The Tech-pert: Smartphone Savings – Get an Android Phone for $25 per Month

The Tech-pert: Smartphone Savings – Get an Android Phone for $25 per Month

Virgin Mobile just took the wraps off the single best deal in the history of smartphones.

As anyone who’s priced an iPhone, Droid Incredible, HTC Evo 4G, or similar phone knows the painful part is not the couple hundred bucks you spend on the hardware–it’s the $70 per month minimum you have to pay for voice and data plans.

Oh, and don’t forget the two-year contract that goes with it. Enter the Samsung Intercept, which Virgin sells for $249.99–not much more than you’d pay for a contract-subsidized smartphone. But here, you don’t have to sign away two years of your life. Or even one year. The Intercept requires no contract whatsoever.

Even better, Virgin’s Beyond Talk plans start at just $25 per month. Not $25 plus a few bucks for taxes and a few bucks more for fees–just $25, period. That includes 300 minutes of talk time and unlimited text messages, e-mail, Web browsing, and other data. Unlimited!

If you can’t get by on 300 minutes, you can opt for the $40/month plan, which bumps your talk time to 1,200 minutes. That’s still a significant savings over typical smartphone plans.

Sounds great, but what about the phone? Is the Samsung Intercept powered by a hand crank and limited to running only weather apps? Hardly: it’s a full-featured smartphone that runs the uber-popular Android 2.1 operating system.

That means you have access to the complete Android Market, which is currently home to some 70,000 apps. In other words, this is about as close as you can get to owning an iPhone without actually owning an iPhone.

The Intercept isn’t perfect. Its 3.2-inch screen is a bit smaller than average, and its 3.2-megapixel camera won’t win any awards for speed or image quality. On the other hand, it features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, built-in GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and just about everything else that makes a smartphone a smartphone.

Now for the bad news: the Intercept is currently sold out at Virgin Mobile’s online store. (It barely lasted a week, which should illustrate just how spectacular this bargain is.) I bought one just yesterday at my local Target, which for now is the only retailer that carries the phone. (Interestingly, it came with a $20 Target gift card, a promotion I didn’t even know was going on–and I’m not sure how much longer will be.)

By the way, Virgin Mobile is owned by Sprint, and relies on the latter’s network, so nationwide coverage should be on par with that of any Sprint-branded phone.

If you’ve been avoiding smartphones because you couldn’t stomach the idea of such a major monthly bill, the Intercept is a dream come true. It may not be the top-of-the-line Android phone, but it is without a doubt the most affordable.

Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, “How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.” Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.

Rick Broida has spent the last 25 years writing about technology in all its forms. A self-proclaimed cheapskate, he authors an eponymous blog for CNET. He is also a contributor to CNET's iPhone Atlas and Ehow Tech. Broida's book credits include the best-selling "How to Do Everything with Your Palm Handheld" and the more recent "The Cheapskate Rules: 21 Easy Money-Saving Tech Secrets."

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. iwerner at 4:58 pm

    I heard that the reception is really bad and that a lot of times you can’t get online. I was looking into this when I was getting a new phone, but usually if something looks too good to be true it’s probably not worth getting. It’s the same with metro PCS. How is your experience so far? Any problems?

  2. Rick.Broida at 8:06 pm

    @iwerner: No complaints thus far. Virgin uses Sprint’s network, so coverage is on par with that of the Sprint-branded version of the same phone.

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