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What Android Phone to Buy

Posted on 2011-10-21
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Last Modified: 2013-11-21
We are considering replacing our iPhone 3G devices with Android.  What model phone makes the most sense financially?
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Question by:rtod2
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29 Comments
 
LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37010375
What carrier are you wanting to go with? Just so you know, AT&T does not have as nice of an Android selection as other carriers.

Personally, I prefer HTC phones, which on AT&T it is pretty much the Inspire.
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37011042
Unlocked for any carrier
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:oleggold
ID: 37011053
here's the compare list for tmobile: many phones free with the 2 years plan and all 4g
t do you need in your Android smartphone?
Clear all
Keyboard
Display
Camera
Front-facing Camera
SD Card
Headset Connection
Bluetooth
Wi-Fi
GPS
Additional Features
Multimedia Sync
Size
Weight
Talk Time
Stand-by
Time
Processor
RAM
ROM
Keyboard:
Touch
Full QWERTY
Swype
Camera:
3 Megapixels
3.2 Megapixels
5 Megapixels
8 Megapixels
Front-facing
Headset Connection:
3.5 mm
Mini USB
Device Type:
Bar
Slider
Included SD Card:
2 GB
8 GB
16 GB


HD Gaming with a 4" screen
NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core Processor
Android 2.2
FREE
(434 reviews)
I want oneLearn more
Touch + Swype
WVGA 800x480
8 MP w/LED Flash, 1080p HD Video Recording
Yes
8 GB Internal memory w/SD Card slot for up to 32GB
3.5mm
2.1 with stereo
Yes
Yes
HDMI Mirroring, T-Mobile Video Chat, Wi-Fi Calling
N/A
4.88"x2.49"x0.43"
4.9 ounces
Up to 10 hours
Up to 16 days
NVIDIA Tegra 2
Dual Core 1 GHz
500 MB
8 GB

Theoretical peak download speeds of up to 21 Mbps
Watch the exclusively preloaded film INCEPTION
Stream your favorite shows and sports on mobile HD TV
$9999
(353 reviews)
I want oneLearn more
Touch + Swype
4" (Super AMOLED)
5 MP rear-facing camera
Yes, with video chat
16 GB
3.5mm
3.0
Yes
Yes
Wi-Fi sharing
doubleTwist™ with AirSync
4.8"x2.5"x0.4"
4.2 ounces
Up to 6.5 hours
Up to 18 days
1 GHz Hummingbird processor
512 MB
1024 MB

Connect at blazing fast 4G speeds
Video chat from practically anywhere
Genius Button™. You speak, it acts
$9999
(372 reviews)
I want oneLearn more
Touch + Swype
3.8", 800x480
5 MP w/ LED flash
+ digital zoom
Yes
8 GB
3.5mm
2.1 w/stereo
Yes
Yes
Video chat, Genius
Button + Wi-Fi HotSpot
doubleTwist™
4.81"x2.46"x.44"
5.4 ounces
Up to 10 hours
Up to 18 days
1 GHz
768 MB
4 GB

Preloaded with Voice Actions from Google
3.2" touch screen with pinch and zoom
Customize wallpapers, widgets, and more
FREE
(143 reviews)
I want oneLearn more
Touch + Swype
3.2", 320x480 (262k TFT)
3.2 MP
No
2 GB
3.5mm
2.1 w/stereo
Yes
Yes
Voice Actions from
Google
doubleTwist™
4.5"x2.3"x0.5"
4.5 ounces
Up to 5 hours
Up to 18.75 days
600 MHz
512 MB
512 MB

Watch movies from HTC instantly, no more waiting or buffering
Fastest processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon Dual Core 1.2Ghz
Amazing views with T-Mobile’s qHD 4.3” screen
FREE
(26 reviews)
I want oneLearn more
Touch + Full QWERTY
+ Swype
3.2-inch screen
3-megapixel rear-facing camera
No
2 GB
3.5mm
3.0 w/stereo
Yes
Yes
3.2” touch screen and a 600 MHz processor"
doubleTwist™
5"x2.6"x.44"
5.2 ounces
Up to 9.3 hours
Up to 300 hours
600 MHz
512 MB
384 M
0
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37011188
We were hoping to buy a reasonably priced Android phone with plenty of memory and get a pre-paid SIM card from the cheapest carrier.  Is that doable?
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37013048
The problem is, that in the US, it is a highly mixed bag. Only really AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM, and they use different frequencies, so the phones are totally compatible. I'm currently using a T-Mobile phone on AT&T, but I am limited to 2G, since they have different frequencies for 3G. Pretty much any other country in the world, all the carriers use pretty much the same GSM frequencies, and so you can do what you want with ease.

Of the prepaid carriers, many are just "Mobile Virtual Network Operators", meaning they piggy back on someone else's network. Vada Wireless, Call Plus, Circle-K Talk-and-Go, Consumer Cellular, Earthtones, Firefly Mobile, H2O Wireless, Locus Mobile, NET10, and Pure TalkUSA are AT&T based.

Simple Mobile, Wyless Group, and TúYo Mobile are T-Mobile based GSM. An AT&T phone on these will be only 2G, and so work fine for voice and text, but slow for internet.

Simple Talk, and TracFone Wireless seem to have a mix of CDMA and GSM, so not sure how well that'd work for you. A little bit of research in to these may be needed. For Tracphone, it looks like they're GSM primarily, and may have CDMA support for roaming.

For any thing you do, you're going to have to lay out some cash for a phone. Unlocked phones aren't always cheap. I paid a little under $200 for my used unlocked MyTouch 3G last year. A new unlocked 16gb iPhone 4 sells from Apple for $649. The reason for this is, when you buy a phone under contract, it gets subsidized as part of your plan. You pay a reduced price up front, but pay a bit more (in theory) each month. Also, those subsidized phones get locked to those carriers, and can only be used by those carriers, unless they get unlocked. You can either have a third party figure out an unlock code for your specific phone, based on the phone's IMEI code, for a price, or under certain circumstances the carrier will unlock it for you. T-Mobile will give an unlock code 90 days after fulfillment of contract, and AT&T will unlock after contract expires or if you can prove you're going out of country. Basically, it takes time or money (often both if you think about it), to unlock a phone, and so used ones also go at a premium. Your options are pay more for a new phone, or pay more for a used phone, but nothing will be cheap on that end of things.
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37013076
I see, so for pre-paid "service" with internet and tethering (outside of the phone itself), would you suggest T-mobile?
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37013115
For the traditional priced by minute pre-paid plans, T-Mobile doesn't offer data, just texts and voice minutes. However, they do have some contractless plans with data, that start at $30 a month. For those, at $30 they're 100 minutes of Voice, with unlimited data and text, or 1500 Talk/Text with 30mb data. Bump it up to $50 or above, it is unlimited talk, text, and data, but how much of what you download at 4G speeds varies ($50 is first 100mb, $60 is first 2gb, $70 is first 5gb).

Looking around, it appears that AT&T's prepaid plans do not allow smartphones.

So, basically, your options are a MVNO or Tmobile. I'd go Tmobile over most MVNOs.
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37033002
Hellmark,
Your solution is best by far.  Thank you.  I'm thinking pre-paid T-Mobile sim cards might be the best bet.  

I saw your contractless option but I'm looking to pre-pay without a monthly commitment.  Can you find those?
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37038984
Getting an android phone with a prepaid carrier is not a problem, HOWEVER, there is an issue.

T-Mobile doesn't offer internet access on their prepaid services, only on their monthly or contracted plans. If that is not a problem, then I'd say go for it. For instance, with my phone not having 3g access on AT&T isn't a problem, because the only time I access the net on it is when I connect via wifi (which I can quickly connect to, and wifi is available most places I am). If you're willing to do that, then prepaid is the way to go. That said looking around, and it seems many of the MVNO's are the same way, in that they only offer data if you have a plan. In fact, it appears as if many MVNO's are dropping their prepaid options, to go with monthly, contractless, plans.

End of story, you either have to go prepaid, but no data, or go with a plan of some sort if you want data.
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37039910
OK so ATT Prepaid is what you are suggesting if I need pre-paid and data, correct?
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37039942
If pre-paid ATT, what can I expect to pay for minutes?  I'll be using iPhone to start with.

The ability to use a pre-paid sim card on my iPhone and have tethering 'available' if needed is what I am looking for?
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37041288
No, I am not suggesting that, or anything remotely similar. AT&T, T-mobile, and all the other carriers I know of DO NOT have data available for their pre-paid options. Some carriers specifically say that you cannot use

You have 3 basic options.
-Prepaid with no data, unless you connect via wifi.
-Monthly plan but with no contract.
-a contract where you have a monthly fee, and you generally are obligated for a minimum of 2 years.

If you go prepaid, the only way to get online, is if you use wifi. If you do this, it also means you cannot use your phone for directions while driving, since the maps and everything else are downloaded as they are needed.
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37041330
argh. As I was saying, some carriers specifically say you cannot use smartphones for prepaid. AT&T is one example. If you do manage to trick AT&T to allowing your iPhone to use a prepaid SIM card (you'd have to spoof an IMEI in order to work, which would be very difficult on iPhone), expect high rates because of how the iPhone, and other smartphones, work.
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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37117418
Have you picked a phone or plan yet?

Like I was saying, unfortunately it seems as if the prepaids have done away with data access, unless you still pay monthly (which you don't want). I did run across prepaid that offered usage based prices with data, but the price was insanely high (1.5cents per 5kb). That's so expensive, that 2 gigs of data, like you would get with your existing iPhone plan for each month, costs $6291.46.
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Expert Comment

by:Ashok
ID: 37118295
Droid X2 with Verizon Plan
cost $100

I love it.
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37118707
Problem is, the OP was wanting to avoid a plan.
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37123289
Perhaps a better phrased might be....

What is the lowest priced Android phone that I can get unlocked on eBay and still use the latest Android OS without memory issues?

Assistance is greatly appreciated.
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LVL 17

Expert Comment

by:Anthony Russo
ID: 37132060
>>What is the lowest priced Android phone that I can get unlocked on eBay and still use the latest Android OS without memory issues?

Lowest priced phone that can run the latest OS (Gingerbread even though Ice Cream Sandwich is really coming out now) is going to be over a few hundred dollars at least unlocked.

You are still going to need a data plan and most likely the cheapest way to do that is with a carrier contract, which you might as well get the subsidized phone as well. In the long run it will cost about the same and save a ton of headaches.

Check Wirefly for a great selection of cheap phones and they run specials all the time.

Also Black Friday you can usually get a modern phone cheap or free from a carrier.

http://www.wirefly.com/

Good luck,

Anthony
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Accepted Solution

by:
Hellmark earned 2000 total points
ID: 37132277
One of the cheapest phones I know of that isn't out of date is the T-Mobile version of the LG Optimus. Even still, unlocked, they sell between $125 and $300 on ebay.

You can also get a Nexus One for $150 to $200 on ebay.

Problem is, with how it is in the US, you're still going to run into the frequency difference, since the different GSM carriers do not share the same frequencies, and so the phones are not 100% compatible. You can make calls, but do not expect 3G or 4G data speeds.

Plus, you're still going to have a monthly payment if you want data, and I know before you stated you wanted to do prepaid.
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37132582
Hellmark,
Thank you sir for the LG Optimus or Nexus One recommendation.  Since we are in the U.S. and can use WIFI most of the time for data, the data speed isn't as much of a concern but it is a concern.  Periodically (though not often), We like to use the Tethering service of our ATT IPhones.  What we are trying to do is get out of the monthly service fee for cell service since we normally have better options available for calling most of the time.  We ordered one of these https://www.telestial.com/view_product.php?ID=LSIM-US02 today to see what the scoop is.  I am concerned about the lack of data though and the U.S. Compatability.  Please advise further if possible.
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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37132685
If you do not have a phone from a compatible network, you'd get basically dialup speeds on your phone.

On that prepaid sim card linked, you'd not get any data, and so would have to use wifi to connect to the internet. This also prevents you from tethering.

If all you want to do is talk, and using only wifi for 'net access is fine, then it isn't a big deal, but any time you want to have data, you have to have a monthly fee (be it with a contract, or not)
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37132695
Also, if you do end up only wanting voice from your prepaid plan, then any GSM phone will work. It is only on the data side that there is incompatibilities between AT&T and T-Mobile.
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37132713
OK,  They have some cards that are for data but I would have to switch them out anytime we need tethering.  If tethering is needed, then that would work fine. Would I be able to text message without the data card?

Which of the two LG Optimus or Nexus One recommendations would you choose?  Do I need to ensure any specs with regard to memory or will either one (unlocked) handle the latest Android OS software?
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37135148
Text messaging is separate from data. Check in to availability on your particular plan though. On prepaids, price varies for text messaging (most I've seen, a text message uses 1 minute of talk time).

Personally I would go for the Nexus One, while it is older, I'm partial to HTC and overall it is faster than the Optimus.
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Author Comment

by:rtod2
ID: 37135200
OK, If Nexus One will accept the latest OS without memory issues then that isn't a problem.  Can you confirm that because that is really my main point of contention?
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37135389
It all depends on what you mean by latest and if you plan on using official ROMs.

Android has 3 branches. The 2.x line, 3.x and the upcoming 4.x branch.

Just because one has a higher version than another doesn't mean it is out of date. All 3 branches are supported.

2.X is the current line for phones and low powered tablets, with the latest being Gingerbread (2.3.x). 3.X, or Honeycomb, is for high end tablets only. 4.X, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, is to merge those two branches, however it is not officially available for any device yet. Google states that Ice Cream Sandwich will be compatible with any device that supports Gingerbread, but that Nexus One would not officially get Ice Cream Sandwich. Expect many third party ROMs based on Ice Cream Sandwich to support the Nexus one though.

Officially speaking, I would not be surprised if many older devices do not get updates from the manufacturers for Ice Cream Sandwich, simply due to companies not putting out the effort. However, third parties are often more than welcome to port stuff over.
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Expert Comment

by:Anthony Russo
ID: 37135862
XDA Developers will be your new best friend.

http://www.xda-developers.com/

the forums there are very powerful Android info sources. If going to go the route you are planning, this is the place to get the most informed answers and the ROMs you will need.
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Expert Comment

by:Hellmark
ID: 37143693
I definitely concur. That's a great forum for all things android.

Don't feel like you have to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich right away either. Android, unlike iOS (the OS on the iPhones), uses a pretty slow and gradual phasing out process. For instance, the phone I use, is just under 3 years old, and is really just a redressed version of an even older phone (same CPU, ram, etc, only difference is the lack of a hardware keyboard), and it was only recently that things kinda were phased out for it. I still have Froyo, so there really isn't any apps that are incompatible with it. I know with Apple products, developers rush to require the latest version, because of the features that are available to them, but with Android since there are so many devices, if they would do that, they'd severely limit who they can sell to. There are a grand total of 5 iPhones, with the oldest 2 being phased out pretty much years ago, compared to hundreds of different android devices of varying specs. In that sort of market, latest and greatest is ok, only if you don't mind a smaller market to sell to. To be quite honest, I don't think I've seen a single app yet that requires Gingerbread (2.3).
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Expert Comment

by:Anthony Russo
ID: 37174472
One more thing. Amazon is selling every non-iPhone for 1 cent until Monday. This is all Android phones including the newest ones released.

http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-android-black-friday-deal-2011-11

Maybe this is your chance.

Anthony
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