Kids cell phone versus Relay: Which is best for your family?

Victoria S.
May 21, 2018

Your kids are growing every day—going to school, sports practice, and wanting to roam a little more freely. Many of their friends might have cell phones already, and you can’t deny it would give you some peace of mind to know where your kids are, if they’re safe, and that you can get in touch with them.

But is your kid old enough for a smartphone? Do the negatives—namely screen addiction, social media and predatory ads—outweigh the positives? If you want the freedom that comes with a phone for your kids but aren’t crazy about the side-effects of screens, Relay might be a good solution for your kids. We did the numbers and will show you why.

Screen time
Fun level

4G LTE. 

When it comes to communication, both Relays and smartphones are reliable. Both smartphones and Relays access WiFi where available and use 4G LTE when it’s not. That gives them a virtually unlimited range, so you can use them at home, on the go, wherever. When your kids can reliably reach you, it can also teach them a degree of responsibility, or “device etiquette,” as one of our Beta testers put it.

"Using Relay to add independence or encourage cooperative play went perfectly, even better than giving my kid a phone does." - Sascha Segan, PC Mag


Screen time.

You’ve seen those kids—babies playing with smartphone cameras, toddlers fluently using apps on their tablet… with eyes for nothing else. Maybe you don’t want your kids to be those kids. With a smartphone, parents have to set limits on how much screen time is allowed. And they have to monitor those limits (often through considerable resistance from their kids.) Relay doesn’t have a screen. No screen, no screen addiction. Without screens, kids can explore and use their imaginations without having to worry about falling into the “infinite scrolling traps” and addictive apps that are so common today. Getting comfortable with a screenless device lets kids learn responsibility without having to juggle all the worries that hide behind screens.   

“[Relay] lets my daughters or wife keep up with each other without the temptation to hop online and scroll around.” -Kirby, Relay Beta tester



Location is a big part of safety: you should know where your kids are… But strangers should not. Smartphones use location services, but you’d have to install a separate “locate my phone” app to keep track of your kid. And more often than not, you have to manually disable location history if you don’t want it recorded by Google or Apple. With Relay, location is built-in. You can locate your child in real-time via the Relay app. It’s also an opt-in feature to give you control over your kid’s privacy, and unlike many smartphones, your location history is for your eyes only—we don’t store it on our servers. And your location data isn’t shared with anyone.

“It’s been a hit with the kids and parents who have seen it. It’s given my kids some more freedom to roam and it’s given me peace of mind.” -Alicia, Relay Beta tester



When you give your kid a smartphone, they have a camera to access and view (and share) across the internet, including social media apps and picture messaging. And that can be a little scary. You can manually install parental controls on a smartphone to block social media and certain websites, but some media can slip through the cracks. For instance, YouTube has parental controls, but you may not always agree on the meaning of age-appropriate content. Even with the YouTube Kids app, there have been concerns with inappropriate content slipping through. Relay doesn’t have a screen, so there’s no chance your kids will view anything inappropriate. For many parents who worry about text messages, in-app purchases, and kid-focused ads, removing the screen removes the problem.

“To me, no camera and no screen is a major plus for any parent [...] With the Relay kids can make mistakes, say something stupid, and not have it forwarded or stay on the internet forever.” -Bill, Relay Beta tester


Fun level.

Of course, your kids are going to have fun with any device you give them. But what kind of fun will they be having—the active, healthy kind of fun? Or the sort of fun that limits human interaction and creativity? Smartphones stop creativity and imaginative play in their tracks. Their brand of fun can keep kids indoors and hypnotized for hours. It lets them interact with friends, but through texts and apps instead of face-to-face. When you take away the screen, that playtime roadblock disappears. Relay gets your kids playing outdoors with friends. It makes a great addition to playtime with its fun echo channel, which repeats your words in funny voices, and there isn’t much incentive to sit on a couch and stare at it for hours on end. Soon Relay will also play music and let kids access a smart assistant for more on-the-go activities.

“I literally handed [the Relay] to my son when he got off the bus from school, told him to push the button and talk to me, he said ‘this is awesome!’ and ran off to play.” -Catherine, Relay Beta tester



Kids will be kids… Their tech will inevitably get dropped and tossed around, left in their backpack overnight, and probably rained on. So it's best to be prepared. Some smartphones are water-resistant, but they still require careful handling and a case/screen protector to prevent scratches, dings, and shattered screens. Relay is different. It’s water-resistant, has a long battery life, and can survive being dropped or thrown. It’s built for kids, no extra armor required.

“I've loved [Relay’s] durability. None of them has been thrown, but have been accidentally dropped a few times and it hasn't harmed them at all.”  -Julie, Relay Beta tester



We all want the best for our kids, but “best” doesn’t have to mean “most expensive,” especially if your kids are the adventurous, outdoors type. Replacing a smartphone can be a huge hassle, not to mention pricey. Even the most economical smartphone options cost around $100, and in the event of an accident, physical damage won’t be covered by your manufacturer warranty. You can get your Relays for $49.99 apiece with service costs at $9.99/month: and no contracts! Sometimes the best option for your kid is also the best option for your budget.

“I didn't want to pay full price for a phone with data and then have to pay more on top of that to put limits and parental controls on it.” -Bill, Relay Beta tester

When you tally up the score, it’s clear that Relay comes out on top for kids and parents alike. While smartphones get points for coverage and location tracking, they fall short when it comes to keeping kids active and ensuring online safety (not to mention cost and durability!) If you won’t take it from us, take it from the folks at Android Central, who wrote a little bit about us. Ready to put childhood back in motion? Relay is available for purchase and you can get yours by clicking the link below.


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