Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service, has conducted a consumer survey to find out how UK parents choose their child’s first smartphone, looking at costs and specs.
On average, parents stated that they spend £254 to purchase their child’s first smartphone. Parents aged 34 and under spent the most, paying on average £288 for the first handset, compared to £240 by parents aged 35-44.
Purchasing a second-hand phone or giving children a hand-me-down phone are popular methods of providing their children with a smartphone, with 38% of parents opting for either of these methods. However, purchasing a smartphone via a mobile phone network contract was also popular option with over one-third opting for this. Almost a quarter of parents went directly to the brand supplier to purchase a phone outright.
Calls, texts and data all contribute to the ongoing monthly costs of smartphone ownership. For their child’s mobile phone usage, parents stated that, on average, they’d be happy to spend £14 per month. Older parents aren’t as willing to spend as much as younger parents, with those aged 55+ looking to spend £13p/m compared to £16p/m for those aged 34 and below.
How parents paid for their child’s smartphone usage varied, with 35% being signed up to a 12, 24 or 36-month contract. Almost a third (32%) opted for a SIM-only plan, paying a monthly fee for a set amount of minutes, texts and data. The method of pay-as-you-go was slightly less popular, with 28% topping up their child’s phone as and when needed.
The study highlights that, on average, parents bought their children their first smartphone when they were nine years old. Being able to keep in touch was the most stated reason why (65%). But 30% had chosen to do so because their child’s friends had a smartphone. Over 27% bought a smartphone to keep their children busy/entertained and over a quarter (26%) of respondents purchased a phone for their child because they were using their parents’ phones.
Just over a quarter of parents bought their child the smartphone model that they asked for. However, for 45% of parents, the first smartphone purchased for their children was the cheapest model that ticked their requirements. The requirement of Wi-Fi connectivity was the most essential feature for their children’s first smartphone, followed by the ability to make calls, then being able to send text messages, and then use data. 80% found parental controls to be an important feature in their children’s first smartphone.
Despite the good intentions of parents when purchasing their child’s first smartphone, just over a quarter (26%) regret giving them one, with three in five worrying about their social media use. Children using their smartphones too much was a concern for over half of parents (54%), with the same percentage finding that their children reacted negatively when they took their smartphones away.
Says Catherine Hiley, Uswitch mobile expert:
“Choosing a phone contract for your child can feel like a bit of a minefield. First off, you’ll need to decide how much data your child is likely to use. This will help you find a deal that meets your needs.”
“By purchasing a phone on contract, you can get a set amount of monthly calls, texts, and data. Alternatively, SIM only deals offer calls, texts and data without the added cost of a handset, making them a much cheaper option, particularly if you have a second-hand phone you’re no longer using.
“Some SIM deals are available on a rolling monthly contract, so it’s a good option if you want flexibility. You could also consider a pay-as-you-go deal that allows for more control. However, it may only be beneficial if you expect phone usage to be minimal, as frequent top-ups can become expensive.”
“If you are in the market for your child’s first smartphone and want to keep costs down, consider purchasing a refurbished phone that’s unlocked. You can then get a SIM only deal from as little as £3.95 a month. And if you sign up for a SIM deal with a 30-day rolling contract, you’ll be able to switch whenever you like.”