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T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 521
The new Nokia Lumia 521 on T-Mobile is an amazing value at only $144 full retail price or $6/month for 24 months. The Windows Phone 8 OS is extremely responsive and since it is a Nokia device there are a ton of software and service options included.
I believe lower cost Windows Phones offer more than old iPhones and cheap Android smartphones and recommend this for T-Mobile customers.
AT&T HTC First
It is debatable whether or not the official Facebook phone, the HTC First is a desirable product or not, but at just 99 cents (with contract) it is tough to beat this device on AT&T. The HTC First is a solid Android smartphone and with a focus on the Facebook experience students and parents may appreciate the functionality.
You can always turn off the Facebook parts and end up with a near pure Google experience. The HTC First has a dual core 1.4 GHz processor, 16GB storage, 1GB RAM, 5 megapixel camera, and attractive, well-designed form factor.
AT&T LG Optimus G Pro
The LG Optimus G Pro is a large 5.5 inch display device with a ton of capability packed in. It has a quad-core 1.7 GHz processor, 13 megapixel camera, note taking capability, and a ton more. This is a device that can serve as a portable tablet for a student, as well as their primary phone.