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Best Prepaid Smartphones Fall 2012

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Forget long-term contracts with the big name carriers. Prepaid smartphones are no longer outdated models connecting to obscure towers with low data limits.

Carriers like Virgin Mobile now offer attractive smartphones like the iPhone 4S and the HTC EVO V. Straight Talk and Red Pocket Mobile offer SIM cards that pop into any AT&T phone with no need to unlock or ask AT&T for permission.

These companies connect to the same towers AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint use, delivering good coverage and data speeds without contracts and high monthly bills.

The latest smartphones take time to make their way from the big four carriers to the prepaid smartphone market, but there is some crossover between our Best Android Smartphones of August 2012 and the best prepaid smartphones available.

Keep in mind the upfront cost for a phone will be higher than at Sprint or Verizon, but lower monthly prices mean savings in the long run. Even after paying full price for the iPhone 4S on Virgin Mobile, the savings during two years compared to a typical AT&T plan is over $600.

Users that jump to a prepaid smartphone won’t be alone. The number of prepaid smartphone users nearly doubled last quarter, growing 91% compared to the same quarter a year ago.

iPhone 4S – Virgin Mobile

iPhone 4S top prepaid phone

The iPhone 4S is available on Virgin Mobile.

Virgin Mobile now offers the iPhone 4S for $649. This is the same iPhone 4S sold at Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, so there’s no compromise for using a prepaid carrier. The iPhone 4S includes Apple’s assistant Siri and a great camera. Virgin Mobile offers the option to turn the iPhone 4S into a personal hotspot for $15 more a month.

The iPhone 4S on Virgin Mobile is expensive, but even with the full price of the phone, users will save enough to buy a new phone at full price in 2 years.

This fall Apple will release iOS 6 with brand new features and functionality, and Virgin Mobile users can get it on release day. This includes new iOS 6 features like voice guided turn-by-turn navigation, PassBook for tracking tickets and rewards cards and much more. Catch a look at the new iOS 6 features in the video below.

Read: iPhone 4S Review

Specifications: 3.5-inch 960 x 640 resolution Retina Display, Apple A5 processor, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 8MP rear facing camera, Front facing VGA quality camera.

Operating System: iOS 5 with an update to iOS 6 coming this fall.

4G: No

Price: $649 at Virgin Mobile

Monthly Price: $30 to $55 per Month

Mobile Hotspot: Yes – $15 per month.

Data: Unlimited – Throttled after 2.5GB (3.5Gb with Mobile Hotspot)

Galaxy Nexus – T-Mobile

Galaxy Nexus Pre-Paid

The Galaxy Nexus is one of the best prepaid Android smartphone options.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus remains one of our favorite Android phones, one that many members of the GottaBeMobile team use on a daily basis. The Galaxy Nexus pairs well with T-Mobile’s pre-paid plans, and even offers Mobile Hotspot access.

Read: T-Mobile Monthly 4G Review

The phone is speedy, thanks to the latest Project Butter improvements and it sports a decent camera and a large 4.65-inch display. It lacks the added Samsung software found on the Galaxy S III, but many users appreciate that.

Like many of the best prepaid smartphones, you’ll need to buy the phone and service separate. Google Sells the Nexus direct for $349 with no contract, and T-Mobile SIM cards are available bundled with phones in drug stores or alone online.

Unlike most Android phones, this one runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This is the latest version of Android, which isn’t available on the Verizon model yet. Android 4.1 brings Google Now, a new personal assistant type app and service that learns from your Google search history.

Read: Galaxy Nexus Review

Specifications: 4.65-inch 1280 x 720 HD Super AMOLED display, dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, zero shutter lag 5MP camera with LED flash1.3MP front-facing camera, 1750mAh battery, Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0, NFC support, gyro, proximity sensor,

Operating System: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

4G: Yes, HSPA+.

Price: $349 from Google

Monthly Price: $30

Mobile Hotspot: Yes – $15 per month.

Data: Unlimited, throttling after first 5GB per month.

HTC EVO V – Virgin Mobile

HTC Evo V prepaid

The HTC EVO V is a version of the HTC EVO 3D.

The HTC EVO V offers 4G WiMax connectivity on Sprint and includes a 3D camera plus a glasses free 3D display.

While 3D remains a novelty in many cases, the ability to take and immediately view 3D video without glasses is a feature many users enjoy.

The HTC EVO V sports a 4.3-inch qHD display. Inside is a 1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. The phone ships with 4GB of storage and an 8GB memory card. The phone offers HDMI out to stream content to a bigger screen.

The HTC EVO 3D hands on above provides a look at a very similar phone.

Specifications: 4.3-inch glasses free 3D display, 1.2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 4GB storage, MicroSD card slot with 8GB MicroSD card. 5MP 3D camera, front facing camera. HDMI Out. 4G WiMax.1730 mAh battery

Operating System: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

4G: WiMax

Price: $299

Monthly Price: $30 to $55 per Month

Mobile Hotspot: Yes – $15 per month.

Data: Unlimited – Throttled after 2.5GB (3.5GB with Mobile Hotspot)

iPhone 4/4S – Red Pocket Mobile or Straight Talk

iPhone 4S prepaid

The iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 work on Straight Talk and Red Pocket Mobile.

There’s no need to get the iPhone 4S from Virgin Mobile to go prepaid with Apple’s iPhone. Carriers like Straight Talk and Red Pocket Mobile offer SIM cards that slide into the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to let users go pre-paid without buying a new phone.

These carriers only work with the AT&T iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S models, but users don’t need to unlock them or ask AT&T for permission to use the pre-paid phones.

Unfortunately you will lose two functions. Unless jailbroken, the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S can not send or receive MMS, or picture messages, on Red Pocket or Straight Talk. The phones can still send photos and videos to other iPhones with iMessage. Also, there is no mobile hotspot offering from either carrier.

Straight-Talk-Coverage

Straight Talk coverage in the U.S.

The carriers connect to AT&T networks nationwide.

Read: Straight Talk Review

Specifications: 3.5-inch 960 x 640 resolution Retina Display, Apple A5 processor, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 8MP rear facing camera, Front facing VGA quality camera.

Operating System: iOS 5 with upgrade to iOS 6 this fall.

4G: No

Price: Cost of used iPhone 4S or iPhone 4 varies. $15 SIM card

Monthly Price: $45 per month on Straight Talk – $54 per month on Red Pocket

Mobile Hotspot: No.

Data: Unlimited* on Straight Talk – 1GB on Red Pocket Mobile

Nokia Lumia 900 – Straight Talk

Nokia Lumia 900 Prepaid

The Nokia Lumia 900 runs great on prepaid plans like Straight Talk.

The Nokia Lumia 900 is a great pre-paid smartphone offering. While Microsoft and Nokia are set to bring out new Windows Phone 8 models this fall, the Lumia 900 offers a lot to like.

In addition to a beautiful 4.3-inch ClearBlack display, the Lumia 900 features 4G connectivity, even on Straight Talk. This means users can enjoy very fast downloads where AT&T offers 4G coverage, though it won’t connect to 4G LTE on Straight Talk. Like the iPhone 4S, there is no way to set up MMS or a mobile hotspot with the Lumia 900 on Straight Talk.

The Lumia 900 runs Windows Phone 7.5 offering access to many of the popular apps found on the iPhone and Android, though not all of them. Nokia Drive delivers turn by turn voice navigation.

Windows Phone offers a new user interface, that many users prefer over the home screen layouts of iPhone and Android.

Read: Nokia Lumia 900 Review

Specifications: 4.3-inch ClearBlack display, 1.4Ghz processor, 8MP rear facing camera with dual LED flash. 1MP front facing camera, 4G, WiFi.

Operating System: Windows Phone 7.5 Tango

4G: 4G, but no 4G LTE

Price: $399 from AT&T

Monthly Price: $45

Mobile Hotspot: No

Data: Unlimited* with some restrictions

 

Josh Smith is Editor of GottaBeMobile and Notebooks.com. He's always looking for ways to help you get the most of your gear and loves to talk about tech on radio and TV. Josh uses an iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows Computers. Josh Smith on Google+ Email: [email protected]

10 Comments

  1. Nice

    08/15/2012 at 8:43 pm

    Great Article, didn’t ski over important stuff like other sites

  2. Sophie

    08/17/2012 at 2:47 am

    What about the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3? Do not they cover the smart phone category with the top most features’ quality?

    Regards

    .S-

    http://www.wrappz.com/covers/iphone-4s.php

  3. Lynn

    08/26/2012 at 12:12 pm

    They are not offered in prepaid plans yet.

    • Christine

      09/12/2012 at 10:15 pm

      i have the galaxy s thru at&t as a prepaid. but if i internet i have to pay extra.

    • Thomas

      11/16/2012 at 9:00 am

      The Samsung Galaxy S 2 is on straight talk here in Kansas and has been for some time….

  4. Ren

    09/09/2012 at 5:01 am

    They should make the galaxy s3 prepaid the 16gb and the 32gb in color pebble blue and pebble reds just diffrent.color & if u buy prepaid unlimited talk text web that unlimited should in clued ur data package unlimited too for $50 to $60 unlimited every month including talk text web and data all inclueded when u buy ur unlimited card every month.

  5. Bad Credit

    11/18/2012 at 4:43 am

    I have a Samsung Galaxy II that I got from Sprint and just want to be able to use without having to get anew contract. Does anyone have a good idea here?

    • amber hardiman

      12/11/2012 at 10:46 pm

      Boost Mobile can use any sprint phone now

  6. lane

    12/16/2012 at 6:38 am

    If you use verizon and want to switch to straight talk does it take the prepaid verizon peoples money from their phones when texting or calling. I am getting different answers and am confused. Thanks!!

  7. Becky

    12/29/2012 at 6:02 pm

    i have a 3gs iphone can it be used as a prepaid?

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