Best used Verizon iphone for a kid
June 10, 2019 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for MeFite suggestions regarding which used Verizon iphone to buy for a middle schooler. I want to spend less than $250 (way less is better). I'm concerned about the "touch disease." I'm concerned about the phone becoming obsolete too quickly. I'm balancing this with concern that the phone will get lost or broken. I'm wondering what else I should be concerned with that I haven't even considered...

A similar question was asked a year ago, but that was not for Verizon, which will soon stop supporting the iPhone 5s, if I understand correctly. I look at the 6, the 6S, the 7, the SE...and then my brain fogs and I wander off to stare at the pantry. I'm just not certain about how best to balance my desire for the phone to meet a reasonable standard of longevity, durability, and low price.

I plan to purchase on Swappa thanks to prior Asks.
posted by rabidsegue to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wirecutter is currently recommending the iPhone 7 as its budget pick. I am a Verizon customer and just upgraded from an iPhone 6 because it was getting to the point where my phone was so slow and crashed so often that it was unusable.
posted by capricorn at 10:58 AM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and re: durability, I think it's all about the case. I got away with a pretty basic case (Incipio NGP) with a rubber bumper around the front screen for my iPhone 6 and I dropped it on the floor about once a week without any issues (I'm very clumsy), but something like an Otterbox or Lifeproof case that is waterproof and drop proof might be better for an active middle schooler.
posted by capricorn at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2019

You are asking about Verizon, which makes me think you are going to add this phone as a device on your monthly plan. The last time I checked, the cost to do that was $40/month. In other words, a lot of money; enough to quickly swamp the cost of the phone itself.

Another option is to buy a used iPhone and use it with a prepaid plan. That is likely to be much less expensive on a month-to-month basis, and it might also allow you to buy a cheaper, older phone. In my experience, old iPhones hold up very well. I wouldn't worry about "touch disease" unless there's something specific about the model you're considering. If anything, I'd be concerned about the state of the battery.

FWIW, we did not get Young Proust a smart phone (they didn't want one and we didn't want them to have one). Instead, we got them a prepaid burner phone. This cost $30 for the phone plus another $30-50 for prepaid minutes+texts. They lost the phone after about 4 months, and we were able to transfer the remaining airtime to a new $30 phone. They haven't lost that one yet.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:11 AM on June 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You can get an SE really cheap because they've just been discontinued. Fine little phone. Should last a couple more years--at least I'm not planning to replace mine before then, unless it actually breaks.
posted by praemunire at 11:24 AM on June 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

What level of functionality does your kid need/are you invested in? Just a way to communicate + use google maps/etc or do you want it to be more of a luxury device? I mean, I am a very frugal adult still using an iphone 5c (bought used in 2015) on PagePlus. (I'm not saying to get a 5c, just that iphones can stay functional for a long time.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:25 AM on June 10, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for the input. I won't threadsit, but to clarify: monthly plan is not a concern. Additionally, I'm expecting it will be used for find friends (by me), texting, calling, photography, and music listening with headphones.
posted by rabidsegue at 12:21 PM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

An iphone 7 is just nice enough to have the same apps as friends and participate, but it's also cheap enough where you aren't throwing money away. It's about the minimum I'd go for him.

But, hypothetically he'll be using the same phone for a while. Phones get better fast. I might get a used iphone 8 or iphone x just to future proof him a little longer.

It's not that the phones have changed a TON in that time, but he'll probably want an upgrade sooner if you get him a 7 vs an X.
posted by bbqturtle at 12:49 PM on June 10, 2019

Idea: I am also not familiar with Swappa or used phone economies - maybe there is a used phone equivalent of a 1993 Toyota Corrola? If so find that one.

+1 for "burner" phones. And burner certainly doesn't mean you're limited to a flipper - it might depend on location but I wouldn't be surprised if you had a hard time even finding one in a nearby store as the two main use cases are for the elderly who can't use smartphones, and for kids to have a line of communication specifically without access to the internet and games and such (ie "touch disease").

Is iPhone a requirement? The reason it may matter is afaik android phones can't participate in iMessage group chats. Or maybe they can but it's super annoying - I don't actually know what Apple users are doing on their end that makes communicating with them often annoying for me but it is. So if all your kids' friends communicate that way they'd be left out.

At least Androids are at a point where they aren't becoming obsolete very fast imo. We're not doing anything drastically more resource-intensive on our phones now than a few years ago. My current daily phone is from 2016 and so far I am at zero disadvantage by not having the new hotness. There are stories of iPhones slowing down with OS updates though I don't know how much of that is colored by anti-Apple sentiments.

I have used a $20 smartphone, $55 smartphone, and ~$700 flagship phone. The $20 phone was pretty slow and not all that great aside from standards texts+calls, but could still be used for music and maps and internet as long as I didn't expect too much and had patience. The $55 phone was absolutely fine for pretty much anything the average (adult) person would need it for. Streaming music or videos, maps, storing my own mp3 files, emails, internet browser with a reasonable number of tabs, any "utilitarian" app I needed, reading PDFs, taking photos and linked them to my Google Photos, etc etc. I don't think it would be able to essentially replace a PC the way a $700 phone could, and maybe a college student would need something beefier - but it was a $55 workhorse of a phone perfectly acceptable for normal use.

So I guess that's my takeaway. Look for ~$50 prepaid phones because they're pretty good at this point.
posted by ToddBurson at 1:07 PM on June 10, 2019

Best answer: I asked a question about cheapish phones a while ago and got an iPhone SE. It was ~$150 lightly used and works great. It was discontinued late last year and got iOS 12, it will likely be good for at least a couple years from now. The small screen helps a bit to make recreational phone use less fun, but it's still plenty functional for me and small screen = excellent battery life.
posted by momus_window at 2:43 PM on June 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing an iPhone SE. I have one. I haven't noticed any slow down with OS updates. However, from what I've been reading, the SE will not get iOS 13. That's a deal breaker for me, so I'll probably be upgrading to an iPhone 8.

I just took a quick at Swappa, and SEs are going for less than $100. With $250, you can get almost all the way to a 7+ (it looks like they start at $255).
posted by kathrynm at 8:57 AM on June 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just to piggyback on the SE comments, the SE IS going to get iOS 13 later this year, so its still going to receive software updates for at least another year.

If you can find one (used, refurb or new), the SE is a great little phone that's still got a life ahead of it
posted by Snuffman at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks Sunffman! I'm glad to hear that the SE is good for another year! I like the size of it, and if it's still getting security upgrades, then I'm good to go.
posted by kathrynm at 4:18 PM on June 11, 2019

We picked up an SE for our son last summer when he was getting ready to get himself to school sans parent. We wanted Apple as our whole ecosystem is Apple. Also means we can see that he’s at school using Find Friends.

What we did:
1) gave him the phone over the summer, so that the newness of it would have worn off before school started. That worked, he treats it like a tool (to make calls and play a few games during downtime) and not as a shiny new toy to show off with.

2) turned on ScreenTime plus limits. The first time he realized I knew darn well he had been playing DoodleJump all morning was the last time he did it. Limits on things were helpful - some apps just don’t work after certain times, others have hard limits.

3) stuck a cheap case on it, but no screen protector. So far so good, he’s been quite careful with it.

For the record, he’s 10 now, not middle school, so if a 9 year old can handle it in 4th grade you should be fine with the same model.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:49 AM on June 12, 2019

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