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Old 01-29-2014, 02:19 PM   #1
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New Smartphone Offerings So Affordable, You May Be Able to Kiss Your Contact Goodbye

New Smartphone Offerings So Affordable, You May Be Able to Kiss Your Contract Goodbye

Perhaps 2014 will be the year you cut the cord on the dreaded two-year mobile phone contract.

The mobile carriers have had it too good for too long. Here in the U.S., the carriers have successfully cajoled people to stick with their plans by giving them amazing up-front deals on phones ó providing that they sign up for those contracts that everybody hates. The monthly fees pay for what appear to be good deals at first, but $80 a month adds up fast, and you canít easily upgrade a phone or change carriers.

If you donít want to be locked into a contract, youíre free to buy an off-contract, unsubsidized phone, but until recently, decent phones were far too expensive. It felt crazy to drop $700 or $800 on a device when the carrier would give you one for a fraction of that.

The landscape is, finally, changing. Carriers (like the near-fanatic John LegereĖled T-Mobile) have begun offering more alternatives to the two-year contract. And Boost Mobile (a division of Sprint) just announced the Max, a ZTE-manufactured 5.7-inch phablet (a ďphone tablet,Ē or a really big smartphone) priced at $300. That looks like a deal, especially compared with the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3ís $700 no-contract price.

Of course, that price doesnít get you the state of the art. The phone runs Android 4.1 on a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor ó which is to say, itís really no Galaxy Note. Still, itís a part of a larger trend toward far more affordable unlocked phones, one that will likely only continue as competition increases from hardware manufacturers and as carriers rethink the way they market their products.

Think about it this way: A shiny new iPhone 5c will run you $100 on contract from Verizon, compared with $549 off-contract. But what about that asterisk to the right of the $100? Well, for that price, youíll need to lock yourself into a two-year plan. Letís start with the Share Everything plan at $40. And you like to watch video and canít stop listening to the new Daft Punk record on Spotify, so weíll give you the $80-a-month 6 GB data plan.

So, letís see, thatís $120 a month for 24 months, which puts us at $2,880, before taxes. The phone cost you $100. Make that $2,980. Did we mention that you can get the iPhone 5c in any one of five bright colors?

Some big names are getting in on the contract-free act, too. Google turned heads late last year with the LG-manufactured Nexus 5. Priced at $350, the phone proved that offering a low-cost, unlocked phone didnít have to mean comprising. As with all Nexus devices, the phone runs the latest version of Android (4.4 KitKat, this time out) and does so on some top-of-the-line hardware like the 2.26 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor.

Motorola set the pricing bar even lower with the Moto G, a brightly colored, solidly built phone priced at $179. Again, there are some compromises to be had on that offering, but the phone does represent a high-water mark for sub-$200 phones.

What does all of this mean for you? It means that if you donít like two-year phone contracts, you can now afford to thumb your nose at them.

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