Tech Magazine

Best on a Budget: The Best Smartphones for Under $50

Posted on the 27 October 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds

Best on a Budget: The Best Smartphones for Under $50

Uploaded by Mason Costa on October 27, 2011 at 12:24 PM

Smartphones don't have to break the bank


  • AT&T
  • Verizon
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile
  • Wrap Up

Anybody that's read this blog, or heard me talk, knows I'm passionate about mobile devices. I love 'em; I really do. When the HTC Evo came out for Sprint, it was like Christmas. The first phone I'd seen with a 1GHz processor, a 4.3" screen and Android; I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. And now we have the Samsung Galaxy S II line, the new iPhone 4S and upcoming Nexus Prime, and gadget Christmas is starting to overlap with the original Christmas. But any gadgetphile that's currently a bit light in the wallet, like myself, can tell you it's also a very frustrating time. There is so much awesome technology available, and all of it seems so expensive. The phones I've mentioned so far all started out at $200+ per phone; and that's with a two year contract. That leaves me to wonder; are there any cheap cell phones worth owning?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. Many carriers are seeing the market for "low end" smartphones. They are beginning to see not everyone needs an 8MP camera or an ultra high-res screen. That's not to say they're taking everything out of them that makes them "smart". You can still get Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7; and all for under $50. So if you're in the market for a new phone and don't care to break the bank, read on. Because today, we're going to take a carrier by carrier tour of the best smart phones for under $50 online. *Note - these deals may not be available in store.*


First stop on the budget smartphone express is AT&T. AT&T has long been known for one thing, iPhone. But, as many of you are aware of by now, Apple has branched out to Sprint and Verizon. For a company that seemed to be acquiring customers solely because of the iPhone, this looked like a near death blow to the carrier. The iPhone giveth, and the iPhone taketh away kind of deal. But there was a customer base At&T had been missing out on while they were peddling the iPhone exclusive; the low to mid range crowd. People that are okay with being forced to buy a data plan, but didn't want to spend $200 or more up front for their phones. AT&T has now realized the potential in this market, and honestly has a great stable of cheaper devices.

AT&T is a rarity in the low to mid range game in that no matter what OS you want, they can provide it. iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7 Blackberry, webOS and a couple of proprietary OS' are all available on AT&T in our budget. Since I'm not writing a novel on the subject, I'm just going to go with the phone I think is the best bet. With all due respect to the iPhone 3GS, it's in this category because it's two years old. So it's a great choice if you want to have an iOS device, but I don't want to recommend an outdated device as the best available. But for Apple fans, it is there and it is free on contract. The Samsung Focus also falls into this category; great device, solid OS, but it's a year old or so. There are Blackberries that fall into this range too. All of these are worthy devices, but I want to recommend a newer device.

My recommendation is the AT&T Impulse 4G. It's a budget phone with very little "budget" about it. It comes with Android 2.2 which will be upgradeable to 2.3 in the not too distant future. As many of you know, I'm a huge Android fan. But that wasn't what made me want to recommend this phone. This phone packs some impressive hardware for the price. The first thing that jumps out about it is that it's a 4G capable phone for $29.99. Many carriers make you pay $100+ for 4G, so this is a nice feature of the Impulse. It also sports a 3.8" touchscreen and a 5MP camera with auto focus and LED flash. It can shoot 720p video too! The only thing budget about this phone is the price. These are very good specs, and with the price factor, this is my overall highest recommendation for low-mid range smartphones.


Big Red is the king of the mobile phone heap in the US. They have the biggest, fastest network and the most 4G by far. They are a network that is almost synonymous with expense. They have a few phones that exceed the $200 mark on contract, and their service is the most expense; but you do get what you pay for in that regard. Needless to say, their selection of budget smartphones is somewhat limited.

That being said, I recommend the HTC Trophy. It has a very nice 3.8" touchscreen display, a 5MP camera with LED flash and auto focus and runs Windows Phone 7. It is kind of a rarity in the budget game as it has a 1Ghz processor in it; the same kind that got me so excited about the original Evo. The Trophy also has the bells and whistles you expect from a phone, music and video, Bluetooth, full web browser and a virtual keyboard. It is a very good device, and while it may be a bit older than the Impulse, it is the best on Verizon for under $50.


Sprint is a company in transition. They have already announced billions in spending; starting with $20 billion trying to get an iPhone 5 exclusive and another $5 billion adding an LTE network. So Sprint is committed to becoming a powerhouse provider. They are currently the third biggest carrier in the US. Sprint has a pretty good lineup of budget smartphones, but they don't have the OS' like AT&T or even Verizon. They have a bunch of phones with proprietary, manufacturer made OS'. My recommendation for Sprint is actually split between the LG Optimus S and the Blackberry Curve 9350. The Curve has the more impressive hardware, but the Optimus line is kind of the original budget family. The Optimus has the least impressive specs of any phones on the list, but it's a good phone for a lower end smartphone user; and it's free. The Blackberry is $49.99 and comes with a 5MP camera, full Blackberry keyboard and all the goodies you expect from Blackberry.


T-Mobile has become the choice for budget conscience shoppers. They have the widest array of options that allow people of all budgets to get wireless. You'd think that this stigma would carry over to their devices; it does, but only to an extent. They don't challenge AT&T as far as variety, but they do still have some great devices. I'm recommending two devices here, since the first is more aimed at the younger crowd. That device would be the Sidekick 4G. As the name implies, it can receive 4G wireless data. It also has a full physical keyboard, a 3.5" touchscreen display and a 1Ghz processor. It has a front facing camera as well, so you can video chat with it. My other recommendation is the T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide. It has a 5MP camera, an 8GB SD card, full slide out keyboard and more. It is a very well design and implemented device that I think you'll enjoy.

Wrap Up

Well there you have it folks; my picks for the best budget phones around. Modern budget phones debunk the myth that to save money you have to lose features. These phones have great processors, full and virtual keyboards,great cameras and awesome OS'. They aren't flip phones that only call and text; these are full featured smart phones. You have access too all of the apps and features the people that buy the expensive phones have; and all for under $50. Just because you're on a budget, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice quality or features. Now you can enjoy thrifty and techie. Thanks for reading and if you know anyone in the market for a cheap phone, show this to them.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Paperblog Hot Topics