Non-crappy Android phone with decent signal/service/price??
September 13, 2012 2:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a pre-paid android phone at a reasonable price (looking at the lower-end Androids since I'm new to them and I don't want to spend more than $200-$250). The only problem is that I have no signal in my apartment when it comes to Sprint/Spring-tower based carriers. AT&T Go Phones charge you extra monthly for a data package and I'd rather not spend more than $50/month. Help?

I used to have a non-android basic touch screen type phone through Virgin Mobile-- and I'd had it before I moved into this apartment-- back when I had good service with any carrier I had. I'm slightly outside of bounds in the apartment I live in now, which means that I could only make calls close to windows/doors with that phone. (0-1 bars. 2 bars if I hold my mouth just right when I stand on my porch.)

Finally fed up with having to go outside to get a decent signal, I got a basic phone through AT&T. The signal inside my apartment is great! When I started shopping for Androids though, I discovered that AT&T charges you extra for 'data packages' if you want to actually use your said Android phone. I don't want to have to do this, but I really want an Android!

So when I went and spoke to a salesman at the Best Buy Mobile store, he said that the Android AT&T sells is sluggish anyway and that I'd be better off getting Boost or Virgin Mobile and using Google Voice while at home.

Is this actually possible and does it work adequately for calling when you're at home? Also, if that's the case, what's my best bet for a less sluggish Android in the $200 range? He said the HTC EVO One is a decent phone and is selling for $200 right now.
posted by camylanded to Shopping (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to look at - Verizon has a monthly prepaid service, and it looks like you can get voice, data, and text for $45/month. Their website also says that you can use an AT&T phone with their SIM card.
posted by needlegrrl at 2:13 PM on September 13, 2012

Buy a used phone. AT&T has crappy prepaid plans. T-mobile is decent for voice only.

If you want data, Straight Talk has prepaid unlimited for $50 a month and works with AT&T or T-mobile locked phones.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:14 PM on September 13, 2012

I have Straight talk, and it works well for me. I have unlimited data, and I've had fairly decent coverage nearly everywhere I've gone. It's worth checking out.
posted by patheral at 2:26 PM on September 13, 2012

T-mobile has prepaid plans, the lowest usable one being around 50 bucks a month, and they have an app that you can use to get regular phone service anywhere you can connect to wi-fi. So there's that.

Straight Talk is apparently an AT&T MVNO, so if you have great AT&T signal you'll have exactly the same signal strength with Straight Talk. And they're ridiculously cheap at $45 for AYCE.
posted by mullingitover at 2:51 PM on September 13, 2012

i have been totally happy with a wildfire s from tmobile. their calling over wifi app doesn't use minutes with my plan. it's also fairly easy to root. i've never had trouble with data, but it's only a 3g phone.
posted by clockwork at 2:56 PM on September 13, 2012

One other thing--getting a less sluggish android phone in the 200 range unlocked is a tall order. I have an android phone that's going for over $200 on ebay (t-mobile vibrant, equivalent to a first-gen Galaxy S) and it's an absolutely horrible phone. Sluggish, freezes/crashes at least once a week, and navigation (android's strong suit) is a trainwreck. You can get a new iPhone 3GS on ebay for 200 bucks, and IMHO it's worlds better than any android phone you'd get in that price range.
posted by mullingitover at 3:06 PM on September 13, 2012

If your home is your only problem with the Sprint network, yes, you can use Google Voice there. Assuming you have a reasonable internet connection, you can get this little box from Amazon, buy any cheap landline-type phone, and then forward your Google Voice number to both that AND your cellphone. All calls go to both - talk on the landline-type phone at home, and the cellphone elsewhere.

And if you want data without paying for a specific data plan, and a cheap Android phone, PlatinumTel offers it. The Android phone is definitely on the cheap end, though. There's also Ting, who has more expensive and probably better phones, with a prepaid pricing structure I find confusing, but admit I haven't spent much time with it.

The only thing to look out for is that phones set up for companies like Ting, Virgin and PTel aren't going to work on any other network, even vanilla Sprint. So if you buy a really good phone and want to change, you're pretty well SOL.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:06 PM on September 13, 2012

Add another $100 to your phone price and get a brand new, cutting edge, unlocked Google Nexus. It will be worth it to have a better phone for the next two or three years for such a small amount up front.

$100 over 36 months is less than $3 per month. Get the web exclusive T-Mobile plan for $30 if you can live with just 100 minutes a month (unlimited text and data). That saves you $15 per month compared to straight talk ($45 per month unlimited everything) and $$$ per month compared to a contract. You'll be $12 a month ahead and the better phone will pay for itself in no time (really it will probably pay for itself immediately in terms of the better experience you'll have).

Check for T-Mobile coverage here.
posted by jsturgill at 3:15 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Totally happy with T-mobile here, data on T-Mobile is far faster than it ever was with my iPhone on the AT&T network, and my phone (HTC MyTouch) has an option to route your call via WiFi if it's available. Still counts against voice minutes, and I've currently got it turned off because it doesn't roam very well off the WiFi network (ie: when I go out in the back yard), but it works.

So can you just configure your phone to use WiFi when you're in your apartment?
posted by straw at 3:23 PM on September 13, 2012

I've been using H2O Wireless's $50/mo plan and it's worked out okay. They're an AT&T mvno so any used AT&T Android phone will work. I bought a used Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S) on ebay and it's been fine.

Everything's worked fine, not great, but I don't expect great from an mvno and a used phone. I haven't had any trouble making and receiving calls. I can read emails, browse the web, IM, use the navigation (though the GPS in the phone is weak), and do all the smartphony stuff that smartphones do.
posted by highway40 at 6:07 PM on September 13, 2012

I have the Google Nexus HSPA+ - definitely worth going overbudget for. I'm using it with Straight Talk's AT&T SIM and their $45/month Unlimited service. Coverage is phenomenal, I can grab a 4G signal pretty much everywhere. The phone is science-fiction sexy, more than a match for the iPhone 5, save for the camera, and the new Android OS the phone ships with, Jellybean, is impressive in its polish, stability and ease of use.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:24 AM on September 14, 2012

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