Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Smartphones: Watch Out for Falling Prices

The selection of smartphones that cost $100 or less is growing, thanks to T-Mobile's new BlackBerry Curve 8520, available today for as little as $50, and Verizon's substantial, if stealthy, price cuts to a number of its fancier phones.

The Curve, which we'll soon add to our ratings (available to subscribers), comes nicely equipped with an optical trackpad, wi-fi connectivity, and dedicated media keys on the top of the handset for convenient access to the phone's multimedia features. And like Sprint's Palm Pre, it claims the ability to sync with your iTunes library — though it, too, may be subject to the cat-and-mouse game Apple has been playing with Palm to thwart such syncing (which doesn't apply at any rate to copy-protected iTunes songs, movies, and videos you've bought). While T-Mobile's currently selling the phone for $130, it's a little under $50 at Wal-Mart. (All prices are with a two-year contract.)

Verizon has quietly slashed prices on many of its smartphones, including on some fairly popular models like the HTC Touch Pro and Samsung Omnia, both $100. And our smartphone ratings already boast a number of capable $50 models, including another BlackBerry Curve, the 8330 model (Verizon and Sprint), the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 (T-Mobile), the Samsung BlackJack II (AT&T), the Palm Centro 690 (Sprint), and the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 (Sprint).

However, these aging phones have been discounted, perhaps (as some bloggers, including The Boy Genius Report, speculate) to make room for new models, including the BlackBerry Storm 2 slated for November. We can't recall seeing a brand-new smart phone sell for as little as the new Curve.

Of course, the purchase price of a smartphone is dwarved by the cost of service to it over its contract period. That bears consideration before you snap up a $50 phone — and overlook the fact that you can easily pay twice that much a month to actually use it, particularly if you start adding the likes of third-party apps like satellite radio and GPS navigation. — Mike Gikas

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on Yahoo!


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