You do not have to wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday to get that smartphone you have always wanted. Yes, even if you are on a tight budget, you can still buy a good state-of-the-art mobile phone at a reasonable price. All you need is a little online sleuthing.
There are some challenges, however. First, the array of cell phone options can make choosing one a challenge. Second, to get the best prices, you typically have to sign up for a 2-year contract. And third, cell phone carriers and online stores are constantly offering deals on smartphones.
Today we’re doing the sleuthing for you. We’ve sifted through hundreds of options to find exceptional smartphones for less than $100. Keep in mind that these prices can change daily, so follow the links in this article for current prices. For example, the first phone listed is the Photon Q 4G LTE. While the standard price is $99 with a Sprint contract, today you can snag the phone for $0.01 from Amazon Wireless.
Recall from our review of Amazon Wireless that you can often get a phone for less through Amazon than you can directly fro the cell phone carrier.
1. Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE ($99)
This smartphone has both a QWERTY slider and touchscreen, so it offers flexible convenience. With a scratch-resistant 4.3-inch screen, it provides you with a good smartphone experience. Additionally, its dual-core processor assures you speed and efficiency.
Weighing 170 grams, this Android smartphone has 4G connectivity and is perfect if you love taking pictures and videos. It comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.3 megapixel high definition front side webcam. With an 8GB internal storage that is expandable up to 32GB, the Motorola Photon can handle of photos, videos and songs.
Amazon Wireless: Motorola Photon Q 4G Android Phone (Sprint)
2. HTC One VX ($49.99–AT&T)
The HTC One VX is a sturdy smartphone as its body is made of polycarbonate. Its tapered edges provide a firm grip. Weighing at almost 125 grams and measuring 5.22×2.66×0.36 inches, it feels comfortable and safe in your hand.
Some of the most interesting features of this smartphone include its 4.5-inch display, removable back cover for microSD and micro SIM, front facing camera, 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, Beats Audio function and noise canceling microphone. The HTC One VX’s dual-core processor and 1GB RAM offers you reliable functionality.
This Android smartphone runs on the Ice Cream Sandwich OS.
Amazon Wireless: HTC One VX 4G Android Phone (AT&T)
3. Motorola Droid Razr M ($49.99–Verizon)
If you want a reasonably priced smartphone that has a large battery capacity, the Motorola Droid Razr M is for you. Its battery life is said to last more than 24 hours even with heavy use. It is also the perfect choice if you are looking for a phone that accepts international SIM cards. It also has global roaming capabilities.
One of the distinguishing features of this smartphone is its 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. This assures you a memorable experience with your photos, videos, music and document streaming. It is one of the smartphones that runs on the 4G LTE Network.
What’s more, the Motorola Droid Razr M looks sleek with its razor-thin 4.3-inch scrape and scratch resistant screen.
Amazon Wireless: Motorola DROID RAZR M 4G Android Phone, Black 8GB (Verizon Wireless)
Verizon Wireless: Smartphone Page
4. Nokia Lumia 810 ($79.99–T-Mobile via Wirefly)
This is a Windows 8 smartphone, so you will be one of the privileged users to experience the relatively new OS. The Nokia Lumia should be your number one choice if you work with a lot of Microsoft programs. You can use the Office Hub for your Microsoft-related activities.
Some of the unique features of this smartphone are its Voice Search (which you can use when looking for restaurants or shops near you), voice-driven menus and its anti-shake feature for the 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss main camera (there’s also a 1.2-MP front facing cam).
The Nokia Lumia 810 can also function as a modem and has a 4G network. Its clear black display makes it look sophisticated and stylish. Internal memory is at 8GB and its RAM is 1GB.
Nokia Lumia 810 Black for T-Mobile
5. Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G ($99.99–T-Mobile)
If you plan to use your smartphone for streaming movies and TV shows on Netflix and T-Mobile TV, the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G is the best phone for you. Running on the Android Gingerbread (2.3) OS, this smartphone has a 3.97-inch touchscreen. It also has a Voice Talk feature, which allows you to send voice commands to the device.
Some other interesting features are the virtual QWERTY keyboard, 720p high definition video recorder, 5-megapixel auto focus camera with digital zoom and flash, 1.3-megapixel front facing camera that’s perfect for video chatting with friends and loved ones, and its 3G & 4G networks.
What makes this smartphone extra unique, however, is its TeleNav GPS Navigator that allows hands-free and voice guided turn-by-turn directions.
Published or updated February 25, 2013.