5 Smartphone Deals: A Phone for "Android Purists," a Refurb iPhone 5 for $150

By Joshua Nichol-Caddy, dealnews contributor

With today's roundup we hope that you explore the different kinds of smartphones available on the market. For some, no-contract cellular phones are the way to go. And for others, 2-year subsidized plans put the latest technology within reach. Regardless of your preference, all of the smartphones in our roundup are available at significant discounts.

  1. Refurbished Apple iPhone 5 16GB Smartphone for AT&T Wireless
    Store: AT&T Wireless
    Price: $149.99 with free shipping
    Lowest By: $50

    Is It Worth It? This Editors' Choice deal for the refurbished iPhone 5 for AT&T in Black (pictured) or White puts it at $450 below its contract-free price and $50 under the price of a new unit with a 2-year commitment, though we saw it for $50 less on Black Friday. It features the latest Apple A6 processor, 4" 1136x640 Retina display, an 8-megapixel iSight camera, 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera, 1080p video capture, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, 1GB RAM, and more. Note that a $36 activation applies, and no warranty information is provided.

  2. Samsung Galaxy S III 16GB 4G Android Smartphone for Sprint
    Store: Amazon Wireless
    Price: 1 cent with free 2-day shipping
    Lowest By: $95

    Is It Worth It?: Not an iPhone fan? This is another Editors' Choice smartphone deal, which offers even more savings. You can get the biggest savings on the big-screen Galaxy S III for 1 cent with the activation of a 2-year service agreement on the Sprint network. This deal ties our mention of a week ago as the best price we've seen for this device in White (pictured) and Blue from Sprint. According to CNET, "the Samsung Galaxy S3 excels where it counts, and at a price that matches the features." Still, it might not be the best choice for subscribers of other networks as this is a CDMA 4G phone. Features a 4.8" 720x1280 Super AMOLED touchscreen, Snapdragon 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB memory, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 1080p video capture, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n wireless, Google Android 4.0 OS (Ice Cream Sandwich), and more. Note that a $36 activation applies.

  3. Motorola Photon Q 4G Android Smartphone for Sprint
    Store: Wirefly
    Price: Free with free shipping
    Lowest By: $40

    Is It Worth It?: For those of you who prefer a tactile keyboard, the smartphone not only ties our December mention, but also offers the lowest total price we could find by $40. An Editors' Choice deal, you can get the Photon Q for free with the activation of a 2-year contract with Sprint. Features include a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4.3" 540x960 ColorBoost LCD, up to 7.5-hour talk time, 1GB RAM, 8-megapixel 1080p rear camera, 720p front-facing camera, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, and Android 4.0 OS (Ice Cream Sandwich). And although the folks at Wired prefer more high-tech devices, they praise Motorola for its "QWERTY-keyed sliders," which are a "dying breed." Note that a $36 activation applies.

  4. LG Google Nexus 4 4G Android Smartphone for T-Mobile
    Store: T-Mobile
    Price: $199.99 via $50 mail-in rebate with free shipping
    Lowest By: $350

    Is It Worth It?: With free activation and the signing of a new 2-year contract, T-Mobile offers this smartphone for $200 after the $50 mail-in rebate. But the Nexus 4's greatness doesn't stop there, as TechCrunch boasts that the phone is perfect for "Android purists" who enjoy "living, playing, and working with an untouched version of Android." Features include a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 4.7" 1280x768 Gorilla Glass 2 display, 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, 1080p HD video, GPS, 802.11n wireless with mobile hotspot (requires additional service), Bluetooth 3.0, 16GB internal memory, 2GB RAM, Google Android 4.2 OS (Jelly Bean), and more.

    Update: Let's Talk offers this phone for $84.99 with free shipping with new 2-year contracts, a low by $65.

  5. Samsung Galaxy Note II 4G Android Phone for Verizon
    Store: Amazon Wireless
    Price: $149.99 with free shipping
    Lowest By: $50

    Is It Worth It?: Available in Titanium Gray (pictured) and with a new 2-year service agreement, although this smartphone has an even bigger screen than the S III, its price tag is smaller, at $50 under our December mention and the lowest total price of $150. Speaking of its size, PCMag, notes that the device's "massive high-definition screen" and its fast 1.6GHz quad-core processor make for an exceptionally well-designed note-taking pseudo tablet. Moreover, this CDMA phone features a 5.5" 1280x720 touchscreen AMOLED, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, MP3 and ACC playback, 4G LTE connectivity, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, 16GB internal memory, microSD card slot, Android 4.1 OS (Jellybean), and more. A $35 activation fee applies.

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DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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It is a bit "apples to oranges" comparing "contract vs no-contract" or "gsm vs other" (i'm a gsm user ;^)

Since most of the initially appealing prices are with contract only, it would save time to just add No-Contract in the title of the few others.

It would be really helpful, like how the laptops usually specify 1080p or computers mention Quad core.

Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@mogelijk You are correct, our original price comparison was incorrect. Moreover, we actually found a better deal just now with a contract, so we updated the roundup above to reflect that.
It is wrong that the Nexus 4 price is the lowest by $350, since you can buy the phone direct from Google for $350. At best it is $150 off, though even that is questionable since you have to pay extra for being on contract. The best deal is to buy the phone from Google $300 for 8 GB or $350 for 16 GB versions and then either go on the T-Mobile Value Plan (which is a contract plan) or go Prepaid.
I alot of users (I would hazard a guess at the majority) are buying the LG Nexus 4 at $299/$349 (8GB/16GB)) to go on a prepaid plan. There doesn't seem to be an economic reason to buy the postpaid version at $199 which will really cost over $500 after a 2 year contract.
If I would have stayed with Sprint and gotten the GSIII as I had planned until I found out about the Nexus 4:
$100 ($79 plan + tax/fees/$10-smartphone fee) x 24 months + $50 (price of GSIII with 2 year contract during Thanksgiving weekend) = $2450
Here's my current TMo plan with the Nexus 4: $30/month x 24 months + $386 ($350 + tax + SH) = $1106
Granted my old Sprint plan was an unlimited everything plan, and the TMo plan I'm on is 100min voice/unlimited text/5GB data. But looking at my bill for my last 3 months with Sprint, I wasn't coming close to 100 min voice per month and certainly nowhere near 5GB data on the pathetic Sprint service I was seeing.
I should save over $1300 during the next 2 years.