Six clicks: Compelling no-contract smartphones available for less than $350

Six clicks: Compelling no-contract smartphones available for less than $350

Summary: You no longer have to pay high prices for great phones and with no-contract with a carrier you are in charge of your service obligation.


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  • It's a relief to own a phone with no contract obligation

    Thanks in large part to T-Mobile's Uncarrier campaign, Americans are finally starting to understand that their $99 phones really cost $600 and that carriers just hide the costs in monthly fees.

    As we adopt the European model, we are also now seeing more and more no-contract smartphone offerings from various manufacturers. With a no-contract phone you can also get no-contract service and pay on a monthly basis with the option to switch providers, increase or decrease your monthly allotments, and more. The ability to have both your phone cost and carrier fees in your control is something people are actively embracing.

    Keep in mind that some of these no-contract phones may still be SIM-locked to a particular carrier so you may not have complete flexibility to switch carriers. Many can be unlocked via the carrier or 3rd party service too.

    While the latest and greatest iPhone, Android smartphone, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry device will generally run you $550 up to $850 (yes, a 64GB no-contract iPhone 5S is $849 before taxes), there are now plenty of solid alternatives priced at $350 or less.

    If you could ever get an invite, the OnePlus One looks like a fantastic offering with high end specs and a reasonable price. Let's take a closer look at six no-contract smartphones you can actually purchase now, in order from lowest cost to highest cost.

    Previously on Six Clicks:

    Six clicks: Rumored smartphones worth waiting for

    Six clicks: Revolutionary advances in mobile from Apple

    Six clicks: Top six camera phones compared


  • Nokia Lumia 635

    Back in April Nokia announced the Nokia Lumia 635 that is now available for just $168 from T-Mobile. This model follows the highly successful Lumia 500 series and will be available across multiple carriers.

    The Lumia 635 has all the great features and services you expect on a Nokia device at an unbelievable price. It comes loaded with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Cyan update, is powered by a quad-core processor, has a 4.5 inch display, and a 5 megapixel camera.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google, HTC, Nokia, Smartphones, Windows Phone

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  • Contract free phones will save you a ton of money.

    If you don't need a high-end camera phone, a sub $200 phone is more than enough. For example, WP Lumia phones, the performance difference is hardly noticeable across devices at various price points...
    • Even better

      Even better the cheaper ones like the Nokia 520/521 don't have glued in batteries. I can just pop the case off and pop in a new battery if it's low.
      Buster Friendly
  • Google Galays Nexus ...

    available from about the fall of 2011, purchased directly from Google Play devices. When it was first offered, I think the price was about $450 or so, but I think I got mine for $350 in the Spring of 2012. It has been and continues to be a great phone (just bought a new battery for $30). I took it to Europe and since it was unlocked as purchased from Google, all I needed to do was stop in a Mobile store and pay for a SIM card and pay as you contract and I was working in about 20 minutes. Making the costs more transparent will likely cause more people to hang onto their phones a little longer (saving throwing them in landfills) AND serve to drive prices for Voice/Data/Test down to a more reasonable level.
  • If you are adventurous

    blackberry has the Z10 (white only) for $199 on their website. I have a Z10, ironically bought for $199 from BB during a black friday sale. I like the OS, but wish it was more customizable.
  • No contract with carrier locking?

    Unless you folks in the US are free from carrier locking, you can never really be free of contract. If you are paying full price for the phone, why should you be forced to buy it from the carrier? Google paved the way for this, but they havent been able to compete with the carriers effectively.
    Another compelling phone for that price is the Xiaomi Mi3. Unfortunately it is not available in the US.
    • How it works

      How it works with the no contract discount phone is it's SIM locked but you can get a unlock code after it's been activated on the network for some amount of time. For example with T-Mobile, you need to use them for at least 40 days and you can only unlock two phones a year. It's just to allow them to provide a discount to consumers without someone just re-selling them by the thousands. If you want to pay full price you can get one factory unlocked.
      Buster Friendly
      • Switching from AT&T to Verizon

        Could I buy an unlocked phone from AT&T then switch over to Verizon if I don't like the network or can get a cheaper plan?
        • Unlocking a phone

          Has always been an extremely simple task if you know how to use google, and you will almost never have to pay anyone, let alone a telco to do it.
        • no

          AT&T is a GSM carrier, whereas Verizon is CDMA. You won't be able to move phones between these carriers for that reason. But I believe it's possible to move some phones between AT&T and T-mobile.
          • Some phones can work.

            The Verizon LG G2 for instance, can be unlocked and used on AT&T and T-Mobile. It even has its own sim card.

            Not sure about vice verse, however.
    • You can buy unlocked phones now.

      You can buy unlocked phones now. For example, Apple's website offers their phones unlocked ("SIM-free" is the terminology they use, but yes they are unlocked). The number of phones you can buy unlocked these days is much larger.
  • More than $600

    If you really add up how much more the contract service cost plus what they charge up front, you're paying more like $1,000. For a 24 month contract, usually they run about $35 more a month than a flat rate pre-pay and then they get you for $100-$200 more for a high end. I think people are finally getting wise to that game.
    Buster Friendly
  • Unlocked phones are worth it.

    Even at the high end, unlocked phones are worth it.

    Got myself a hew high end phone without a contract. Not through T-Mobile, but through something similar. Sure, I paid a lot of money up front for it, but what do I get?

    * Unlimited data, unlimited talk, unlimited text.
    * No 2 year contract, if it's too expensive I can always change plans, switch to a competitor, or cancel without paying extra fees.

    Basically, complete freedom. What I've always wanted to begin with. Why is it so difficult for major carriers to offer this?
    • Are we getting that edit button any time soon?

      A NEW high end phone, not a hew high end phone . . .

      Are we getting that edit button any time soon?
      • And Here I Tho't...

        ..that two typos slipped thro'.
        That you really said, '...few high end phones'.
        Now, wouldn't that be nice? Perhaps some other day soon.
        We do need that Edit restored and a true Down Vote and....
    • Nexus 5

      $900+ off contract through telstra/voda/optus off contract or $450 through google play store. That should be enough for you to realise where the money goes.
      • you expect the carrier to give you a good deal?

        buy on independent cell phone websites and it's the same price as the play store
  • Cheap Phones

    You can buy a decent phone at Dollar General from $10 to $40! Apple and the rest are SCAMMING us with 1,000% markups on phones made by China slave labor.
  • Dual sims?

    What with a work phone and a personal phone, I hate carrying around two devices. Are there any LTE dual sim phones available in the market now for AT&T and T-mobile?

    Presently I am making do with a Sony Xperia M Dual and the Samsung Galaxy s4 Mini Duos. I can't decide which one is more suitable for me right now, but both are 3g HSPA+ only. They've replaced my iPhone 5 and Lumia 925.
  • THL w200s $160

    Awesome phone. 32gig flash, 1gig ram, 1.7ghz eight core CPU. 5inch hd screen. Battery lasts well, dual sim.changeable battery, microsd card. No LTE but fast with 3g. LTE monthly charge is too expensive anyway.