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

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.
By Matthew Miller, Contributor on
1 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

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


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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.

3 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Moto G 4G LTE

Motorola launched the Moto G at a low price and it ended up passing the RAZR as its most successful phone. You can now purchase the Moto G 4G LTE with support for the latest high speed networks for just $219 with no contract. You can still buy it without LTE for $179 too.

The Moto G 4G LTE runs Android 4.4 KitKat and features a 4.5 inch display, quad-core processor, microSD expansion card, and 5 megapixel camera. There are some cool accessories to also make this a customized phone.

4 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

HTC Desire

HTC is one of the best mobile phone designers and they have taken their high end HTC One designs and brought them to a mid-level phone in the HTC Desire. You can pick one up with no-contract from Boost Mobile for $249.99.

The HTC Desire has those great front facing dual BoomSound speakers, a 4.5 inch display, 5 megapixel camera, dual-core processor, and slick Sense UI. With Sense you can via your BlinkFeed data and create Zoe and Video Highlights.

5 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Huawei Ascend Mate2

I was actually a bit shocked when I started using the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 as it is a much better piece of hardware than I thought it would be and the battery lasts longer than any phone I have tested in a long time. The Ascend Mate2 is their first smartphone sold through their US store and it is definitely worth consideration if you want a large display phone that seems to last forever on a single charge.

For just $299.99 you get a 6.2 inch display, 4G LTE across carriers (there is no carrier lock on this phone), 13 megapixel camera, massive 3,900 mAh battery, and microSD expansion card slot. The screen bezels are minimized so even though the display is large, the phone still feels fine in your hand. I like their EmotionUI and iPhone users will find it very familiar.

6 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Google Nexus 5

You cannot beat the Nexus 5 if you want the complete no-contract, no carrier experience and rest assured that you will get the latest and greatest Android software updates. The 16GB model is available for $349 with a 32GB variant available for $50 more.

The Nexus 5 has a 4.95 inch 1080p display, 8 megapixel rear facing camera, Qi wireless charging, 16GB internal storage, Snapdragon 800 2.26 GHz processor, and more. It is a compelling smartphone and is definitely a device to still consider.

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Moto X

The Moto X keeps finding its way back into my pocket since the hardware form factor and custom experiences are so dang compelling. Once you hold a Moto X it is tough to pick up and use a huge phone again.

The 16GB custom Moto X is available across carriers for $349.99 with Republic Wireless even offering a black or white one for $299. Specifications of the Moto X include a 4.7 inch display, Android 4.4 KitKat, 10 megapixel camera, 2GB RAM, and a custom processor solution.

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