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Back to school smartphones under $100 (Gallery)

While high end smartphones run $200 to $300, there are plenty of options from free to $100. This gallery shows you two smartphones from each of the four major carriers that your student might want to consider.
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1 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Back to school smartphones under $100 (Gallery)

Last week I posted my top 10 smartphones for the summer, but these phones range from $200 to $400 (iPhone 5 64GB) with a subsidy. Low cost feature phones don't have the apps and services students and parents want, but you can still find solid smartphones at less than $100 with a subsidy.

T-Mobile no longer has phone subsidies, or contracts, so you pay for your phone in monthly installments or outright. As you can see in this image gallery, the two T-Mobile phones I selected are very reasonable priced and combined with T-Mobile's low starting entry cost plans this is the value carrier for the student.

There used to be a huge price gap between smartphones and feature phones, but that has gone away in many cases. In addition, with shared data plans and a low cost to add a line, generally just $10/month, smartphones are replacing feature phones across the board.

I only covered newer phones in this gallery, but with many carriers you can pick up refurbs or last year's model (iPhone 4 or 4S for example) at low prices as well. Make sure to check out your preferred wireless carrier's website for online deals or specials during this time of year. T-Mobile has a promotion going on now where almost all of their phones have $0 down so it is fairly inexpensive to get out the door with a new phone today.

Related ZDNet coverage

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2 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

T-Mobile LG Optimus L9

LG has been rolling out some excellent Android smartphones lately and a nice low cost device from T-Mobile is the Optimus L9. The full retail price, with no subsidy, is just $240. This can also be paid in $10/month payments for 24 months.

The LG Optimus L9 features a 4.5 inch display in a form factor just 0.36 inches thick. Android 4.2 is included with a dual-core processor, 5 megapixel camera, WiFi Calling, and more.

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3 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

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.

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4 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

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.

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5 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

AT&T LG Optimus G Pro

I was personally very impressed with the LG Optimus G Pro and was surprised to see it already down to just $99.99 on AT&T.

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.

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6 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Verizon Nokia Lumia 822

You can find quality Nokia devices on nearly all US carriers today and the Lumia 822 is an excellent choice on Verizon. You can pick one up for just $19.99 with a 2-year contract.

The Nokia Lumia 822 gives you free HERE maps, Nokia Music, camera with Carl Zeiss optics, and much more. It runs on Verizon's wide-ranging LTE network and even gives you full Office on the go.

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7 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Verizon Samsung Galaxy Stratosphere II

Some people still like having a physical QWERTY keyboard and the Samsung Galaxy Stratosphere II is one of those rare beasts. This Android smartphone is available for FREE with a 2-year contract.

The Stratosphere II is a Samsung Galaxy variant with a 4 inch display, 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 5-row QWERTY slide-out keyboard, 5 megapixel camera, and various Samsung software enhancements.

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8 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Sprint Vital from ZTE

ZTE is a fast growing Android vendor and the Sprint Vital looks like a good quality smartphone with Android 4.2. You can pick one up for $99.99 with a 2-year contract.

The Sprint Vital supports Sprint's LTE network and is powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. The Vital has a 5 inch display, 13 megapixel camera, and more.

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9 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Sprint HTC 8XT

It has been a long time since Sprint had a Windows Phone device and the new HTC 8XT offers features from HTC's latest HTC One Android device, including Beats Audio and BoomSound with stereo front facing speakers. The HTC 8XT is available for $99.99 with a 2-year contract.

The HTC 8XT has a sleek HTC form factor that feels fantastic in your hand and in your pocket. It has the latest Windows Phone 8 OS with a solid 8 megapixel camera, 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, and 4.3 inch display.

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