Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry: four very good reasons to be interested in the mobile aspect of technology. Each of these four platforms have plenty to offer consumers, but alas, when it comes to our daily driver most of us can only afford (or care to) use one at a time - but that doesn’t mean that other platforms don’t still intrigue you. Whether you love or hate your current mobile OS, sometimes the urge to test the waters of another is great. However, most widely advertised smartphones are going to cost you a pretty penny. Switching might sound like fun, but not necessarily at the price tag of $500 or a two year contract.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest to simply test the waters of another platform. All four platforms have much cheaper options that may not be top performance, per se, but can still give you a better idea of how a different mobile platform functions. With that being said, let’s look at some of the cheaper options when it comes to each platform.
I’m going to start off with Android because if you’ve never used Android before and don’t know a whole lot about it, it’s a whole lot of mess thrown at you compared to the other three platforms. You have tons of manufacturers, tons of models, and just a ton of research to do if you’ve been drawn in by some of the big name flagships like the LG G3, the HTC One (M8), the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, etc.
The simplest answer for a cheap device that gets you a solid Android experience without an enormous price tag? The Motorola Moto E. The Moto E only costs you $129, and while the specs are nothing to write home about Motorola still manages to deliver a good, smooth Android experience for a super cheap price tag. You don’t really need all of the bells and whistles to be able to experience Android - you can worry about getting a better processor, more RAM, better camera, etc. later if you decide that you like the platform. But for a beginner’s experience with the platform, the Moto E delivers at a super cheap price.
Windows Phone is probably my favorite when it comes to buying a phone on a budget to test the waters, because the best option for a cheap Windows Phone starts at just $49.99 with the Nokia Lumia 530. Again, the specs are really nothing special here, but the great thing about Windows Phone is that even the flagship models don’t need a whole lot more in order to run Windows Phone 8.1 smoothly. Heck, you might even be happy enough with the cheaper phone because it really doesn’t take much at all to make Windows Phone perform well.
Another benefit is that this is a Nokia phone, and Nokia (or Microsoft now, I guess) has some pretty boss Nokia-specific apps in the app store for you to look forward to using.
iOS has been one of the most popular platforms since the very beginning of smartphones, especially considering the iPhone is really what started this whole shebang. Due to its prestigiousness, this can be one of the most daunting switches if you’ve never used iOS before because the newer generations cost a considerable amount of money at full price.
Fortunately, Apple has a good track record of keeping its older models somewhat relevant for at least 3 years past its prime - and if you can find a model that’s 2 or 3 years old, you can usually find them at a pretty cheap price. Right now you can find refurbished iPhone 4S devices for under $200, or refurbished iPhone 5 devices for under $300. You might not be able to download (or perhaps shouldn’t download) the latest iOS version (iPhone 4S phones and iOS 8 don’t mix well) but the nice thing about iOS is that design and functionality-wise the platform stays familiar across the board. The very first version of iOS still has a lot of familiar elements to iOS 8. It’s usually pretty easy to adapt to.
That being said, trying out iOS is probably going to be the most expensive option.
Although BlackBerry 10 is relatively new, if you’ve been itching to try it out you’re kind of in luck - even if that comes at the expense of BlackBerry themselves. The platform didn’t exactly take off with flying colors, so last year’s first generation of BlackBerry 10 devices are pretty cheap. A refurbished BlackBerry Q10 will cost you less than $200; a refurbished BlackBerry Z10 can usually be found for even cheaper than that.
BlackBerry 10 might have struggled to take off, but for people who still reminisce about their physical keyboards or just the BlackBerry ecosystem in general this is still a decent option to check out.
I try to encourage people to try all platforms if they can. It’s not easy (or even cheap) to test all four, but by going for some of the cheaper models (or models from previous years) you can still experience the platforms for just the fraction of a price that it would cost you to jump right in with both feet - and that can be scary when you’re faced with huge price tags or two year commitments in order to do so.
Images via iMore, Gotta Be Mobile, Berry Review