Best unlocked cheap phone available at Walmart?
October 5, 2016 8:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling, and my phone is dead. What is the cheapest, best unlocked phone I can get tomorrow morning at a brick-and-mortar Walmart that will work with Consumer Cellular?

I'm traveling, and my phone will not charge to any wall charger/portable power banks I've tried (that do work for other devices). It's a disaster - since I use an unlocked phone, I can't bring it to the carrier, and the warranty is going to involve a tedious mail-in process. And I absolutely need it for various work functions so I need a replacement ASAP, and can pretty much only get to a Walmart from my hotel.

I am having a tough time figuring out which phones would work - would this? Or do I need to bite the bullet and get another phone plan too? Dumbphone would be ok if needed, though a smartphone option that cheap is tempting as getting around without a Maps app will be tough. I'd like to spend less than $30 if I can.

Thank you for any help!
posted by susanvance to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Take a gander at Howard Forums area for US Prepaid/MVNO discussions. If you're not in the US, there may be a similar area for the country you're in. "HoFo" is the go-to site for deep knowledge about cellphones, cell-service, cell-carriers, and the nerds who love them. In addition to Fora, they have wikis as well.

[MNVO: mobile virtual network operator]

There you can browse current rates/plans and maybe phones for the various carriers-- all the good stuff is stickied at the top of each forum/subforum. If I were you, I'd scribble some preferences down for each carrier and then head to WalMart to see what's actually there.

I did a search for the Coolpad Rogue you linked, and generally threads were that it was a decent backup phone for $0-30, but it's HSPA+ (not LTE) for 4G, on T-Mobile. One thread had a bunch of people saying it was a POS and you should go for the Moto E (Walmart link) on Verizon.

P.S. Remove your case from your current phone and try charging. I don't know why it sometimes works, but it sometimes works. Best of luck.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:21 PM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can get a tracphone flipphone and a 60 min/90 day card (I think it's really 130 min after bonuses) for about $35.00.
Works good for someone who doesn't talk a huge amount and doesn't need a smartphone.
posted by H21 at 9:26 PM on October 5, 2016

Have you tried cleaning out the charging port? Sometimes lint in the charging port can make problems, particularly with iPhones. I used a toothpick (carefully) and then some compressed air.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:38 PM on October 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just on the off chance you have an iPhone and haven't tried this, you can do a hard reboot by holding the power button and the home button down for about 20 seconds or so. This fixed my problem once when I was in a similar situation (phone refused to charge or turn on.)
posted by MsMolly at 9:57 PM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Verizon phones, like this are unlocked out of the box. See for example this slickdeals thread.

Note that it's only the LTE devices, but that's like all of them at this point. The only thing that can be screwy is using them on postpaid verizon plans. Otherwise they're unlocked.

The moto e is a totally decent passable phone too. Like, thousands of times better than anything else in that price range. Probably anything under $100, even.
posted by emptythought at 10:12 PM on October 5, 2016

What size SIM does your current phone have? If you want something that can just be swapped in, you'll need something with the same size SIM or something that your current one can be adapted to. You need a phone that's GSM compatible rather than CDMA. Anything that's $30 is going to be pretty bad, but might be OK for a few days.
posted by Candleman at 10:31 PM on October 5, 2016

I've had luck with several phones with dead batteries by just leaving them plugged into a wall charger for several hours, even if there is no indication of any activity when you first plug them in.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 12:18 AM on October 6, 2016

The question was the best phone at Walmart. I can only pass along the advice my son gave me when I was shopping for my first smartphone: if you are just using it as a phone, they should all work. That said, I would avoid the cheapest option just because it's been designed to be cheap which sort of implies other valuable characteristics have been compromised.

The options may vary by region/store, so there may be nothing better than going there to see what they got.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:07 AM on October 6, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks all! The original phone unfortunately just won't charge to any charger -- the port is clear and leaving it plugged in overnight was also my faint hope but did not work.

For anyone interested, I ended up with the AT&T Alcatel Ideal for $30.
posted by susanvance at 5:30 PM on October 6, 2016

« Older Fun, flat, mail-able, multi-participant game /...   |   How do I find primary citations/best info? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.