My contract with Sprint is nearly up, and I’ve found myself in the market for a new phone. My previous phone, a Samsung Rant was great for texting, navigating, and had some internet capability, and up until recently, I was satisfied with its performance. It’s been dropped a few times and is beginning to show its age due to poor battery performance and shutting off for no apparent reason. Rather than purchasing another cheap flip phone, I’m ready to step up and get a smart phone. If you’re considering a new phone, but like me, are on a budget, here are five tips to help you pick the best phone on a budget.
Web Browser Functionality
As an Internet writer, the ability for me to access full Internet is essential. If you do a lot of web surfing, you’ll want to make sure the phone you are looking at isn’t limited to the web browser that comes with the phone. Many sites use a mobile version, which is a compact, mini-version of the full Internet site. Originally designed to be easy to display on small screens, these mobile versions are often scaled down versions of websites and usually lack some of the functionality you’d see on the full version. Even with hand held pc’s, you’ll often get the mobile version. This is unacceptable to me, as an Internet writer. You can often get around the mobile version of a website by installing a different browser, such as Chrome. This will be one of the top qualifications for me in selecting a new phone.
Internet Speed vs. Price
I’m currently on Sprint, and am considering one of their 4G phones. I live in a place with only 3G access, with 4G set to arrive in some undetermined future. What irritates me to no end is that if I buy a 4G capable phone, Sprint requires me to pay an extra $10 for 4G service that I can’t get but for maybe half an hour per month when I’m driving through a 4G area (and unlikely to be surfing the web while driving). Lesson to take away from this: Read the fine print regarding service costs. Sprint may lose me because of this.
Data Usage Limits
Another thing to consider is data usage limits. It won’t do to select a phone based on your budget, and then realize once you’re locked into a service for two years that you’re going to hit a low data usage limit every month and have to pay overages. That’s one thing that Sprint has going for it that I’ve been very happy with. With Sprint’s data service only costing another $20 per month over the texting package, and no artificially imposed usage limit, there haven’t been any unforeseen costs.
Cost of the Phone
If you are not on contract, thanks to sites like Amazon Wireless, you can purchase great quality smart phones for as low as $0.01. Phones like Sprint’s Epic and Evo regularly sell for $100, bringing smart phones down to the best phone for most budgets. Anymore, only chumps buy phones from the local dealer and pay a large upfront cost with a mail in rebate. Unfortunately, if you’re on contract already, and looking to upgrade your phone mid-way through your contract, your options are limited. If you buy from the local dealer, or carrier’s website, you’ll usually get a small incentive of between $100 and $200 off your new phone. However, as retailers want $500 or more for smart phones, this may break some budgets. If your contract is close to being up, you might consider scaling your service down to the minimum and purchasing a new phone and service via Amazon Wireless.
Screen Size and Ease of Use
Naturally, if you’re going to buy a new phone that you’ll be stuck with for up to two years, you’ll want it to be easy to use and look at. A large screen makes websites readable. Ease of use means you won’t spend days reading a weighty instruction manual just to figure out how to go to your home screen. It’s better to make sure you’re comfortable using the phone before you take it home than it is to try to get out of your contract afterwards.
The Smart Phone for My Budget
All things considered, I’m probably going to stick with Sprint and get an Epic. I can purchase it from Amazon Wireless for $100 with a new service contract, and can even get an employee discount because my employer has negotiated for discount rates with Sprint. It meets my requirements of having a decent screen size, Sprint’s lack of data usage limits, and web browser functionality. It also fits within my budget for a new smart phone. As for that $10 4G service fee, you can bet I’m going to call Sprint and complain about it. It never hurts to try!