Decent Android phone, no contract. Possible?
August 2, 2012 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Looking for the best Android smartphone to buy for a pre-paid service, preferably GSM based....

So, I'm looking to dump my ridiculous and horrible Sprint service for a pre-paid service.

I've looked at a bunch and the Wal Mart one seems to be best (T-Mobile, $30 a month, 5GB data, 100 minutes).

Now, I need to find a smartphone to go with it.

I currently have the Epic 4G for Sprint, which is a steaming pile of horrible. The phone itself is fine, but the reception is terrible and the battery lasts about 8 hours if I'm super-lucky.

I'm fine with buying used, but obviously new or refurbished is better.

I'm comfortable with rooting and putting on a custom ROM if a phone out there is crap as "stock" and needs to be retooled.

Is there such an option? I'd love a Galaxy S2, but they run around $300 used. I'm looking to spend $200 or less per phone. I know I can pick up the SUPER FANCY new Galaxy phone from Google Directly for $359, but after tax it's nearly $400 which is a lot to spend up front, especially if I'm buying 2 of them.

Something dual-core with a decent screen, 4G/LTE, and good battery life. Don't care about NFC or other exotics.
posted by lattiboy to Technology (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And sorry, it's the new NEXUS phone from Google.
posted by lattiboy at 3:52 PM on August 2, 2012

Those features are top of the line requests. The Nexus is almost half the price of comparable unlocked phones. Not saying it is worth it (it is), but you won't find 4G with a decent screen less than $300 for the used S2. And the unfortunate part about going cheaper and used is the lack of warranty.

Battery life on any 4G phone with a big screen is still not great. I love being able to swap out the battery on my nexus by 4 or 5 pm.
posted by shinynewnick at 4:07 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know how the prepaid pricing stacks up, but this HTC One V deal from Amazon and Virgin Mobile is $200, and the phone itself has quite a bit of bang for the buck.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:09 PM on August 2, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the tip on the HTC One flanders.

It's just infuriating because the Google phone is SO good and $400, I don't know how anybody else is competing. I just kind of figured there was a phone somewhere between the $99 crap fests and the $400 Google one to get.

No 4G on the HTC One.
posted by lattiboy at 4:12 PM on August 2, 2012

It's just such a good deal because Google doesn't care about making money on the Galaxy Nexus. Heck, they just sent free Q media streaming devices to people who pre-ordered them for $299 because they're not confident in the software yet. The problem is that very few people are buying phones out of contract, so there is no reason for competitive prices

You're certainly saving money on your no-contract plan; for me, it is worth the additional up-front cost to have a phone that will handily cover the next two years without being obsolete. It's a device you use every single day.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:32 PM on August 2, 2012

Just get the Galaxy Nexus. It's the best Android phone out there and well worth the cost.
posted by The Michael The at 6:35 PM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might consider the Nexus S, which goes for about $200 used and just received the Jelly Bean update, but for something you'll be using daily for the next two years, the Galaxy Nexus is a no-brainer.
posted by evoque at 6:52 PM on August 2, 2012

T-Mobile doesn't have 4G LTE, so there's no point getting a phone with it.
posted by meowzilla at 8:35 PM on August 2, 2012

Best answer: Thanks to T-Mobile's particular 3G frequency, your selection is somewhat limited since not all of them make it there. There aren't a lot of phones that do penta-band 3G, although they're slowly becoming more common. So pretty much you're looking for a used or non-contract T-Mobile (or Wind, if unlocked) phone or one of the rare pentabands, which you'll want if you ever decide you need to switch over to one of at&t's prepaid MVNOs.

The GSMArena phone finder should help you narrow down the list. There are apparently 18 phones that will work on any US HSPA network. The list is much larger if you don't limit yourself to a phone that's portable between networks.

I'd go with the Galaxy Nexus. You can get two for not much more than I paid for one just a few months ago. (before Google started selling them directly) You're saving so much with the cheaper monthly charge that the one time cost is pretty small if you have the extra cash on hand for it.

You could buy a feature phone or a used Symbian phone as an interim measure. Feature phones can obviously be had for next to nothing, and a lot of them still have Bluetooth and Wifi, so you can get your tablet or laptop online with them. Symbian, for all the static thrown its way isn't that bad, and the phones are usually super-inexpensive. (aside from things like the Nokia 808 with the 42MP camera) You'll occasionally see used Nokia N8s on eBay or Craigslist for $150 or less. New they're about $200. Not too bad now that they're running Symbian Belle. It's only the second best phone camera on the market now, though.
It's definitely not an Android superphone, though. It runs fine despite the slow CPU, but it does have a slow CPU.

As I said before, though, I'd just go with the Galaxy Nexus. Just don't expect too much from the camera; it's nothing to write home about. (nor is it bad, it just is)
posted by wierdo at 10:32 PM on August 2, 2012

Best answer: I'm also throwing my ever-increasing weight behind the Galaxy Nexus. I have one and it's simply an incredible phone.

Firstly, you'll get the latest Android versions before anybody else - minus all the irritating useless carrier/OEM bloatware. The GNex is one of the few phones out there with Android 4.1 Jellybean, and it's a huge leap forward for the OS in terms of performance and polish.

Plus, it's got a hugely active development scene, meaning there are tons of great custom ROMs and kernels if you're willing to spend an afternoon learning how to root your phone and install them. What does this mean for you? Basically: more features, better performance and - the big one - greatly increased battery life, depending on how you set it up.

Yeah, the camera kind of blows, but if that's not a priority then it shouldn't matter too much. It's fine for snapshots.
posted by Ted Maul at 3:23 AM on August 3, 2012

Best answer: Well folks, after driving myself CRAZY figuring out the differences between the Nexus and tabulating up-front costs vs. plan costs.... I picked up a Samsung Galaxy S3 at Costco on sale.

It is a magic device. I'm a gadget guy from way back, but I've never been as impressed with a piece of hardware. Everything is perfect: Battery lasts over 15 hours with heavy usage, built well, screen is gorgeous, snappy as hell. In short: buy one.

What kept me from the Nexus was recurring issues with battery drain and kind of sub-par specs for the price. With tax and shipping it was almost $400. The Galaxy can be had new for $525 on ebay, I would recommend this for people looking into it.

I got it from Costco for $170 on a 2-year plan and picked up a Galaxy S2 for the girlfriend for free.

I'll come out about even on pre-paid vs. post-paid because of a corporate discount I get, so the choice became quite easy.
posted by lattiboy at 3:17 PM on August 28, 2012

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