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Affordable smartphones and warranty options built to withstand the rigors of college life

People drop their phones all the time. A recent survey shows that 50 percent of college students break their phones. Here are some low cost options and warranty options to protect your investment.
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By Matthew Miller, Contributor on
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1 of 8 SquareTrade

College students tend to break their phones often

As teens and young adults head back to high school and college, they may be looking for a new smartphone to stay in touch with family and friends. Results from a recent SquareTrade survey show that about 50 percent of college students break their phones. My daughter recently dropped and broke her iPhone display, so I am seeing a 100 percent college student failure rate in my home.

Nokia and Motorola provide full-featured low-cost smartphones. Kyocera, Samsung, and others, provide rugged waterproof phones, while some manufacturers have repair and replacement options that provide peace of mind for a reasonable price. You can also add an independent protection plan, such as SquareTrade.

Since price is usually the first priority when looking for a new phone, let's take a look at the lower-priced options and work up to the more expensive options.

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2 of 8 Nokia/Microsoft

Nokia Lumia 635

Nokia offers fantastic low-cost Lumia phones. They are responsive, easy to use, have some great enhancements such as HERE Maps, and they are durable. Like Nokia devices from years ago, most Lumia devices can survive a drop or two. If they do break, they cost less than most warranty programs and a whole lot less than an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

One of the latest low-cost devices is the Nokia Lumia 635. It's available for as low as $99. These low-cost Lumias are usually for GSM carriers, like AT&T and T-Mobile, and come with no contracts in most cases as well.

The Lumia 635 has a 4.5-inch Gorilla Glass 3 display, quad-core processor, 5-megapixel camera, microSD expansion card slot, and Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana. Students can stream music for free and pick up various color shells to protect the Lumia and add a bit of flare.

 

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3 of 8 Motorola

Moto E

Motorola followed up their higher-end Moto X with the Moto G and Moto E. The Moto E is available for just $129 with no contract and is a great phone for the student or to even have as your own backup device.

The Moto E has a 4.3-inch display, dual-core processor, microSD expansion card slot, long battery life, 5-megapixel camera, and the latest and greatest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system. You can also add shells to the Moto E.

The Moto E specs are pretty minimal, but it is still a very functional device that gets the job done without breaking the bank.

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4 of 8 Motorola

Moto G

The Motorola G feels like a Moto X and offers most of the same amazing software enhancements in a phone that fits well in your pocket.

The Moto G has a 4.5-inch display, quad-core processor, microSD expansion card slot, long battery life, 5-megapixel camera, and the latest and greatest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system. You can also add shells to the Moto G that provide function and style.

You can pick up the Moto G for as low as $179 or $219 with a LTE radio. Various carriers have the Moto G as well.

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5 of 8 Kyocera

Kyocera Hydro Life

Some phones are built to withstand the rigors of working outside and a rugged phone may be a good option for the active college student. Most rugged phones are priced at a bit of a premium over their standard version, but Kyocera is also known for making reasonably priced rugged devices. One of the newest is the Kyocera Hydro Life.

The Hydro Life has a 4.5-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, quad-core processor, microSD expansion card slot, and runs Android 4.4 KitKat. It has an IP57 waterproof rating, with military standard 810G for shock.

It is available now on T-Mobile for $125 with support for Wi-Fi Calling, which is a great service for college students who usually have excellent Wi-Fi coverage all over campus. T-Mobile is an excellent low-cost carrier with no contract obligation.

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6 of 8 CNET/CBS Interactive

Moto Care Accident Protection for Moto X

Even though my Moto X is approaching a year old, I keep using it because the software enhancements make it a compelling device. I purchased the two-year Moto Care Accident Protection coverage on the Moto X for only $85 and it provides a replacement for $39 if I break my Moto X. It also extends the warranty to two years in case some other failure occurs.

The Moto X can be customized in many respects, even including some college themed colors and shells. It is priced at $350 to $475 (16GB and 64GB respectively), which is actually reasonable when you consider a flagship Android is $600+ and iPhones can be as high as $850, before taxes.

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7 of 8 HTC

HTC Advantage for the HTC One

HTC launched their Advantage program earlier this year and devices like the excellent HTC One M8 are provided with some peace of mind. One of the main benefits of HTC Advantage is six months of screen replacement coverage (one time free replacement). I have dropped a few HTC devices in the past and have yet to break one so their designs may help prevent screen breakage, but it is nice to have this coverage in place.

In addition to the screen replacement coverage, HTC Advantage includes a guarantee on software updates, 25-50 GB of cloud storage, and free support. We know that Android L will be launching before the end of 2014, and HTC One owners will eventually get this update and more.

The HTC One (M8) is an expensive device ($600 range), but it is also well-rounded in its features. The HTC Advantage service is a nice bonus that helps justify the cost of the device and your college student will appreciate the BoomSound stereo speakers and fun camera software.

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8 of 8 Apple

AppleCare+ for the iPhone

There will be those students who also want an iPhone that serves as their phone and iPod in one device. The iPhone is an excellent smartphone, but also very expensive ($650 to $850 for the iPhone 5s). If you do end up buying an iPhone then the AppleCare+ coverage is highly recommended. 

You can get the display replaced or the phone replaced with the Apple Care+ coverage, up to two times during the two year coverage period. The initial cost of AppleCare+ is $99 and each incident is subject to a $79 service fee, plus tax. However, when you pay $650 plus for the phone it is probably worth picking up AppleCare+ for your college student.

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