It's hard for most consumers to commit to a 2-year contract with a phone that they know is going to be outdated within three months. It's one of the sad and frustrating facts about the cellular industry, but there is a bright side! More and more prepaid carriers are starting to offer great smartphones without forcing you to sign a contract. Granted, the phones can get quite expensive, but if you're willing to pay the price, then you can enjoy the freedom of switching phones (or carriers) whenever you want.
That said, these are my top five prepaid smartphones from the major U.S. prepaid carriers. Check out the list or check out a similar list I made of the top five prepaid messaging phones!
Why: The Droid X is one of the greats. It features a giant, not to mention good-looking, 4.3-inch display, a 1 GHz TI OMAP processor, an 8 MP autofocus camera with dual-LED flash that is capable of capturing HD video, and it's actually been updated to Android 2.2 - a version that a lot of high-end devices are still waiting for. The Droid X is a beast of a phone and even users who aren't too fond of custom UI's should be able to get used to the watered-down version of Blur that Motorola has added.
Why: HTC probably picked the best name for this phone; it's just incredible. If you're not into the huge "hummer"-like devices, such as the Droid X, then the Droid Incredible is the next best thing. You still get the super-fast 1 GHz processor as the Droid X (though this one is a Snapdragon processor) and the excellent 8 MP camera, but it's in a smaller form-factor with a less-obtrusive 3.7-inch display. HTC's custom UI, Sense, is one of the most popular, and for good reason. As great as Android is, Sense makes it that much better. The Incredible has also been updated to Android 2.2, and HTC has set a fine record of getting new updates to their phones quickly, an aspect not to be overlooked.
Why: I don't know what it is about HTC, but they have a way of picking names for their devices that just fit. Desire. The Desire is a phone that definitely evokes that emotion. The Super TFT display is beautiful, the 1 GHz Snapdragon processor is speedy, and HTC Sense is, well HTC Sense. I'm sure not everyone likes it, but the aesthetic beauty and form that it adds to Android is undeniable. The Desire's camera is a little less impressive than some, though 5 megapixels with an autofocus and a flash are nothing to complain about, and it would be nice to have a more updated version of Android, but as I mentioned previously, HTC is good about getting updates out so I'm sure the Desire will see 2.2 fairly soon. Even without it though, it's an amazing device.
Why: I know what you're thinking. "Why is the Fascinate number FOUR on this list?" It's true, the Fascinate is, well, just that - fascinating. Its 4-inch Super AMOLED display is stunningly gorgeous and its super-fast 1 GHz Hummingbird processor is lightning quick. However, TouchWiz does seem to rub some people the wrong way and it's surprising to see such a high-end, hyped-up device ship with a 5 MP camera. Not to mention the fact that Samsung doesn't have the best track record when it comes to pushing out updates. (I'm sure you're well-aware that the Fascinate has been stuck on 2.1 for a while.) Don't let that deter you from getting the device, though. The Fascinate is one of the best, it's just not THE best.
Why: For one thing, it ships with Android 2.2, a commodity that's hard to come by. However, that's not the only reason. The Optimus M has all the features you'd want, just in a more budget-friendly package. The 600 MHz processor far-exceeded my expectations and gave me absolutely no problems at all. LG's custom UI adds a few visual changes, but it's not so heavy that it's suffocating. The Optimus M also ships with the Swype keyboard, giving you more options in the keyboard department. The 3.2 MP camera isn't spectacular, but the device as a whole performed extremely well and actually looks pretty sleek too.
Worth Mentioning: It's worth noting that most prepaid carriers offer a version of the BlackBerry Curve. Though it wasn't able to make the list, it's still a viable option for business users (or those who don't like Android), especially since it's available from pretty much any prepaid carrier you decide to go with.