Pinwheel Phone Review

After trying out the Pinwheel software, we liked how much control parents have on the kid’s Pinwheel phone.
Best for parental control
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Pinwheel
  • pro
    No social media access
  • pro
    No internet access
  • con
    Lowest priced phone only works with Mint Mobile
Phone options
Price
Compatible with major carriers
Pinwheel slim 5
Icon No  LightNo
Pinwheel rugged 3
Icon Yes  LightYes (T-Mobile)
Pinwheel plus 2
Icon Yes  LightYes
Alina Bradford
Senior Writer, Safety & Security Expert
October 25, 2022

The Pinwheel phone allows your kid to contact you but keeps them safe from things they’re not ready for, like web browsing and social media apps. Plus, kids don’t have access to an app store, so your curious tot won’t download something they shouldn’t.

Is it the perfect kid phone? Well, no. It has drawbacks when we compare it to other top kid phones. It doesn’t have its own mobile service, and not all of its phones are compatible with major carriers. But, the Pinwheel phone is a solid choice for parents who need a phone that can grow with their child.

pro
Pros
pro No access to websites
pro No access to social media
pro Super customizable parental controls
con
Cons
con Doesn’t provide mobile service
con Lowest priced phone only works with Mint Mobile

Compare Pinwheel phone pricing vs competitors

Product
Best for
Phone price
Service price
Integrated parental controls
Internet access
Social media
Learn more
Best for no web access Depends on carrier
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Best overall

$19.99/mo.

Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Best kids smartphone

Depends on carrier

Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best for budgets

Depends on carrier

Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best kids flip phone

$19.99/mo.

Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Best kids smartwatch

$10.00/mo.

Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer


Pinwheel subscription monthly fees

Pinwheel has a $15 per month subscription plan. The subscription includes access to the Caregiver Portal and the software for the child's device. This only covers one line, though. Additional lines can be added for $5 per month for each line on top of the $15 per month.

What's in the box

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  • Pinwheel phone
  • Charger
  • Mint Mobile sim card (optional)
  • Cell phone case (optional)
  • Screen protector (optional)
  • Bark services (optional)

Pinwheel comes with optional goodies you can add on at checkout. You can add a Mint sim card for $1, a cell phone case for $9.99, a screen protector for $9.99, and Bark services for $5 per month. Learn more in our Bark review.

Pinwheel parental controls are easy to use

We found the parental controls easy to use while setting up the Pinwheel app. To get started, you just choose your child’s contacts, whether you want to restrict your child’s phone at night, and some fun child-friendly apps. Done!

Once you’ve got the basic setup, the real customization begins. You can choose to allow your child to add contacts on their own, or whether you want to pre-approve all contacts.

You can also add some fun to the phone with Pinwheel’s list of over 400 child-safe apps. Some apps include drawing apps, music apps, stress relieving apps, and weather apps. We had a little trouble finding the apps we wanted, but after a little tinkering, we figured it out.

Want to check in? You can easily see who your child has been talking to or texting on the web parent portal dashboard or on the Pinwheel caregiver portal app.

Pinwheel lets you schedule everything

Parents can control the Pinwheel phone on the online or app dashboard.

One of our favorite things about Pinwheel is you have full control. You can choose when your child can use certain approved apps, their amount of screentime, and how they text and call certain contacts.

For example, during school hours, you can turn off access to all the apps, or you can leave on certain apps that can help during school, like PowerPoint or Google Classroom. Plus, you can make it so they can only call you when they are at school.

Not every day is the same, and Pinwheel seems to have considered that when designing their phones. You can set up schedules for different days. For example, if your child only goes to school four days a week, you can make a different schedule for school, another for their day off, and then another schedule for weekends.

Pinwheel’s parental controls are much more customizable than other top brands like Gabb.

Pinwheel supports multiple major carriers, sort of

Unlike Gabb phones, Pinwheel smartphones don’t come with unlimited talk and text messages. You’ll need to set the phone up with a mobile carrier. Your first instinct is to just set it up with your phone's carrier, but not so fast.

Pinwheel advertises that it’s compatible with all major carriers, but there are some exceptions. Pinwheel's least expensive phone, the Pinwheel Slim 5,  is only compatible with Mint Mobile. Its more rough-and-tumble design, the Pinwheel Rugged 3, is only compatible with T-Mobile. Only the Pinwheel Plus 2 is compatible with all major carriers like Verizon and AT&T.

Final word

The Pinwheel phone is perfect for parents that want their kids to have a “real” phone but want to fully customize their child’s experience. The only major drawback we found is these phones don’t come with mobile service, and only one of the phone options is compatible with all major brands.

Pinwheel FAQ

Pinwheel is a phone intended for children. Parents have full control over how the device is used and what apps can be downloaded. Parents can also track all phone calls and messages on the device.

The Pinwheel Slim 5 is compatible with Mint Mobile, the Pinwheel Rugged 3 is compatible with T-Mobile, and the Pinwheel Plus 2 is compatible with all major carriers like Verizon and AT&T.

No, but its caregiver portal app is available in the Android and Apple app stores.

Yes, Pinwheel has a curated app store with more than 400 child-safe apps.

Yup, each one has two cameras. The Slim 5 has a 48MP back camera and a 13MP selfie camera. The Rugged 3 has a 20MP and 2MP dual main camera and a 5MP selfie camera. The Plus 2 has a 50MP main camera and a 5MP selfie camera.

It really depends on the phone and the kid. We break it down for you in our guide What Age Should Kids Get a Phone?

How we reviewed Pinwheel phones

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Image: SafeWise. 

For our Pinwheel phone review, we tried out the Pinwheel caregiver portal app ourselves. We looked for features that kids and parents would like using our dozens of years of safety experience and parenting experience. We also read customer reviews and compared the device to other kid phones we’ve tried.

For more on how we review products and services, please see our Safewise methodology page.

Related articles on SafeWise


Disclaimer

Amazon: *Product prices and availability are accurate as of post date and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

Alina Bradford
Written by
Alina Bradford
Alina is a safety and security expert that has contributed her insights to CNET, CBS, Digital Trends, MTV, Top Ten Reviews, and many others. Her goal is to make safety and security gadgets less mystifying one article at a time. In the early 2000s, Alina worked as a volunteer firefighter, earning her first responder certification and paving the way to her current career. Her activities aren’t nearly as dangerous today. Her hobbies include fixing up her 100-year-old house, doing artsy stuff, and going to the lake with her family.

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