Cheap and reliable cell phone?
August 30, 2006 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a cheap reliable cell phone.

I am looking to buy 2 new cells without renewing my Cingular contract. Ideally I would like to spend under $75 each unless there's a compelling reason to go higher. I know about howardforums and ebay but I'm having a hard time finding specific phone recommendations given my small budget. There's a huge emphasis on the latest phones and I just want something that works. My last few phones have been free with 2 year contract and they all seemed to die pretty fast. I don't need any frills, just a quality phone that will take some abuse and is loud and clear.
posted by hindmost to Shopping (7 answers total)
I too, had the same phone requirements. As a gadget-hater, I wanted the most stubbornly practical phone possible. After stumbling on this article a while back, I became semi-obsessed with finding a similar phone. Motorola makes (or rather has someone make for them) a line of fairly reliable bare-bones phones that they sell in "emerging markets." The availability of these things is a bit spotty - much easier to find in GSM 900/1800 than 850/1900. I did manage to discover that they sell it in South America, and eventually ordered a Motorola C115 GSM 850/1900 model on ebay for about $60. If you're not in the US, it'll probably be a bit easier than that.

As for the phone, it's fantastic. I only have to charge it every 6 days or so, it's got great reception, and is super-small. On the downside, it doesn't support voicemail notification, so whenever you get voicemail, you get a blank text message (which would have been a control message to turn on your "have voicemail" indicator"). I was able to talk to my provider (tmobile) and have notification turned off, though - so no more blank TMs. The only other thing that bothers me about the phone is that when the battery is about to die, it beeps every 90s or so. You can't change the volume of the beep, or otherwise make it go away, short of turning off the phone. Which I now do immediately whenever it does this, as it's going to die inside 10 minutes anyway.

If you're even more adventurous than ordering from ebay, the color model of this phone (the Motorola C155 is all over the US as a Pay-as-You-Go phone, through several different companies. I've heard that these can be liberated from the PAYG networks, but as far as I know, it requires flashing the phone with a new firmware, which is more of a pain than it's worth, I think. They typically go for about $30 at Wal-Mart or your local big-box store.
posted by god hates math at 6:31 PM on August 30, 2006

I've mentioned it before, but the Nokia 1100 now comes in 850/1900. In 900/1800, it's basically Nokia's workhorse phone for Africa, and the equivalent to the Motorola C1xx series. It 'just works', and unlocked eBay models (liberated from Tracfone's PAYG network) run at under $50.
posted by holgate at 7:06 PM on August 30, 2006

I'll second the suggestion of a bottom range Nokia phone, i've personally got a Nokia 3120 and it cops a great deal of abuse, it retails at about $100 in Australia. The Nokia 1xxx series phones are great if you're not worried about aesthetics as well.

My previous Nokia phone was subjected to 18 months of severe abuse (after it was already at least 2 years old) which involved being dropped in a pool, getting lost in a violent moshpit, and being dropped 2 stories onto concrete, without dying. YMMV, however, i suspect that the concrete drop was more luck than anything else.
posted by cholly at 8:14 PM on August 30, 2006

I got a refurb Nokia 6061 from for $30. If you sign up for an account with and use their referral link, you should get $30 cash back (a sort of rebate). For whatever reason, though, they screwed up mine, so caveat emptor.

The phone is pay-as-you-go, so there's no obligation. The phone's not half-bad, either.
posted by alexei at 9:58 PM on August 30, 2006

Best answer: If you're with Cingular, I would buy a refurbed Nokia 6030 from their online web store under the Pay As You Go, 25 cents flat rate plan. It comes with a $10 prepaid PIN that lasts 30 days, so after you use that up or the time expires, just pop out the SIM and drop in the one from your existing Cingular phone. It gets slightly better user reviews over at phonescoop compared to the 6061 mentioned above. My wife has it and even though it's refurbed, it looks and feels brand new, and it's been a great, reliable performer so far.
posted by jaimev at 11:44 PM on August 30, 2006

1st choice - Nokia
2nd - Samsung

absolute last - anything motorola
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:39 AM on August 31, 2006

Response by poster: I saw this on August 31st, and the 6030 was gone. I called in and was told that it was never coming back. I cruised Ebay and found several listed for about $80, didn't bite the bullet, but just now went back to the site and found them unrefurbed for $29 with a $10 pin.

Yay Jaimev!
posted by hindmost at 7:41 PM on September 1, 2006

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