I've tried to explain to people for years that the true cost of a smartphone is not what you see at your local carrier store. However, people still think they can get an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy for free and that's just not true.
ZDNet's Ed Bott offered up another article on this fact when the Apple iPhone 6 was released and seems to have reached a few more folks. US wireless carriers are finally separating phone costs from service costs so that consumers have the ability to try to understand, but most still like thinking they get their phones for a low price.
While the latest iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S6 true cost can be more than $900 there are some decent options available for less than $300. Most work on AT&T and T-Mobile, but I did find a good option for Verizon customers as well.
Let's take a look at six compelling no-contract smartphones, in order of price from low to high.
You can find the Lumia 635 on the Microsoft website or from other retailers. One of the best current prices is $99.99 from AT&T with no contract obligation. The phone is locked to AT&T, but the monthly service price is reduced when you pay full price for the phone.
The Lumia 635 has a 4.5 inch display, 5 megapixel camera, quad-core 1.2 GHz processor, microSD card, replaceable 1830 mAh battery, and more. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Cyan.
The Lumia 635 includes 30GB of free OneDrive storage, Cortana personal assistant, full GPS navigation, Microsoft Office, Skype and more. It's a very functional device and worth consideration.
Moto E LTE
Motorola makes some of my favorite Android smartphones and its lowest price offering is the Moto E 4G LTE priced at just $149.99.
This SIM-unlocked phone will work on T-Mobile, AT&T, Cricket, and other GSM carriers. It has a quad-core processor and runs the latest Android operating system, Lollipop, which is more than many carrier-locked devices can say.
You will also find a microSD card slot, 4.5 inch display, 5 megapixel camera, and 2,390 mAh battery. There are plenty of cool accessories and very functional Motorola software. The Motorola products are very close to pure Android devices and are also very quick to be updated.
Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
Verizon is starting to offer a few more affordable full price smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy Core Prime is highly rated and available for $168.
The Galaxy Core Prime has a 4.5 inch display, runs Android 4.4, a microSD card slot, a user-removable 2,000 mAh battery, 5 megapixel camera, and slim 8.8 mm thickness.
The Moto G is powered by a quad-core processor and the latest version of Android Lollipop. It has a microSD card slot, 5 inch display, 8 megapixel camera, 2,070 mAh battery, and more.
Unlike the Moto E 4G LTE, there is no LTE radio in the Moto G so if speed is important then you may want to consider the Moto E.
I love my BlackBerry Passport and when communications are your focus there is nothing that can beat a BlackBerry 10 device. BlackBerry recently released its affordable device, the BlackBerry Leap, available for just $275 with no contract.
The BlackBerry Leap sports a 5 inch display, 8 megapixel rear camera, dual-core processor, microSD card slot, and 2,800 mAh non-removable battery.
ZDNet's Steve Ranger took a look at the BlackBerry Leap last week.
Huawei Ascend Mate 2
If you want a phone that lasts forever, then you can't go wrong with the Huawei Ascend Mate 2. This $299.99 smartphone boasts a killer battery and as I mentioned in my full review I was easily able to go a couple of days between charges.
The Ascend Mate 2 sports a very large 6.1 inch display, microSD card, quad-core processor, 13 megapixel rear camera, 5 megapixel front facing camera, and massive 3,900 mAh battery.
The user interface is similar to iOS while it runs Android. It's easy to use, very well made, and takes good photos. If you need a bigger screen to see things, then definitely consider this phone.