Smartphone usage is exploding among kids, and it’s not difficult to see why. Smartphones may as well be attached as extensions on most adults — kids are bound to observe that behavior and ultimately mimic it. Herein lies the problem: more and more kids want to use smartphones, and it’s essential to prepare children for smartphone usage when they’re older, but kid’s phones and truly kid-focused devices are few and far between.
While iPhones and Android devices have parental controls that can be enabled and customized, they are far from extensive and can even be disabled if you’re not careful. So, to ensure that their children are getting the most out of their first cell phone experiences, more and more parents are opting for phones designed specifically for kids. Even once you decide to get a kid’s phone, though, the question remains: which one is best?
Here we’ll compare two different options that parents may be considering: Gabb and Troomi. While Gabb’s phones have a well-established reputation for keeping kids safe and minimizing screen time, Troomi is a new entrant into the market — one actually created by one of Gabb’s original co-founders. Here are how the two companies’ phones compare with one another:
It’s the question on the mind of every parent getting ready to buy a new phone for their child: how safe is it going to be for them? The answer for both Gabb and Troomi phones is exceptionally safe; both are designed with child use in mind and are suitable for a wide range of ages as well. That being said, there are still some critical differences between the two that parents will want to be aware of.
Perhaps the Troomi phone’s single biggest selling point is its KidSmart operating system. The goal of KidSmart is to give users as smartphone-like an experience as possible while still maximizing safety during usage. While the KidSmart OS allows for internet usage, its places are hard block on accessing potentially harmful material such as social media, addictive games, or pornography.
KidSmart also connects Troomi phones back to software accessible by the user’s parents, allowing them to both monitor and customize the phone’s capabilities. A phone’s GPS location is also always available through the system, allowing for on-the-fly tracking as necessary.
The same principle that governs internet usage within the KidSmart OS also does the same on the app store: the system whitelists a number of “KidSmart Apps” that have been pre-approved for download for Troomi users. In addition, the system excludes any apps that may feature inappropriate content or rely upon addictive mechanisms, making sure that no child that uses a Troomi phone accidentally stumbles into something that they shouldn’t.
On the other hand, Gabb phones place a hard embargo on capabilities like these. There’s no internet browsing, social media, or traditional app store access at all on Gabb’s hardware. While this may sound overly prohibitive at first, it’s the single best promise of security that a kid-focused phone can offer.
Because a Troomi phone’s capabilities can be adjusted by a parent from another device, the possibility that a child could find a way to do so themselves is always a risk. With Gabb phones, not even parents could integrate internet access or app downloads onto the device itself.
Prioritizing Safety Preferences
For most parents, this will be a question of preference. There’s no question that Troomi phones can fully block adult content in a way that even the most determined kids will not be able to find a way around, but what if there’s a KidSmart App that you don’t want your child having access to? You would be able to block any downloads of this app remotely. But, even loopholes this small may be too much for some parents. In this respect, Gabb is the “safer” option; inasmuch as its complete prohibition on internet usage precludes the possibility of any such difficulties.
Parents could also think of phone security in terms of their own peace of mind. As effective as Troomi’s security systems may be, they still require careful management on your part. This has its obvious benefits; many of which will be discussed later. But, it’s also a potential negative for parents not interested in micromanaging their child’s phone usage. With Gabb, there’s no need to manage parental controls because there are no parental controls built in; the phone arrives fully secure.
Additional Safety Preferences
Outside of the internet, both phones have a number of features that ensure security for younger users. Both phones include GPS-enabled location services. This means that a lost phone can be found right at the push of a button. The KidSmart OS for Troomi also has some additional features for ensuring positive first experiences. These include things like spam filters and phone number whitelisting, in order to ensure that kids aren’t overwhelmed with confusing and predatory calls.
When it comes to security, there’s no obvious victor between Gabb and Troomi — ultimately, it comes down to how prepared parents are to oversee their kid’s phone usage. The final takeaway should be that both phones are highly secure, but parents who want an additional layer of peace of mind may be attracted to Gabb’s more pared-down features list.
While parents may want their child’s phone to be as safe as possible, they also want their kids to learn the basics of how to use a smartphone effectively. In order to do that, a kid’s smartphone needs to have some of the capabilities that normal smartphones do — otherwise, a flip phone would do just fine.
Though both Gabb and Troomi’s phones look like traditional smartphones, neither works quite like one and both work quite differently from one another. The difference is most pronounced in the case of Gabb’s phones which, as previously mentioned, do not have internet capabilities. Instead, Gabb phones come pre-loaded with 14 apps ranging from music to photos to a calculator. This way, kids get a taste of some of the most fundamental smartphone capabilities without the risk of getting exposed to any adult content or features.
The focus is ultimately on the “phone” part of the smartphone: kids are encouraged to use Gabb phones to keep in touch with their friends and family, not to mindlessly surf the web. Adults can often be over-reliant on using their phones as personal computers, and Gabb’s software ensures that kids don’t fall into the same trap.
While Troomi may have some security oversights that can turn off certain parents, that’s only because of the wide-ranging capabilities of their phones. Gabb’s phones are great for kids who are just starting out with that kind of technology and perhaps are unprepared for some of the more powerful smartphone features, but Troomi’s phones are best for kids who are close to being able to use traditional smartphones but are not quite there yet.
The aforementioned KidSmart OS can be thought of as training wheels for smartphone usage. Just like a tricycle is more like a bicycle, a Troomi phone is more like a smartphone. This is because it offers internet usage, app downloads, and so on. KidSmart OS puts blinders on all of these features, ensuring that they can’t be used to access anything harmful or inappropriate.
How to Manage the Capabilities
Even though there are hard blocks on things like social media, parents still have a big say in what their kids have access to on Troomi phones. Through the Troomi device manager, parents can further limit certain sites or apps if they so please. This also means that parents can give their kids access to more and more features as they grow older and more mature in their device usage.
The Troomi device manager also allows for the remote management of screen time. If, for example, you wanted to make sure that your child wasn’t using a certain app during school hours, you could command the OS to block access to that app during particular times of the day. This is another great way to seamlessly reward children for responsible phone usage: open up features remotely once they prove that they can handle the responsibility.
Choosing the Capabilities You Need
Of course, every feature that a kid’s smartphone has comes with a tradeoff. As is the case with security, the expanded capabilities of Troomi’s phones means that parents will need to be willing to put in a little extra effort towards managing everything going on on their child’s phone. Not only will parents need to make initial decisions regarding what their kids are and are not allowed to access, they may need to continually update those preferences as time goes on in order to keep pace with their child’s growth.
That doesn’t mean that Gabb’s format is without its drawbacks. While there are obvious benefits to an internet-free device for parents, it does limit the capabilities of some apps in consequential ways. Music, for example, is one side of this double-edged sword. MP3s can be added to Gabb phones for kids to listen to, but not all songs can be easily downloaded as or converted into MP3s; because music streaming is the norm now, having a device without it may leave some kids disappointed. Even so, the lack of streaming capabilities may be a relief for parents. Essentially, these measures prevent kids from listening to certain artists or songs featuring adult language.
When it comes to the most important functions a smartphone can have — those of the actual “phone” part itself — both Gabb and Troomi are on even footing. Both offer calls and texting as well as the ability to send pictures and videos. This means that no matter what phone your kids choose, they’ll be able to stay connected in all of the ways that matter.
Network, Specs, and Pricing
Ultimately, all smartphones operate on two crucial levels: software and hardware. Most of this article so far has been dedicated to discussing the software of each device, but parents and kids alike may still want to know about the actual phones themselves. Neither Gabb nor Troomi actually designs and produces the physical products themselves; instead, each loads their own software onto existing devices.
Troomi’s phone is a modified Samsung smartphone meaning that it comes along with some of the best specs to be found on modern smartphones, such as:
- A 16MP main Quad Camera along with an 8MP front-facing camera for selfies and video messages
- Large, readable 6.5 inch display
- 128GB of storage
- 8-core processor
- 2 day-long battery life
Similarly, the Gabb phone is a ZTE device that has been loaded with Gabb’s software. Some of its key product specifications include:
- More compact, portable 5.45 inch display
- 8MP main camera and 5MP front-facing camera
- 2GB of RAM and 32GB of long-term storage
- 2650 mAh battery
- Quad Core 2GHz processor
- Fingerprint scanner for device security
Comparing Network and Specs
In terms of specs, both Gabb and Troomi’s devices have significantly more in common than not. Gabb’s smaller storage numbers may seem like a noticeable downside. However, it’s important to recall the software differences between the two devices. Troomi phones offer users the option to download apps and surf the web freely. These are two actions that demand higher levels of device memory. On the other hand, the Gabb phone comes with a selection of apps already installed without options to download more. Because of this, the discrepancies between the two phones’ amounts of memory will not be a factor for most users.
In terms of network, both Gabb and Troomi are operating at the highest possible levels. Both networks feature a combination of 5G and 4G LTE and have widespread coverage across the country. Both are ideal for calling, texting, and otherwise staying in touch with friends and family alike. Because Gabb phones do not connect with the internet, brief reductions in network bandwidth would not likely affect regular usage. Likewise, it would also not be affected by occasional spots of low coverage. However, it might have an impact on Troomi phones’ regular usage.
The story is a bit different when it comes to pricing. Because Troomi phones have yet to have their exact prices announced, the price of a Gabb phone has to be evaluated on its own merits. At just $99.99, the Gabb Z2 phone is a very reasonable investment as a starter smartphone for kids. In comparison, the newest iPhone models could cost as much as 10 times that. This doesn’t just make sense for a one-off investment but it also makes sense in the long term. Falls, accidents, and rough playing are part and parcel of being a kid. A child could break — and replace — their phone 5 times over; Yet they will still have incurred a lower net cost than that of most traditional smartphones. Furthermore, that’s even before factoring in the $4.99 a month extended warranty that Gabb offers.
The two companies continue to diverge when it comes to the pricing of their actual plans themselves. Troomi’s plan is a flat $14.95 a month for which users receive unlimited talk and text in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, limited texting in up to 190 other countries. Users also receive 1 GB of data to run apps. Gabb, on the other hand, offers two usage plans; For $19.99 a month, users have access to unlimited talk and text across the network. Also, for $24.99 a month, pictures and group text messages are enabled.
Both plans feature GPS location tracking. As another added benefit, neither requires any kind of contract; Parents can pay for it on a month-to-month basis. The Gabb plan may be more expensive. However, the allure of a no-contract phone will be more than enough to justify the higher price to many parents.
Weighing the Network, Specs, and Price
The simplicity of Troomi’s $14.95 a month flat rate is hard to deny. But, the company is also lacking some of Gabb’s additional cost-saving programs. Families referred to Gabb by existing Gabb customers will see $30 struck from their initial purchase. And, the Gabb phone plan is completely free during its user’s birthday month every single year.
Like other aspects of the two phones, most of the differences here will come down to parents’ preferences. Neither phone is significantly different from the other, but one may have certain elements that work better for certain families.
Support and Community
This is where the big differences between Gabb and Troomi start to come to light: customer support and community. Troomi is a brand new company offering an exciting new product whereas Gabb has held its own in this space for quite some time now. For most industries, this would make no difference: all you want is the better product, right? For kid phones, though, the answer is a bit more complicated.
Every parent buying a smartphone for their child is beginning a long, often tumultuous journey. Likewise, this journey often yields no easy answers. How can you expose your child to this essential technology while also limiting their screen time while also allowing them to connect with their friends while also preventing them from any harmful content? No tech product will ever be able to answer these questions all by itself. What parents need is something a little bit more substantial.
Gabb’s website features an extensive list of tips and tricks for parents just beginning this journey. Additionally, Gabb has a regularly-updated blog for staying abreast of the latest in the world of parenting tech-literate kids. Troomi simply hasn’t had the time to develop this kind of cultural infrastructure yet. When a parent buys a Gabb phone for their child, they’re buying into a community dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for children in the age of smartphones.
Additional Helpful Resources Offered
Dedication to helping children succeed is particularly evident when it comes to Gabb Life, Gabb’s primary outreach effort. Gabb Life regularly runs contests for young athletes, artists, singers, and other kids trying to make the most of their childhood. Then, the winners of these contests can receive cash prizes and gear to help them further their dreams. Even for those Gabb users that don’t win or even participate, there’s Gabb TV: a collection of videos, articles, and interviews featuring young Gabb Ambassadors showcasing their skills and inspiring other young people to do just the same.
While not all parents will be taken with this kind of community, many will be able to see just how valuable such a thing could be to a young smartphone user — seeing others successfully balance phone use with real-life activity and success. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much you “dumb down” a smartphone; Kids are going to want to spend time on it. The key to reducing screen time is endlessly curtailing device capabilities but offering meaningful alternatives. The community and support offered by Gabb can help you do just that for your child.
Any serious investigation of Gabb and Troomi phones will reveal the same answer; They’re both great options for parents looking to introduce their children to the world of smartphones. The differences are slight, but they may be significant for some families. The ability to add and remove features on Troomi phones may give it a longer lifespan for some kids. At the same time, the minimal security micromanaging required by Gabb phones will be a huge appeal for many parents. It’s not that one phone is decidedly better than the other; it’s that the two devices will have different levels of appeal to different parents and kids.
Both phones are safe, effective, and highly affordable for smartphones. Parents who are still split over which one to opt for may be missing the obvious out: asking their kids. Both phones are so similar in price and capabilities. So, it may be worthwhile to see if your child has a strong preference one way or another. Perhaps Troomi’s apps will appeal to them. Or, maybe Gabb Life’s exciting contests will just be too good to pass up. Their opinion may end up being invaluable for choosing the right device. After all, they are going to be the ones using it!
Image Credit: Katerina Holmes; Pexels; Thank you!