsive, which takes some getting used to. Also, trying to take the phone out of the case may result in the plastic back of the phone being left inside the case (that’s what happened in my tests).
Setup will be familiar to any parent who’s bought an Android phone. We advise the parent sets up the phone and optionally has their child add a Google account (needed to access the Google Play Store apps). The next step is to install the Opel Mobile Guardian app on the parent phone. Create an account, then open the SmartKids app on the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone to scan the QR code from the parent’s phone and configure settings.
Back on the parent’s phone, you can now create a user profile for your child’s Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone. Thankfully, this is a subscription-free service that’s free to download and use.
Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone parental controls
According to Opel, the company conducted research and built the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone to address three parental concerns for kids with phones: sharing personal information online, screen time, and use of unsuitable apps. Unlike the average Android phone, which needs parental options activated in settings and via third-party apps, the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone makes this process more straightforward.
Once you’ve followed the configuration steps outlined in the previous section, you’re ready to perform a range of remote parental controls. Use GPS functionality to see where the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone is located, where it’s been, and to create geofences for movement-based alerts. Phone contacts can be whitelisted, screentime is manageable on a per-app basis, and you can monitor app activity on the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone.
You can configure specific SOS contacts, too, in the event your child presses the SOS button from within the SmartKids app. Even if you don’t configure specific contacts, you should receive an alert on the phone you configured the Opel Mobile Guardian app on, which is a nice touch. On the SmartKids Phone, your child can cancel the SOS within three seconds or otherwise let you know they’re safe at the tap of a button afterwards.
On the parent’s phone, the home screen for the Opel Mobile Guardian app should show the current location of your child’s Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone, current battery percentage (another nice touch), as well as recent locations and recent activities. In a few taps, you can enable or disable access to apps, set time limits, or tweak other parental control settings. In my tests, these were easy to configure and were replicated almost instantly on the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone.
Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone performance
The Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone is a cheap phone, so you shouldn’t expect a whole lot on the performance front. This phone is best used with one or two apps at a time, and your kids may have to practice patience.
I found that I had to deliberately slow down keyboard inputs to ensure everything registered correctly, even though the vibrating feedback told me my inputs were being acknowledged by the phone. Odd. There’s also a noticeable delay when opening apps or even when shifting between screens in apps.
None of it is a dealbreaker, and the performance is good enough for a $249 phone. But it definitely feels like a better fit for tweens than teens, particularly given the lack of any cameras. Also hope that your kid isn’t savvy enough to disable the app permissions required to monitor things from the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone’s settings menu.
Admittedly, not being able to lock down the settings menu on the Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone is an understandable Android restriction. Opel has anticipated tech-savvy kids, though, so keep an eye out for notifications on the Opel Mobile Guardian app about sneaky changes to permissions that block functionality.
Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone vs other brands
|Best overall||$194||6.5 inches||Up to two days||Full||View on The Good Guys|
|Best budget||$75||2.4 inches||Up to 24 days||Partial||View on Amazon|
|Best 'dumb' phone||$59||2.4 inches||Up to seven days||None||View on Woolworths|
|Best for tweens||$199||6.5 inches||Up to two days||Full||View on Big W|
|Best for teens||$299||6.5 inches||Up to two days||Full||View on Kogan|
|Best parental controls||$249||5.5 inches||A day or so||Full||View on The Good Guys|
The Opel Mobile SmartKids Phone is a noble first crack at merging the inherent safety of a feature phone with some of the versatility of a smartphone. At $249, it’s a decent price for an entry-level smartphone with some easy-to-use parental controls. Still, depending on how close to teen your kid is, you might be better off opting for a faster smartphone with a camera and relying on third-party parental control apps.
How we choose the best mobile phones for kids
We make our picks based on our extensive experience with feature phones and smart phones, research, as well as deep knowledge of Australian prepaid plans. While it would be easy to just recommend cheap smartphones, we appreciate that feature phones have a place for younger mobile phone users.
To make our picks, we draw on our own hands-on experience or analyse reviews from reputable Australian sites, as well as feedback from user reviews. First and foremost, a mobile phone for kids has to have great battery life, and we treat up to two days of battery life as the minimum.
Price is absolutely important, especially because the cost of a mobile phone has to then be paired with the ongoing cost of a phone plan, so we keep our recommendations under $300 to buy a handset outright. While feature phones are a great way to keep your kids save from the wild World Wide Web, these phones also tend to lack handy components like GPS tracking, WiFi and apps for managing parental controls.