Value Packed Smartphones – Sub-$200
Smartphones do a little bit of everything, from high-speed internet to online gaming; it’s no wonder that one in five mobile subscribers has a smartphone, and it’s a trend that will only increase. Of course, smartphones don’t come cheap; however, if you’re willing to cut some corners or lock into a carrier contract, there are a lot of options to fit your budget.
Unlocked Contract-Free Smartphones
Unlocked phones allow you to use them on just about any carrier you like, but be sure to check the compatibility between the phone you’d like to buy and the carrier you plan to use it on. Make sure to check whether it needs to be GSM or CDMA and ensure it has the proper frequencies for your carrier (both 2G and 3G).
1: HTC Magic
The Magic (aka MyTouch 3G) is one of the first Google Android phones to reach the market. Available new online for about $180, it offers almost identical hardware to the much more expensive HTC Hero, Droid Eris, and Aria phones. As an Android phone, you also get access to the expansive Android Marketplace for more apps than you’ll know what to do with, but keep in mind that as an older device, it may have trouble running some apps.
2: Sony Ericsson Xperia X8
Another Android device, the Xperia X8 is actually a little bit more powerful than the HTC Magic and also available for about $180, new; however, its customized interface is a turn off for some, though many others like the added style it brings. It’s also stuck on an older version of Android (version 1.6), giving the HTC Magic (capable of running Android 2.2) somewhat of an advantage.
3: Nokia E5-00
The Nokia E5 doesn’t quite deliver the same multimedia experience as the app-driven Android and iOS platforms, but with the OVI Store, it does come close. It’s also well suited for your basic smartphone needs, like E-mail, web browsing, and navigation, and it can be found for under $170.
Contract Subsidized Smartphones
If you’re willing to commit yourself to a single carrier (generally for two years), it’s possible to get some significant discounts on high-end devices.
HTC recently launched the Thunderbolt on Verizon which features 4G LTE compatibility for download speeds up to 25Mbps. With new 2-year agreement, it’s available from some retailers for just $199. The upcoming (and even more powerful) Droid Bionic will likely be a similar price. You can also get devices like the Droid X and Droid Incredible for free.
While you can get the iPhone 4 for just $199 with 2-year contract, it is a somewhat stale phone compared to devices like the HTC Inspire 4G and Motorola Atrix 4G, the former a $99 version of the Thunderbolt, and the latter being a dual-core $199 4G behemoth.
Sprint’s current smartphone lineup is a wee bit stale, but coming soon is a Nexus S compatible with Sprint’s 4G network, and the new EVO 3D, a super-fast dual-core smartphone with glasses-free 3D display. Pricing is currently unknown, but both phones will likely be near that $200 mark.
T-Mobile is a slightly different animal. It’s the only of the major carriers to offer discounted pricing for non-contract subscribers, meaning it’s often cheaper to buy a phone at full price than to sign a contract for a discount. T-Mobile’s best phones are the Nexus S and upcoming G2x.