Smartphones That Outlast Your Au Pair, guest post by QuirkyMom

by cv harquail on October 26, 2014

It’s a lot of work to set up your au pair’s smart phone so that it has all the apps, all the contacts, and all the info you think s/he’ll need.  

This is great work to do on behalf of keeping everyone organized and connected.  How can you keep this information year to year, au pair to au pair, without having to do it over every time?

QuirkyMom has an idea….

Our family has iPhone on a family plan, and we give our au pair an iPhone 5C to use while she’s here. 

ganesha balunsatLast year, our au pair bought herself an iPad, and since she’d set up her own iTunes account, she used her own account for the au pair phone.   That was nice but— the end result was that I had to do a factory reset when she left to get rid of all her apps, emails, texts, etc.

The hard reset also resulting in erasing our shared calendar and all the the necessary contacts, etc. that we had added to the phone. This also meant that I had to start over and re-calendar everything.  I decided that I never want to go through this again, so this time:

1) I’ve set up a generic au pair Gmail account, which for us is

This email is what I use to send calendar updates, etc. Our new au pair can add her own personal email account and delete it when the year is up to keep her data private, but the shared calendar will stay current.

This Google account also allows me to set up Google Maps with favorite places, so that won’t have to be redone. [ note: this makes it easy to Welcome Your Au Pair With A Custom Google Map !]

2) The newest iOS8 allows you to share apps and content!

So the rule will be that the au pair cannot have her own iTunes account on the au pair phone, but given how many paid apps I already have, there will be plenty that she can download and share.

This also enables a shared photo album and other cool features.

3) I’ve populated the contact list with all the necessary contacts from my phone by texting them.

Our au pair can add her own contacts as necessary but then delete those manually.

I wish I had thought of this last year, but better late than never!

Families that use Android phones– do you have ways to ‘roll over’ information and apps from au pair to au pair?

How have you handled the challenge of moving phone-based tools from one au pair to the next? 


Image by Ganesha Balunsat, on Flickr


Old China Hand October 26, 2014 at 11:06 am

How do you approach lost or damaged phones? We let our AP have my husband’s old iPhone and when it broke, we thought it was her fault (it wasn’t and my husband could fix it, in the end). She ended up buying it from us for ebay price and I got it unlocked for her. Then it was stolen and we were very glad that she owned the phone, not us, though she was upset that we didn’t have insurance on it. Our plan now is to give our AP a cheap phone that she can replace for a few dollars if it is damaged. If she wants a smart phone, she can provide that herself. The thing is, we actually would like for her to have a smart phone because of the baby monitor, which is over wifi and has an app that goes with it. I just don’t want to shell out that kind of money for her. We don’t get subsidized phones with our plan.

WarmStateMomma October 27, 2014 at 3:00 am

We let our first AP pay the difference between a crap phone and an iPhone, but we’re on the hook for the two-year contract with no upgrades for two years and she’s got the iPhone. This time, we just bought a blackberry and it’s the AP phone. She can watch the baby monitor or get her email, but it doesn’t really enable meaningful internet access the way *real* smartphones do. We just bought the best one that was nearly free with our plan.

In reality, I think our AP uses her laptop to monitor the drop cam (our baby monitor) more than her phone. She bought her own unlocked iPhone6, which she uses for keeping in touch with her family. (BTW – the screen is already cracked and it’s not the Plus. Invest in a good case.)

TexasHM October 27, 2014 at 8:44 am

We have tried almost every scenario with cell phones/smart phones and here’s what I have learned the hard way!
1. When we had less smart cell phones they would go out and get smart phones anyway so it’s just better/easier/smoother if we give them a smart phone. Why? Because if they carry two phones which one do you think gets priority? Plus if you don’t have the most mature AP you can expect to have conversations where they tell you it’s their phone they can do whatever they want, etc. Now, they don’t get new smartphones from us they get the hand me downs when we upgrade. So right now AP has iphone 4, when I upgrade next month she will get the option of my 5s or DH’s broken screen windows phone, I’ll let you guess which way that will go.., :)
2. If they are on your plan you should own the phone. Right now they are on our family plan and it was past the 2 year mark so it was month to month, then DH broke his phone with 14mos left on contract so we used the upgrade on the AP line to replace his phone. AP phone met the lake and I helped her replace on CL and it wasn’t cheap but was less than a weeks pay which is far better than if we had to replace a 6! Another reason we hand down phones – easier and cheaper to replace.
We use Cozi so don’t have to mess with calendars, I just add new AP to our family in the app and she sees everything. I enter her email and away we go.

TexasHM October 27, 2014 at 9:03 am

Another plus to it being yours (HF) is if they leave early (before contract is up) you’re not stuck buying it back from them or trying to buy a replacement. Our last AP we bought it back which worked because she wanted to buy a new one to take home but previous AP to that ported “her” number before term was up and cost us a lot of money in early termination and then we had to commit to a new two year agreement! If it’s theirs they think (rightfully so to a degree) that it’s theirs to do with as they please. That’s led to headaches for us. This way they get a smartphone provided (plus) but they replace it with like phone if broken (stated upfront) and we call the shots on contracts, upgrades and numbers. (Flame vest on). We also have them chip in for a data plan (if they want it – all have). They get 2GB a month. This also sets a guideline for usage and prevents us from getting slapped with a overage bill (or if we do they pay it). Hasn’t happened yet though one AP was always close (and monitored it religiously). The monthly phones/plans made me nuts because AP1 was a heavy user so at least twice a month her phone shut down and she was walking in my office during work hours to have me go online and put more $ on her account (her money, we paid for plenty of minutes and texts and she wasn’t using them on us!). Again headache for us. As far as the common numbers and whatnot I (and my APs) actually like to factory reset the phone. In fact I changed the phone number once because new AP was annoyed by the calls and texts for ex AP all day and night! She liked the clean slate. Apps they use the free ones and it doesn’t take me long to enter DH and I in her phone so we will stick with that process for now since it’s working for us, as always subject to change in 5 seconds! ;)

ChiHost Mom October 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

We pay for half of a phone contract up to $30-35. I don’t want access to an au pair phone or be responsible for it. However, I want her to have a phone and a number so I can call if needed, etc. We’ve had one au pair get a new phone and one get a new SIM card for their european phone. I don’t really care what they pick, but I want the phone in their name and to be theirs not mine. I can’t easily add another phone to my plan (not on a family plan) and when phones have been lost – it’s not my problem.

NoVA Twin Mom October 27, 2014 at 11:58 am

I’m sure there’s a downside we haven’t encountered yet – but two of our six au pairs have arrived with unlocked iPhones from their own countries (western Europe).

We provide our au pairs with smart phones on our family plan and have them keep the number their predecessor used. So far we haven’t had too many problems with them getting calls for the au pair before them – it probably doesn’t hurt that we’ve tended to have a two to six week break (sending the kids to Grandma) between au pairs. For the au pairs that have arrived with iPhones we’ve had the phone simply added to our plan. (The cell phone store guys now know to ask them to switch the language to English for setup if necessary…)

We can monitor their usage (knock on wood, not necessary except in one case that went to rematch for other reasons) but the phone is theirs (making replacement decisions theirs, though if we have an upgrade available we tend to use it for whoever’s phone is broken – which has been the au pair’s in some cases). Since it’s theirs and runs on their email account, their apps from home are available.

I recognize that we’ve been lucky, but when it works out that they already have a smart phone that can be added, it works out well.

HRHM October 27, 2014 at 12:12 pm

We have never done smart phones for our APs, and probably won’t – until the stop making dumb phones! LOL

All have brought phones from home (nowadays, most are smartphones, although none have been iphones) but they haven’t activated them here. I’m pretty sure they just don’t want to spend the money. They use them with wifi to message, etc which is perfect for us. Then, if I run into a situation where I feel AP is not staying within the guidelines/appropriate use (texting while working, surfing at the dinner table) I can just shut down the wifi and problem solved.

For the amount that she uses a phone for work – averages less than one back and forthe communication per day – there’s no way I’m interested in paying 75 bucks a month for a cell phone plan. Instead, we get a tracfone, load it up with around 1400 minutes in July (depends on if I can find bonus minutes coupons but it’s always more than that) and it’s for her to use for the year. If she uses up the minutes before the end of the year, I will show her how to top up the phone (and it’s a triple minutes phone, so it’s not too expensive to do) I end up spending on average about $10 per month.

Cynthia @ You Signed Up For WHAT?! October 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm

This is a great idea! We have au pairs and the first two used their own IPhones that they brought with them, with the SIM card we provided. Then when the second left, the texts from IPhones to IPhone were then all associated with her ITunes account and it was a big mess. Our current au pair has an Android phone we provided – and I hadn’t thought to set up a generic Google account for it but that’s a great idea! The calendar, contacts, etc. will all transfer from one person to the next seamlessly!

Peachtree Mom October 27, 2014 at 2:44 pm

When it comes to the world of phones and contracts and upgrades etc, I am just lost. My husband and I have a plan with Verizon that is totally underutilized and a big waste of money. We had a Tracphone for our au pair also BUT it was very basic and she could not get the internet etc and it was old, ugly and embarrassing for her. We had it forever so we got our money’s worth out if it. I bought a sort of smart phone from Walmart (AT&T) with a monthly plan. I pay $60 per month for unlimited talk, text and 2.5 data plan (how do you quantify 2.5). She is happy with that and the third au pair to use the phone. It keeps getting passed from au pair to au pair. She knows if she breaks or loses it, she replaces it and I can get the number transferred over at the AT&T store. That number is at the summer camp, school, etc. I just edit my contact list as we change au pairs. She is happy so I am happy and never to worry that she will run out of texts or call minutes. Data…I could care less about. I do not love spending $60 per month but in the grand scheme of things I am buying peace of mind with reliable communication. AT&T is pretty reliable in our area.

NewbieHM October 27, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Our AP got my old IPhone 5s -a little less than 2 years old- but is not working right now. She said she downloaded the update from Apple and it stopped working. At Apple they say is was not the update that bricked the phone. I’m not sure how to handle this situation. I never had an issue with the phone so I’m annoyed by this.

TexasHM October 27, 2014 at 6:16 pm

So what is the issue with the phone (if its not the iOS update)? We try to treat the APs as we would want to be treated so if they said it was a normal crap out reason I would find another older phone and put that on the plan or if you have an upgrade on that line, use it for yourself or DH or kiddo and pass their phone down to the AP. If it’s broken due to misuse or they downloaded a virus or dropped it in the toilet then we ask them to find a like replacement (we approve). As far as we are concerned its just like using the car or home computer. If you break it, you pay to fix it. If an AP ever didn’t want that responsibility we would go buy a burner phone or they can pay for insurance. We honestly only had the one AP break the phone and it was an accident (got wet in a kayak) and she immediately said she would replace it. I think this thread has shown that this is a vary variable topic and you really need to figure out what level of investment you as a HF are willing to make ($ and time), whether or not you are willing or able to add AP to a family plan, what features are necessary and covered as a part of their job (unlike previous poster my AP and I communicate every day via texts and emails and I call her at least a few times a week – busy house, 3 kids, 2 schools, multiple bdays this month and she’s my right hand) and what expectations to set regarding device management and break/fix. We tell our APs never to download anything on the phone without approval (includes iOS updates) so if something like this happens we did it and can beat up Apple over it. If I had an AP show up with her own device that we could add to our family plan though I would be all over that. I have yet to have that be the case though. :(

NewbieHM October 28, 2014 at 11:35 am

Apple said is a hardware issue but didn’t elaborate. We rarely text our AP since I’m a SHM, still, we provide her with the a phone and unlimited text and data so she can stay connected with her friends and occasionally us. I have no issues replacing something that stopped working because it got old etc. but again, the phone was perfectly fine, and after a couple of months it just died under mysterious circumstances. I wouldn’t ask her to buy me a phone, she obviously doesn’t make a lot of money and it doesn’t seem fair under the circumstances. However, it just doesn’t seem right to me to hand her a brand new iPhone just like that, either, they are not cheap and I don’t know for sure she didn’t break the other one. I did mention to her that I might give her an old phone that I have somewhere and she didn’t looked too pleased, lol. We’ll see what happens.

TexasHM October 28, 2014 at 6:03 pm

That’s a great plan I would definitely not give an AP a brand new phone ever, and if you don’t need her to have all that functionality there’s nothing wrong with giving her an older phone. I guess the other option would be to fix hardware issue assuming its reasonable or ask her to pay to fix it if she wants that iPhone (vs the older one) or split the cost or something. I would just chat it out with her if you can and explain buying an $800 replacement is not an option.

HRHM October 27, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Re: the broken phone, I have a humorous anecdote.

AP5 got a dumb phone that was a hand me down from us when she started her year. It was a Motorola, in good condition, but nothing fancy. About 1/3 through the year, she brought it to me and it was broken. When I say broken, I mean broken. It was a flip phone and it was completely apart at the hinge. I shrugged, went into my bedroom closet, got another (older, uglier) phone and had it activated the next day for her.

Fast forward to AP6, we had switched to the tracfone in between, and she and I were talking about how we don’t give smart phones. She said, “Oh yeah, AP5 mentioned that she hated the phone you gave her so much she broke it on purpose but then you just gave her a worse one” So glad I had a crappier one on hand to supply! LOL

WestMom October 28, 2014 at 9:43 am

OMG, hysterical…

Emerald City HM October 31, 2014 at 3:29 pm

That’s fantastic. I kind of feel like I should keep a stash of old phones around for this purpose. I usually tend to use them until they basically break.

CAMomtoTwins October 28, 2014 at 11:37 am

We provide a non-smart phone for use, but let our au pair know she can purchase her own smart phone and we would pay for the shared data plan. This way, if she damages the smart phone, it’s her problem.

Also, for calendaring, we use Cozi, which is a downloadable app on all platforms. It’s an one-way sync to most calendars.

Repeataupair October 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Here is my situation, I know I am extremely lucky and know it is not common but the host family bought me a 5s, they gave it to me when I arrived this summer, it is my own phone to do what I want with. I am on a shared plan with the parents, which gives me a little over 3GB a month of data use and unlimited texts and calls.
I don’t even use a third of the data, but it is extremely useful as a GPS because the car does not have one and I drive constantly, and very often to new places. I don’t use the phone to call really but lot of texting, I text my friends here and there (I am allowed to do so during work time), but I also text a lot my host mom, and quite my host dad. My schedule varies a lot, I always have something happening last minute, groceries to get, a kid to pick up from a different place, etc so she sends me the information, sometimes a map linked to it or a contact, we also share a lot of photos, I try to remember to take pictures of the kids and send them their way, especially right now that we are doing so many crafts and activities, its fun to send a picture of the kids with their finished project and it gets often transfered to the grands parents as well.
That being said I am not on my phone that much, I am the person who needs to remember to get her phone out or keep it close so I don’t miss a call or a text, I often answer my friends a few hours later, I really make an effort to answer back my host parents quickly but they are the only ones. I also check my emails on my phone, which is useful with my counselor as this is how we talk. My previous host families also have smartphones now so we send pictures to each other sometimes.

Last year I had a crappy phone but unlimited texts and calls. I had my ipad when at home if I wanted to look up a recipe, find craft ideas or play some music with the kids. I also realize I used to use my camera a lot more since my phone did not take pictures. This was enough but I am also grateful for the upgrade I got while changing family (which is not the reason of changing of course), it is nice to have access to google, pinetrest, waze, etc.

Repeataupair October 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm

I forgot to add, we share a calendar through apple but it is not really updated

Mimi October 28, 2014 at 4:03 pm

We provide a dumb phone for calls and texts. We text a lot with the AP and provide it for job related calls. The phone is on our plan and is set up with family and local contacts. We ask them to clean out contacts when they leave.

We’ve only had one AP want something more and she brought her own phone to use with wifi as it was available. We had a few issues with her forgetting to take both but after she got stranded one night, she always remembered!

ChiHost Mom October 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm

So, I’ve always wanted the au pair to have their own phone so it’s not the family phone but their own property. It’s not that I couldn’t buy an au pair phone and would in fact buy one from an au pair who didn’t want to keep theirs. But I was just wondering for those families that aren’t using a family plan, what’s the reason you have it in your name not theirs? It just never occurred to me to buy their phone for them or to keep it afterwards. I do ask to get a copy of pictures taken off their phone.

HRHM October 29, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I require her to have a phone, keep it with her at all times, keep it charged and be available via phone/text for work. Therefore, I provide it and the service to make it work.

They only earn <200 per week, so in my mind, asking her to buy her own phone (she couldn't commit to a two year contract, so the phone itself has the potential to be expensive) can be a financial stressor for her where it wouldn't be for me. Depending on what type of phone they bring from home, it may not be easy to activate it here with a company that has good coverage (Verizon is markedly better here but only does CDSM) Same goes for paying for monthly service. I do expect her to be financially responsible for topping up the phone (we use tracfone) if she "overuses" it. Last AP had to add minutes at month 10.

Peachtree Mom October 31, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I agree with HRHM, the phone is a requirement of the job. I not want the worry that she did not pay her bill or used up all her minutes or texts etc. and I cannot contact her. Because my husband is deployed I rely on her. I do not want her entering a contract. I manage the account and pay the $60 per month so I know it is always up to date and ready to go. One small area of peace of mind that I have. With the month to month thing, there is no contract, no upgrades, just easy peasy like the TRAC phone.

Old China Hand October 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

We paid for part of the contract and agreed that ap would pay the difference for data. We now have a plan that we can add ap to, but it is no subsidized phones for any of us. So, we aren’t shelling out for a fancy phone for ap. she can have a dumb phone and or provide her own smartphone. When we upgrade we sell our old phones to make up for some of the cost of the new phone. Also, the phones we are getting rid of tend to be 3-4 years old because of the no subsidy on our plan.

I do recommend straight talk for an ap phone if you don’t have them on your plan. Month to month and no credit check or anything. $45/month for unlimited text, talk, data.

Skny October 28, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Hot topic here now. We only give dumb phones (and don’t own iPhones either). Ap brought an iPhone 5s from home. She was obsessed about having it turned on. She found a $45 plan on line and after a long talk I accepted her idea of canceling the dumb phone and contributing $20 towards her smartphone plan.
That same week husband came home to Au pair on phone (at the time only on wifi), and decided that no way we would do it. He wanted iPhone in Au pair room during work hs, and Au pair using dumb phone during the day.
I told her and she lost it. She cried over the fact we don’t trust she won’t use Iphone during work hrs, that she is always trying to do nice things for us, and a deal is a deal….
So I talked to HD and we agreed to let go… Just to go into Facebook and see she posted In there at 8:30 when both girls (ages 2 and 6mo are up). Now I have to deal with her again…

TexasHM October 29, 2014 at 8:09 am

You know thinking back with first Ap when our kids were younger (closer to the ages you have SKNY) AP had a phone but we didn’t enable data. We had issues with that AP thinking she could just use GPS to go anywhere and she wasn’t a strong driver so there was no reason for her to have data. When AP2 came youngest was almost 3 and very independent and AP was strong driver and a go getter so we gave her option to pay for data if she wanted it and used it primarily to check email and Skype while kids were in gymnastics class, etc (totally fine w us). We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had to crack down on usage. The APs have posted a FB update while kids were all sitting eating breakfast and that’s fine too, praying we don’t have this issue in the future and is part of the reason we want it to be our phone (so we can set the rules or shut data off or whatever is needed). AP1s fiance at the end bought her an iPhone and we almost had to step in (which would have been ugly because it was hers and she was getting married so bridezilla was in full effect).

PhillyHM May 30, 2015 at 12:12 am

I’ve been doing the same as the OP for the last few APs and it has worked really well. Even though she brings her own phone from Europe- I have her keep that phone in her room while she is on duty.- she can only use it on wifi

On our work phone I load the apps that she will need for work. This is a work phone so there is no Facebook, whatsapp, Instagram etc installed. I create an apple Id using the same Gmail account. There is a security feature that allows you to lock the phone so that no downloads from iTunes or apps store can happen. I’m in control not her.
She can’t make any changes to the phone.

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