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Best cheap smartphones

Updated: Oct 3, 2012 02:57 PM EDT
(Image courtesy of Digital Trends) (Image courtesy of Digital Trends)
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By Simon Hill
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Everyone loves a bargain, especially in the current economic climate. That's why we've prepared a delectable feast of cheap smartphones for you to peruse. Grab any of these options with a two year contract and the carrier will subsidize your handset so you won't have to splash out. You'll need a plan anyway so it's well worth taking advantage of the best smartphone discounts.

We've scoured the best cheap phones from the big four with a maximum price tag of $100 and an attractive minimum of free. These smartphones may be cheap but they are no slouches when it comes to performance.

Galaxy Nexus ($100 on Verizon)

Screen: 4.65 inches, 1280×720 pixels
Specs: 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage
OS: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Camera: 5MP rear, 1.3MP front
Connection: 4G LTE, 3G HSPDA
Price: $100 with two-year contract

Description: If you want a vanilla Google experience and the latest version of the Android platform then the Galaxy Nexus will be a real temptation. It also has a nice large screen, it's fast, and it supports the latest features like 4G LTE and NFC. You can't add storage but with 32GB to play with who needs to? The camera might not look great on paper but shutter speed is great. The only other downside is the average battery life. If you like a big screen and stock Android this is a good deal for $100.

Read our Galaxy Nexus review to find out more.

Samsung Galaxy Stellar (Free on Verizon)

Screen: 4 inches, 480×800 pixels
Specs: 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage
OS: Android 4.0 (ICS)
Camera: 3.1MP rear, 1.3MP VGA front
Connection: 4G LTE, CDMA
Price: Free with two-year contract

Description: I know what you're thinking -- a 4G LTE phone with a dual-core processor for free on a two-year contract, what's the catch? In the case of the Galaxy Stellar the display is pretty average, there's no NFC, and the camera is a complete dud. Other than that this phone is great value for money. If you want 4G LTE, a fast processor, and decent battery life, then you'll struggle to find a better deal than this.

Motorola Droid Razr M ($100 on Verizon)

Screen: 4.3 inches, 540×960 pixels
Specs: 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage
OS: Android 4.0 (ICS) upgradeable to 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Camera: 8MP rear (LED flash, 1080p rec), 0.3MP VGA front
Connection: 4G LTE, 3G HSDPA
Price: $100 with two-year contract

Description: The recently released Motorola Droid Razr M is a powerful Android smartphone at a very affordable price. It is a svelte, unfussy design. The processor, the display, and the camera are all perfectly respectable without setting the world on fire. The really big selling point for the Droid Razr M is the battery life. If you're sick of running out of juice then you'll be pleased to hear that the 2,000 mAh battery in the Razr M will see you through the day, even with heavy use.

Check out our hands-on video with the Motorola Droid Razr M.

iPhone 4 (Free on 2 year contract)

Screen: 3.5 inches, 640×960 pixels
Specs: 1GHz single-core processor, 512MB RAM, 8-32GB storage
OS: iOS 4 upgradable to iOS 5
Camera: 5MP rear, 0.3MP VGA front
Connection: 3G HSDPA
Price: Free with two-year contract

Description: Fans of Apple don't have to break the bank for the iPhone 4 and it really isn't that far behind the 4S. If you can live without Siri, you'll still enjoy seamless integration with the iOS ecosystem giving you access to a world of entertainment through iTunes. In the Retina display you'll also enjoy one of the best looking screens around. The design is minimalist beauty and Apple always squeezes the most out of the specs so, even though it looks underpowered compared to some of the competition, it performs well. You can get it from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. The iPhone 4S is now available on three major carriers for $100 with a two-year contract.

Read our iPhone 4 review.

Samsung Focus 2 ($50 on AT&T)

Screen: 4.0-inch AMOLED, 480×800 pixels
Specs: 1.4GHz single-core processor, 512MB RAM, 8GB storage
OS: Windows Phone 7.5
Camera: 5MP rear (LED flash, 720p rec), 0.3MP front
Connection: 4G LTE, 3G HSPA+
Price: $50 with two-year contract

Description: The original Focus was a popular Windows Phone device and the Focus 2 is a welcome update with a nice, big AMOLED screen and 4G connectivity. It runs WP 7.5 (Mango) which delivers a lot of what was missing in the first WP release. The Metro UI is very intuitive to use and this device offers a solid experience without ever really blowing your socks off. However, for $50 its a good value for the money. You can pick one up at AT&T. Read our Samsung Focus 2 review.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Skyrocket ($100 on AT&T)

Screen: 4.5 inches, 480×800 pixels
Specs: 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage
OS: Android 2.3 with Samsung TouchWiz 4.0
Camera: 8MP rear (LED flash, 1080p rec), 2MP front
Connection: 4G LTE, 3G HSPA+
Price: $100 with two-year contract

Description: The Galaxy S2 was the phone of the year for many people in 2011. It took the world by storm but was late to the party in the States. With top of the range specs, the S2 really pushed things forward on the Android platform. This smartphone is really powerful and the display is gorgeous. The Skyrocket variant boasts a slightly larger screen and adds 4G LTE connectivity into the mix. In terms of flaws, the cheap-feeling plastic construction is the usual gripe. By any standards this is still a great deal. Check out our review of the Samsung Galaxy S2.

HTC Vivid ($50 on AT&T)

Screen: 4.5 inches, 540×960 pixels
Specs: 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage
OS: Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) upgradeable to 4.0 (ICS)
Camera: 8 MP rear (LED flash, 1080p rec), 1.3 MP front
Connection: 4G LTE, 3G HSDPA
Price: $50 with two-year contract

Description: Ice Cream Sandwich, version 4 of the Android platform can be found on this AT&T offering. The specs are solid; you've got 4G LTE connectivity; and the large display is worthy of the Vivid moniker. This smartphone boasts features galore in a slim and stylish package with an easy open sliding back panel. At just $50 the Vivid is serious competition for the Skyrocket on AT&T and Android fans have a tough decision to make.

LG Viper 4G (Free on Sprint)

Screen: 4 inches, 480×800 pixels
Specs: 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 2GB storage (microSD)
OS: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
Camera: 5MP rear (LED flash), 0.3MP front
Connection: 4G LTE, CDMA
Price: Free with two year contract

Description: A solid, budget Android option from LG, the Viper has a couple of killer features to elevate it from the "free on contract" crowd. The display and the processor are respectable; the camera and lack of Android 4 are disappointing; but the 4G LTE and NFC support are enough to make it tempting. It's well above average for a device in this price bracket, but you'll want to check Sprint coverage in your area before you make this your next smartphone. Take a closer look in our hands-on LG Viper video.

Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate ($30 on AT&T)

Screen: 4 inches, 480×800 pixels
Specs: 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 4GB storage
OS: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) upgradeable to 4.0 (ICS)
Camera: 5 MP rear (LED flash, 720p rec), 1.3 MP front
Connection: 4G LTE, 3G HSDPA
Price: $30 with 2 year contract

Description: This is a solid smartphone considering the low up-front price tag. The touchscreen display is good and you've got support for the 4G LTE network. It also claims some eco-friendly credentials with an energy efficient charger and a rear-housing made from 80 percent recycled materials. It is capable of recording 720p video but otherwise the camera is a weak point. It runs Android 2.3 but the good news is that you can update to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream sandwich) by connecting the phone up to Samsung Kies. This is pretty unbeatable value for an Android smartphone at AT&T.

HTC Radar (Free on T-Mobile)

Screen: 3.8 inches, 480×800 pixels
Specs: 1GHz single-core processor, 512MB RAM, 8GB storage
OS: Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango)
Camera: 5 MP rear, 0.3MP VGA front
Connection: 4G LTE, 3G HSDPA
Price: Free with two-year contract

Description: When it comes to raw power this WP 7.5 entry is definitely the slowest device on our list. You can't expect cutting edge tech for free and, despite its modest specs, the Radar from HTC is an accessible smartphone. It's an attractive device with good build quality and Microsoft's platform certainly has something different to offer when compared to Android or iOS. As a free option at T-Mobile with a two year contract, this should pop up on the radar of anyone seeking their first smartphone. Check out our HTC Radar 4G review.

Samsung Galaxy S2 (Free on T-Mobile)

Screen: 4.5 inches, 480×800 pixels
Specs: 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage
OS: Android 2.3 upgradable to Android 4.0
Camera: 8MP rear (LED flash, 1080p rec), 2MP front
Connection: 4G LTE, 3G HSPA+
Price: $50 with two-year contract

Description: The delay in the Samsung Galaxy S2 hitting American shores afforded carriers the time to offer updated variants. T-Mobile's version has the same slightly larger display and 4G support that the Skyrocket on AT&T offers, but it's a full $50 cheaper. This smartphone is a sleek Android powerhouse. Considering it also boasts NFC and an Android 4 (ICS) update, you'll have trouble looking beyond it if you're in the market for a cheap Android option. Learn more in our Galaxy S2 review.

LG Spectrum ($50 on Verizon)

Screen: 4.5 inches, 720×1280 pixels
Specs: 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 20GB storage
OS: Android 2.3 upgradable to Android 4 (ICS)
Camera: 8MP rear (LED flash, 1080p rec), 1.3MP front
Connection: 4G LTE, CDMA
Price: $50 with two-year contract

Description: Slim pickings on Verizon for bargain hunters with refined tastes. The pick of the Android bunch has to be the LG Spectrum. It's not the best looking slab on the market but that display is stunning. This is also a powerful piece of kit that will serve you well for a long time to come, especially once that Android 4 update rolls out. If you're looking for a big, high resolution display then the Spectrum offers maximum bang for your buck. Check out our hands-on LG Spectrum video.

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This article was originally posted on Digital Trends
 
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