​Yes, Walmart is selling a $10 Android smartphone - but with a catch

The price of two LG smartphones on sale at Walmart is almost too good to be true.

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The prices of the two LG Android smartphones are for outright ownership but they are locked to US pre-paid mobile carrier TracFone. Image: Walmart/LG
Why settle for a feature phone either as primary or backup handset when you can buy a new smartphone for $10?

Buyers can't expect too much from a $10 smartphone and that's pretty much what they will get if they take up an offer from US retail giant Walmart for two LG-made handsets.

Nonetheless, the devices are more powerful on paper than Microsoft's cheapest feature phone, the Nokia 105, released earlier this year for $20.

The two phones are the LG Sunrise L15G and LG Lucky LG16, though the LG16 is currently out of stock. The L15G is a 3.8-inch display device running Android KitKat, with a 1.2GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, a three-megapixel main camera, and a 4GB microSD included.

The specs don't sound that appealing and it's running a version of Android two generations old, albeit still the most widely-used release.

But at that price consumers still gain access to one million apps available in Google Play to do everything most feature phones can't, like using WhatsApp -- with the exception of some Nokia devices -- a ride-hailing app and so on.

But while the range of budget smartphones is growing and prices are being pushed down as handset makers target buyers in emerging markets, the Walmart devices come with a few catches that make like-for-like comparisons difficult.

The prices are for outright ownership. However, they're both discounted under a Walmart sale. More significantly, the smartphones are locked to US pre-paid mobile carrier TracFone.

That might set alarm bells ringing for some consumers after the company faced enforcement action from the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year for keeping phones locked to its network despite a commitment to unlock them.

It was also slugged with an $80m settlement charge, equal to $10 per handset for the estimated eight million TracFone customers affected by its actions.

The FCC demanded that TracFone provide clear notifications about its unlocking policy by September 1.

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