Smartphones make for great holiday gifts. Unfortunately, when gifting a phone, opening a new post-paid account or adding a secondary line to your existing account isn't always possible or necessary. Luckily, there are now options. Over the last year, pre-paid phones have begun popping up, left and right, on pre-paid carriers. The first were rather expensive, especially for people who were looking to save a penny or two by skipping out on contracts.
Of course, when it comes to buying unsubsidized phones, you can't have the best of both worlds. There is no way to buy an unsubsidized smartphone for cheap and get a top of the line phone. However, there are some great mid-range options for less than $200. Below, I have rounded up some of the best deals on pre-paid smartphone options for the holiday season:
The Samsung Galaxy Prevail originally launched in April of this year on Boost Mobile. It sports a 3.2-inch display, 2-megapixel camera, a 2GB microSD card, 117MB internal storage, 384MB RAM and an 800MHz processor. It also ships with stock Android 2.2. For $149.99 and no contract, there's little to complain about. Likewise, there's little negative to say about Boost Mobile's pricing. For $55 per month, you will have unlimited access to data, unlimited texts, minutes, 411, IM and email. Not a bad deal at all.
Much like the Prevail, there is a similar option on Straight Talk. The Samsung Galaxy Precedent is almost identical to its Boost Mobile brother, down to the price. The main difference is the service plans. Straight Talk's Unlimited Everything plan only costs $45 per month and includes ... well, unlimited everything. You also have the option to pre-pay for three months ($125.99), six months ($249.99) or an entire year ($499).
If you need your HTC fix and are tired of those pesky, looming contracts, Virgin Mobile has you covered. The HTC Wildfire S is strongly reminiscent of its larger, more powerful counterparts, but doesn't carry the large price tag. The Wildfire S comes with a 3.2-inch Gorilla Glass display, 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM, a 2GB microSD card included a 5-megapixel camera, 600MHz ARM 11 processor and Android 2.3 underneath Sense 2.1 UI.
The Wildfire S is currently available as a pre-paid option through Virgin Mobile. It is normally priced at $199.99 sans contract. However, Best Buy is currently offering the Wildfire S from Virgin Mobile for $99.99 for the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend. As far as plan pricing goes, Virgin Mobile's pricing starts at $35 per month for unlimited text and web with 300 minutes and maxes out at $55 per month for unlimited everything.
If you're in need of a phone with a keyboard, Straight Talk offers the LG Optimus Q. Adding to LG's ever-growing Optimus line, the Q ships with stock Android 2.3, a 3.2-inch display, 3-megapixel camera and a 4GB microSD card. The slide-out keyboard is a four-row QWERTY with directional keys.
This phone is restricted to Straight Talk's $45 per month Unlimited Everything plan. For $179.99, the Optimus Q is a great deal, especially if you find typing on a touchscreen difficult to get used to. Another slide-out QWERTY option from LG is the Optimus Slider on Virgin Mobile. It's virtually identical to the Q, save for the price, plans and some customizations made by Virgin Mobile on the interface and included apps. The Optimus Slider sells for $199.99.
The LG Optimus V has been around for a while now. It ships with a 600MHz processor, 3.2-inch HVGA display, 3.2-megapixel shooter and a 2GB microSD card. It also comes with stock Android in the Froyo flavor, and as an added perk, it comes with Swype, an alternative software keyboard that makes typing on smaller displays much less painful. Being relatively dated in terms of mobile years, the Optimus V is hardly the best pre-paid phone money can buy, but it's the price that lands this one on this list. $129.99 for this device is not a bad price at all.
Similar to the V is the Optimus T, which is available on T-Mobile. Althought they look quite different, the V and T are very similar, internally. The Optimus T also comes with LG's custom Android interface. It is available through T-Mobile for $179.99. Still, not a bad price on a phone of this caliber.
Last and certainly not least is the Samsung Gravity Smart from T-Mobile. The Gravity Smart is also another phone with a slide-out QWERTY and it comes with a 3.2-inch display, 270MB RAM, 150MB internal storage, 2GB microSD card, 3.15-megapixel camera and an 800MHz ARMv6 processor. It ships with Samsung's TouchWiz Android interface atop Android 2.2.
Of the pre-paid options covered in this article, T-Mobile's pre-paid plans are easily the most expensive. However, they include 4G access, whereas the others are only dealing with 3G -- barring your phone is capable of 4G speeds, of course. Starting at $15 and shooting up to $70, there are definitely many options to choose from, but there is no truly unlimited data offer from T-Mobile. At most, you can use 5GB of data before being throttled. Nonetheless, they have a decent selection of pre-paid phones and plans, so it's still worth checking out!