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Help me ditch my dumb-phone.
September 17, 2012 10:30 PM   Subscribe

New to smartphones; want to buy an unlocked, preferably quadband phone. Advice?

I've resigned myself to replacing my flip phone with a smart phone, but I'd very much like to use the Smart Talk plan - that is, I don't want to be tied to a two year contract. It seems like an unlocked phone is the way to go; all the better if it's a GSM, quadband phone I can use abroad. But I'm adrift in a sea of options!

Google's Samsung Galaxy Nexus seems to be a popular choice on AskMefi, but judging by reviews across the web, the battery life is poor and the camera isn't so great. I'm also not tech-savvy, so a lot of the advantages mentioned here on AskMefi don't mean anything to me. (I have no idea what it means, for instance, to "root" a phone.)

An unlocked iPhone 4s from Apple is now (kind of, barely) affordable, but I really want a phone that has good (voice) sound quality, and judging by a conversation I had on my friend's iPhone recently, it's not great in that department.

My dream phone would have a keyboard, because I fail at typing on smartphones... but that may be asking too much.

I turn to the hivemind for suggestions on a solid, (ideally affordable,) unlocked phone. Also, any advice on where to buy said phone? Craigslist is full of unlocked phone deals but I'm hesitant to buy from there because I have a creeping suspicion that some of those phones are stolen. Aside from Amazon and Newegg, where does one look for unlocked phone deals?
posted by artemisia to Technology (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you are ok without having the latest and greatest apps, there are phones that run the Windows Phone 7 operating system. They were never popular and since their replacement OS is due to be released in a few months, their prices are in the gutter, especially the non-Nokia Lumia models. They can do most of the basic things that smartphones can do - browse, send email, take notes, navigate, etc. They even have some models with a physical keyboard. Gaming is pretty much nonexistent though.

I bought mine (a Samsung Focus) on eBay used from a seller with high feedback and lots of other used phones for sale, didn't have any problems. They're going for < $100 on eBay now.

As for your other choices, the Galaxy Nexus will probably have a replacement in the upcoming months, so its price will also drop. I think its main advantage is not the ability to replace and customize the OS (ie: "root"), but that it is supported directly by Google and will get updates in a timely manner, as well as lacking the random and low-quality apps and customizations that carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) and handset manufacturers (Samsung, LG, HTC, etc.) add to the standard phones in order for them to "stand out" from the other similarly-specced Android phones. The iPhones, of course, don't have any of these problems at all.
posted by meowzilla at 12:10 AM on September 18, 2012


"Smart Talk"-- do you mean Straight Talk? If so, how about this one? Battery life and camera aren't great, but apart from that it seems good.

I think the 3g will work abroad, though I'm not sure. But it is quad-band, so it'll work for calls and slow data, anyway.
posted by alexei at 12:17 AM on September 18, 2012


Argh. Yes, sorry, I do mean Straight Talk! Apologies for the slip, there.
posted by artemisia at 6:53 AM on September 18, 2012


I just made the same upgrade as you! I purchased my first smartphone last week on Swappa, a site specifically for buying/selling used Android phones. I lucked out and was able to find someone selling my phone at a good price, but the pickings may be a bit slim.

The phone that I was looking at was the HTC One X, a top of the line Android on par with Samsung's new Galaxy SIII. One of the biggest pluses is apparently its excellent camera.

Another phone that I was looking at that was much more affordable was the Sony Xperia Mini Pro. It has quite good specs for the price (1 Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, upgraded to Android 4.0), and has a slide-out keyboard also, but otherwise the display is rather small and I think it doesn't have much memory.
posted by segfault at 3:23 PM on September 18, 2012


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