The 10 Best Prepaid Phones

Updated October 04, 2017 by Sam Kraft

10 Best Prepaid Phones
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We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Today's mobile devices have become addictive and expensive. But with these economical prepaid cell phones, you not only save on the cost of the device, but you pay for a specific amount of data or minutes in advance, which gives you freedom from long-term contracts and hefty monthly bills. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best prepaid phone on Amazon.

10. ZTE USA Go

For those who want the comfort of a flip phone and the convenience of operating without a contract, the ZTE USA Go is a solid choice. It's nothing fancy, but it does offer an internal memory of 50 megabytes and a useful two-inch display screen.
  • comes with simple games
  • large easy-to-use buttons
  • email access costs extra
Brand ZTE USA
Model Z222
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Nokia Lumia 635

An intuitive model, the Nokia Lumia 635 has a keyboard that anticipates what word you’re going to write, which helps speed up texting conversations. It also comes with a personal assistant called Cortana, which will keep track of your interests and make recommendations.
  • available in 4 colors
  • ability to customize start screen
  • no forward-facing camera
Brand Nokia
Model Lumia 635 GoPhone
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

8. Tracfone Destiny Android

Suitable for people who simply want to stay connected with friends and family and occasionally access the Internet, the Tracfone Destiny Android is a solid, no-frills model with a basic camera and the ability to play music.
  • compatible with wi-fi
  • includes reliable video recorder
  • can be tough to accept calls
Brand Tracfone
Model TFLGL21GWTP4
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

7. LG Vista

An expansive 5.7-inch touchscreen that provides high-definition clarity makes the LG Vista a nice option for those of you who are transitioning from one of today’s popular contract smartphones. The screen can be adjusted to dual-window or mini view display.
  • compatible with 2 providers
  • can be locked with a code
  • camera quality is rather poor
Brand LG Vista
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

6. TracFone LG

For the technology-challenged, the TracFone LG will eliminate confusion and provide a dependable way to stay in contact with the important people in your life. It’s simple to set up, easy to use and does not come with complicated features.
  • holds up to 1000 contacts
  • hands-free speaker for driving
  • comes with an activation card
Brand Tracfone
Model TFLG441GDMP4
Weight 13.1 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Samsung Gusto 2

The Samsung Gusto 2 offers up to seven hours of talk time and 350 hours of standby time, so you can use it as often as you want to within those parameters without recharging. It features handy personal organizer tools for planning things on the go.
  • gps-enabled for providing directions
  • includes a quick-start guide
  • bright and vibrant display
Brand Samsung
Model Gusto
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

4. LG Optimus Zone

Browse, stream and even take selfies with the LG Optimus Zone and its powerful quad-core processor. This highly versatile option allows you to easily switch between portrait and landscape view and comes with Google Chrome as the built-in web browser.
  • customizable music library
  • includes an image editor
  • camera with a self-timer
Brand LG
Model LG-VS425PP
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

3. Samsung Galaxy J7

Thanks to its large screen, the Samsung Galaxy J7 allows you to see plenty of detail without having to scroll and zoom too much. Its reliable, removable battery keeps you powered up as you go about your day with a generous 40 hours of usage.
  • can store up to 4000 photos
  • power save mode
  • comes with a travel adapter
Brand Samsung
Model J727
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Motorola Moto G

A legitimate mobile phone that performs like contract models, the Motorola Moto G has a resilient design, solid front and rear cameras, a fast processor and a very sharp 4.5-inch display screen. It’s also compatible with Bluetooth.
  • long-lasting battery
  • water-repellent coating
  • good value for its capabilities
Brand Motorola
Model Moto G - Verizon
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. HTC Desire Android

If you’re looking for a lot of the traits included in a standard smartphone, you may want to give the HTC Desire Android a shot. This isn’t your typical burner phone, as it incorporates high-speed Internet, loud speakers and an impressive camera.
  • plays videos smoothly
  • touchscreen is large and clear
  • can transfer contacts via bluetooth
Brand HTC
Model DESIRE 816
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

Prepaid Phones: What’s The Difference?

Reportedly, the young people that make up the millennial generation are more afraid to commit than those that came before them — to a career, to buying a home, even to a significant other. Articles supporting this notion pop up all over the internet almost daily. I’d almost be willing to accept the “millennials are unwilling to commit” theory if not for one piece of evidence to the contrary that’s very tough to ignore: their utter commitment to the smartphone — more specifically, the smartphone with a contract.

Admittedly, most available models of prepaid phones are not as technologically advanced or equipped with the same bells and whistles as a new contract smartphone, but that doesn’t adequately explain the massive disparity in popularity between the two styles. The prepaid model offers plenty of advantages that you’d think would appeal to a range of phone users, both young and old.

The primary benefit of a prepaid phone is freedom. It all boils down to the plan: while prepaid phones provide the basic services of regular cell phones, they do not come with the long-term contract requirements or overage charges you incur for exceeding the monthly minutes in your plan. Depending on how often you use your phone, this can save you a lot of money, as you only pay for the minutes you use. This also means that you can change carriers or phones at any time without suffering a penalty.

Unlike contract phones, you won’t have to go through a credit check to purchase one of these. There’s also no age limit, which makes the prepaid phone an attractive option for parents who want to buy their child or teenager a phone and maintain control over their minutes, texts, and data usage.

Keep in mind, while the overall price you pay for a prepaid phone will likely be less than that of a new smartphone, the per-minute rate is probably higher. The variety of models available to you — and the range of features that comes with them — is also significantly limited in comparison to contract phones. Because of this, a prepaid phone is most suitable for occasional phone users, those who don’t require constant connectivity, and emergency situations.

Finding The Right Phone-Plan Combination

Today, most major phone carriers offer prepaid plans. However, not all phone models are compatible with all plans, which means you may have to do some mixing and matching before settling on an arrangement that works for you. Some are true pay-as-you-go plans, while others allow you to sign up for monthly payments that you can cancel at any time.

A quick self-assessment before shopping for a prepaid phone will help make the decision-making process simpler and less stressful. First, ask yourself what you need. Do you absolutely have to be able to play music, stream media, and use apps? Do you require a camera? Or will a simple phone that allows you to call and text suffice for now?

You must also consider extra fees associated with your plan. If you want to download and use apps, stream music, access your email, surf the internet, or even send text messages, you'll have to prepay for a messaging or data plan that incorporates those features. Make sure to go through all aspects of the plan with a fine-toothed comb, as some may come with unexpected access fees or charge you for downloading games and ringtones you thought were free.

Once you’ve established which features you require and the types of plans you’re most comfortable with, do some comparisons between different mobile providers online. Each carrier has its strengths and weaknesses; pay particular attention to service cost, network size, call quality, and the bonus features they offer (like unlimited text messaging or unlimited night and weekend minutes).

When you begin using a prepaid phone, it’s imperative that you’re aware of the details of your plan so you’re able to remain cognizant of how many minutes and how much data you've used — especially if you’re switching over from a contract with unlimited data. If you’re used to utilizing every feature of your phone whenever you want, it’s dangerously easy to go overboard very quickly. The potential repercussions — like suddenly losing connection during an important call or getting stranded in an emergency situation — are not pleasant.

A Brief History Of Prepaid Phones

Prior to the early 1990s, contract-based mobile phones were your only option. Several companies providing prepaid phone services emerged during this time, such as Houston Cellular and Banana Cellular. Other American companies joined the fray later in the decade, while a Portuguese company called TMN was the first European operator to offer a prepaid service in 1995.

People who lacked credit and minors under the age of 18 were particularly receptive to these offerings, as they were frequently denied contracts up until that point. As the concept gained momentum in the late 1990s, carriers in countries all over the world began to adopt similar systems. The trend continued during the first decade of this century, culminating in the Blackberry becoming the first smartphone to be offered with a prepaid plan in 2009.

Today, developed economies across the world tend to favor contract subscriptions, while the prepaid method is more popular in less developed nations. For example, more than two-thirds of North American phone users are on a contract plan, whereas roughly one in five Latin American users fall into that category. In some countries, the prepaid model is simply more accessible, especially to people who don’t have the means to pay for an expensive phone or the required documentation to enter into a contract.

As modern technology continues to evolve at an exponential rate, we can reasonably expect to see prepaid mobile phones progress in a similar fashion. In just a few years’ time, who knows — you may be able to pick up a prepaid model with an affordable plan that has the same features as the newest version of that smartphone you paid out the nose for last week.



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Last updated on October 04, 2017 by Sam Kraft

Sam is a marketing/communications professional and freelance writer who resides in Chicago, IL and is perpetually celebrating the Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory.


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