Relay Screen-Free Phone Review

Instant communication with your kids

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4.5

Relay

relay with child

Courtesy of Verywell Family/Jordan Provost

What We Like
  • Simple kid-friendly design

  • Large button makes communication easy

  • Geofencing capability

  • Kids can only communicate with parent-approved contacts

What We Don't Like
  • Small with potential to get lost

  • Hard side buttons that make channel switching hard

  • Month-to-month subscription required

  • Answering incoming calls with the app can be clunky

Bottom Line

With the ability to communicate with a single user or the entire family, the Relay is an easy-to-use, screen-free phone that uses a walkie-talkie format. Complete with straightforward safety features like geofencing, GPS, and a panic button, parents are able to usher their big kids into independence while maintaining their own peace of mind.

The required month-to-month subscription and the tricky channel switching feature that takes some getting used to doesn't take away from the usefulness of the device.

4.5

Relay

relay with child

Courtesy of Verywell Family/Jordan Provost

We purchased the Relay so our reviewers could thoroughly test and assess it with their children. Keep reading for our full panel review.

For your big kids who aren't quite teens but are entering the early stages of independence, keeping in contact with them while they're away from home is an important first step. While your kiddo might not be ready for a traditional cellphone, getting them an option that allows you to keep in contact when they are away from home is helpful for caregivers as well as great for teaching them responsibility.

Designed for kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, the Relay is a screenless, handheld, push-to-talk phone. Along with the accompanying phone app, kids are able to contact their family network without adding any unnecessary minutes to their screen time. Four of our team members tested out the Relay with their junior editors (their kids) and shared their experiences.

About the Testers

Jordan Provost, Photographer, and 9-year-old

Jordan's little tester doesn't use a cellphone regularly, though they do know their way around a tablet and video game, so tech is not totally foreign. Jordan's tester walks to in-person school, along with his 6-year-old sibling, so being able to track their quick trek as well as being able to chat with them along the way is essential.

Brian Piccione, Frontend Engineer, and 6-year-old

Brian's kindergartener isn't a stranger to technology. Along with his remote learning Zoom expertise, he is comfortable unlocking a cell phone and navigating to the app he wants to go to. While he isn't spending too much time away from home, Brian's junior tester does go to weekly swimming lessons and in-person school a few days a week. The Relay will keep them in communication while they are apart.

Isabella von der Linden, Brand Partnerships Director, and 10-year-old

Isabella's big kid is a self-professed tech wiz. He regularly uses his iPad to connect with friends and family via the Messenger app, as well as his gaming systems. He knows how to use an iPhone to stream and game as well.

Isabella's son spends time outdoors playing independently with neighborhood friends as well as going to extracurricular sports and activities. The Relay will allow her to keep in contact with him while he's playing at a friend's house or heading to his activities.

Lena Utrobina, Financial Planning, and Analysis Director, and 7-year-old

Lena's elementary-aged child is super confident when it comes to using technology. Whether it is a tablet or a smartphone, her daughter is tech-savvy. She has a long list of extracurricular activities where she is dropped off and then picked up. The Relay will allow Lena's daughter to contact her while she is at her activities.

Arrival and Set Up

The Relay is shipped in a standard box that includes a USB charging cord and paper instructions, along with the device. Since the device specifically works hand-in-hand with a phone app, you can use that app to walk through setup or the paper instructions.

Relaygo package

Courtesy of Verywell Family/Jordan Provost

When it came to actually set up the device, Jordan found the setup directions to be clear and easy to follow, but the entire setup process felt super time-consuming. Brian, who typically tosses instructions to the wind for a more hands-on learning approach, found them to be straightforward. The device works by utilizing cellular towers so that users don't have to rely on a consistent Wi-Fi connection. Because of this, there is a month-to-month subscription required, which Isabella felt wasn't very clear from the setup process as she had to go to the brand's website for more information.

The mini testers were excited to jump into learning how to use the Relay. Brian's son wasted no time pressing buttons and sending out messages while Isabella's son immediately started decorating his device with the included stickers and connecting with family. She noted that despite being used to screens, he didn't seem disappointed by the screenless design. Both Lena and Jordan's kids were super excited about their new device.

Testing Insight:

"My son was very excited to use the device and immediately mashed the big primary button on the front, talking into it like a walkie-talkie (which he's used in the past with his younger brother). I had set it to the right communication "channel" already, so I immediately began receiving messages from him."

- Brian Piccone

How It Works

In conjunction with the phone app, Relay allows users to communicate like they would on a walkie-talkie. With a combination of Wi-Fi and 4G LTE capability, kids are able to reach out to their caregivers wherever they are. The push-to-talk format makes communicating with approved people easy and straightforward. Instead of fumbling through a glossy smartphone, kids can just press the large button to connect with their parents.

When it came to testing the Relay out, all of our testers appreciated the clear and loud sound quality that made understanding their kids seamless. Equating it to a cellphone in speaker mode, the sound wasn't garbled or mumbled. While the sound was clear, Jordan and Isabella both noticed a delay in communicating back and forth that took some getting used to. Brian and his son noticed that, due to the walkie-talkie format, free-flowing conversation wasn't really possible so it was easier for them to communicate with voice messages.

relay with child

Courtesy of Verywell Family/Kristin Piccione

The youngest testers took a little time to get the hang of using the device, but the big button in the middle of the Relay made it easier for them to understand the basics. The older testers understood almost right away and really didn't need much guidance on how to use the device.

Despite the slight learning curve, all of the little testers were able to communicate with their parents and other family members via the channel switching function. Lena noted that the communication was the best when she had the app on her phone open, otherwise, the Relay would send a notification that her daughter was trying to call. Unlike a cell phone though, users can just pick up the call when the notification pops up. Instead, they have to call their child back.

Testing Insight:

"There was a very little learning curve of how to use the device and was able to switch among family members with ease."

- Isabella von der Linden

Safety Features

With exceptional safety controls, parents can set a list of approved contacts and create group chats for other family members or Relay users. Aside from making communicating easy, parents love the additional safety features like real-time GPS tracking and location history, geofencing that establishes a physical safe zone, alerts parents when the Relay has left that space, immediate SOS communicating that allows kids to send emergency alerts to the parent's smartphone.

Jordan was able to keep track of her son as he traveled to and from school, while Isabella felt more comfortable granting her 10-year-old more independence thanks to the real-time GPS feature.

relay with child

Courtesy of Verywell Family/Kristin Piccione

An Easy Way to Communicate

All of the testers spent a week trying out the Relay in various situations to test how useful it would actually be in daily life. Brian loved that the device was small enough to be slipped into his son's pocket, making park trips safer and more fun as his kiddo would be able to run freely while still staying in contact.

Isabella and Lena found that the Relay has been useful in helping their big kids gain more independence while giving them peace of mind and a direct way to contact them quickly. However, Lena noted that while it was useful and she could see her daughter using it in the future, it kept getting lost or misplaced since it was kind of small. The brand does sell a loop case with a carabiner and lanyard so that kids can hook the Relay onto their backpacks or wear it around their necks. Jordan's kiddo used it the most when he was on his way to and from school as a way to stay in contact with his family.

Child with relay

Courtesy of Verywell Family/Jordan Provost

When it comes to the battery life of this device, the brand says that it should last up to about two days. The brand also notes that if the device is dying within 24-hours with little to no use, then users should contact the brand to ensure their area has sufficient cell coverage as a lack of coverage can drain the battery. Both Lena and Isabella found that the battery life was slightly above average, while Jordan rated the battery life well above average. Brian, on the other hand, rated the battery slightly below average. Like your own smartphone, the battery life can definitely vary depending on how often you are using the device and what you are using the device for.

Testing Insight:

"The Relay is a useful means of communication when your child is playing outside or is at a friend's house on a play date. Easy to ping and talk with your child."

- Lena Utrobina

Navigating the App

relay phone in pocket

Courtesy of Verywell Family/Jordan Provost

The parent testers found that the app was pretty useful. Jordan found the app really straightforward and easy to navigate, though the GPS seemed to have a slight delay in tracking. Brian loved the app and really appreciated the intuitive design which, in his opinion, would be ideal for larger families with a few kids as it would allow them all to chat and communicate.

Isabella also enjoyed using the app, describing it as easy to use. She really liked the ability to control the volume of the device from her phone. Lena was not a fan of the app, however, because it has to be open and active in order to communicate walkie-talkie style which can make answering calls from her child in real-time inconsistent.

Final Verdict

The Relay is a useful, kid-friendly, screen-free phone that allows children to communicate with their family and friends. All of the testers agreed that, while it took a little learning to figure out how to use it, the Relay helped them usher their kids into age-appropriate independence while giving them peace of mind. All of the testers agree that they would absolutely recommend the Relay to friends.

Why Trust Verywell Family?

Latifah Miles is the Parenting Commerce Editor at Verywell Family and a real-life fan of the Relay. For over a year, her 8-year-old has used the device to stay in communication while at the neighborhood park, when away visiting family, or at summer camp.

Our team members spent a week testing the Relay with their own children ranging in ages from 6 to 10 years old. They tested it over long distances, during trips to and from school, extracurricular activities, and during neighborhood playdates. They utilized the GPS, channel switching, and group chatting features as well as the phone app.

Specs

  • Product Name Relay
  • Price $49.99
  • Color Varies
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