Carrier unbranded smartphone under $200?
August 29, 2009 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm upgrading from a Treo 600. Any suggestion on a good unlocked smartphone under $200 without carrier branding?

My beloved Treo 600 is on its last legs and I'm looking for a suitable replacement. Does anyone have suggestions on a good smartphone replacement? Here what I'm looking for:

- Under $200
- Bluetooth
- Wi-fi
- QWERTY keyboard
- Task management
- Contact management
- Calendar
- No carrier branding
- Good call quality

With that budget I'm targeting older smartphone models which I'm fine with. It just needs to be a joy to use, durable with great features.
posted by Mr_Thirdworld to Technology (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, I forgot to mention that the network type should be GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900.
posted by Mr_Thirdworld at 7:51 AM on August 29, 2009

I've been wrestling with this same issue in trying to upgrade my Treo 650. I've currently got a 680 (off ebay for $90) but there's a problem with this particular unit. Along the way I have found out that the 680's battery life is terrible.

Luckily I bought from a very communicative & responsible seller, so I'll be able to return the 680. (If you want her ebay handle, email me via my profile.) Think I will be going with a Centro, despite the even-smaller keyboard & screen.

I would be considering an iphone or Palm Pre, but both of those require a data plan. I don't want to pay the extra $ to my carrier for data -- I just want a smart device that I can make phone calls with!

The only other option that I can think of is a jailbroken older iPhone -- that seems to be the only way to use it without paying for data service. Would like to hear from some experienced jailbreakers...
posted by omnidrew at 8:42 AM on August 29, 2009

It just needs to be a joy to use, durable with great features.

I'm not asking much, just that it be fantastic in every way... ;-)

It's not difficult to find unlocked sub-$200 smartphones with QWERTY keyboards, but because the ones that are in that price bracket tend to be older, getting Wi-Fi (often called WLAN in the mobile world it seems, for reasons I cannot fathom) is more difficult. You haven't said where you are in the world (or indeed which dollars you're talking) so I'm going to assume you're based in the US. Given what you're looking for, this is the best I can do. It is AT&T branded (which you indicate is a problem) but that appears to be entirely in software, and can probably be removed by flashing or reformatting the phone.

I have no idea how joyous it is to use.
posted by Dysk at 8:52 AM on August 29, 2009

It looks like you may be able to get an unlocked Nokia e71 off ebay for around 200$, although possibly somewhat over. I think it meets your requirements.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:34 AM on August 29, 2009

Perhaps a gsm treo pro?
posted by kickingtheground at 9:37 AM on August 29, 2009

Is there any reason why you're unwilling to debrand it yourself?
posted by turkeyphant at 11:17 AM on August 29, 2009

Response by poster: The price is in USD and I'm living outside the US hence the reason for needing it to be unlocked.

To turkeyphant: I hate seeing branding on a device, except that of the maker. I know it seems a bit strange but it just bugs me. Especially when the carriers don't exist in my region.

To Salamandrous: Thanks, I'll check it out

To kickingtheground: I considered the Pro, but I wanted to see what else was out there.

(BTW - does anyone know how to respond to each comment directly?)
posted by Mr_Thirdworld at 11:49 AM on August 29, 2009

Mr_Thirdworld: (BTW - does anyone know how to respond to each comment directly?)

There isn't actually a technical way to do this, other than to address people in the body of your comment, exactly as you did. People do it in different ways, and there isn't really a single convention for it.

When you say you want something under $200, will an ebay (or other webshop) link do, or do you want something that you can reasonably expect to find for under $200 where you are? Because the Motorola Q9H meets all your requirements, except for having software branding, which can be removed fairly painlessly by updating the firmware.
posted by Dysk at 12:15 PM on August 29, 2009

If you like the Treo form factor, the Nokia E71 meets your requirements. Watch Slickdeals for a few weeks and you'll probably see new ones under $200.

PS: There's no threading on MetaFilter.
posted by djb at 12:18 PM on August 29, 2009

Mr_Thirdworld: "To turkeyphant: I hate seeing branding on a device, except that of the maker. I know it seems a bit strange but it just bugs me. Especially when the carriers don't exist in my region. "

You seem to have misparsed my question. I didn't say "why does it need to be debranded?" - I said, "why can't you debrand it yourself once you've bought it?"
posted by turkeyphant at 2:57 PM on August 29, 2009

Best answer: The Nokia E63 fits all your specifications. It's basically the Nokia E71 without GPS, a 2MP camera rather than a 3MP camera, a 3mm headphone jack, and plastic (but attractive) casing rather than metal. You can buy it unlocked online from Dell or Amazon for less that $200. It's a great size (slightly slimmer in width than the Blackberry Curve) and I've been very happy with the keyboard. It's my first smartphone though, so I don't have anything to compare it to.
posted by samren at 12:09 PM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, the E63 looks mighty interesting. I've seen some great reviews online and it sound like a real deal. Samren, does the E63 use threading for text messages? That would really seal the deal.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? Cause this looks like the front runner thus far.
posted by Mr_Thirdworld at 2:29 PM on August 30, 2009

Unfortunately, the E63 does not come with threading for text messaging, but I've heard there are some programs that can be added to the phone to do this (which I have not tried yet). Nokia has a free beta app called Conversation that has thread-like features, but from reading some of the reviews and forum discussions I'm not sure how well it works. Another option (unfortunately not free, but $9) is SMS Diary which you can read a review of here.

I'm not sure why this isn't included in the default programs on the phone, but Nokia has a free (for now) push email service called Nokia Messaging which is much better than the email app that comes installed on the phone.
posted by samren at 4:46 PM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: Bummer. The only thing that I don't like about the e63 is the color selection. Maybe I can change the body myself? I saw some black color kits on eBay.
posted by Mr_Thirdworld at 5:12 AM on August 31, 2009

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