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Last Updated: July 3rd, 2011

Phones

Not everyone needs a new phone at this time of year, especially as you probably got your last one some time around Christmas, but if you’re in the market for a decent Android phone on your college-sized budget, here’s the what you’re looking at if you’re one of the four major carriers:

Verizon

  • Motorola Droid - Affordable doesn’t necessarily have to mean cheap, and such is the case with the original Motorola Droid. While Verizon itself no longer carries the original, (it’s been dropped in favor of the Droid 2) it can be had for the price of $0.00 (or, at most, $0.01) at third-party retailers like WireFly, Amazon, and LetsTalk.com. Not a bad price for the most popular Android phone of all time, even if it may be considered a last generation device by today’s standards.

motorola droid

  • Motorola Devour - Another cheap Motorola device on Big Red, the Devour was never destined to compete with the big boys (Droid, Droid Incredible, etc.), not even at the time of its release. Despite the fact that Android 1.6 was getting long in the tooth in November of 2009, this phone still runs it, with little hope of an update to a more modern version of the OS. $79.99 at Verizon; $0.00 at WireFly; $0.01 at Amazon; $0.00 at LetsTalk.com
  • LG Ally - Verizon’s other Android-based messaging phone, the Ally steps things up a notch with a more modern version of Android than the Devour (2.1 Eclair), while keeping things nice and boring with a 3.2 megapixel camera and a 3.2” display. $49.99 at Verizon; $0.00 at WireFly; $0.01 at Amazon; $0.00 at LetsTalk.com

AT&T

  • Samsung Captivate - Surprising as it may be to find a member of the Galaxy S family that usually retails for around $199 on our list of budget phones, the fact that it can be had for a mere $0.01 on Amazon’s is too good a deal to miss. If for some reason you decide to buy it from AT&T itself, it’ll still run you the usual $199 on a new two-year contract. WireFly’s carrying it for $9.99 and LetsTalk.com lists it at $89.99, neither of which are bad deals, even if the bottom line remains unchanged: If you’re getting a Captivate, get it from Amazon.

samsung captivate

  • HTC Aria - One of the smallest Android phones in America, the HTC Aria still manages to fit in (almost) all of the usual Android 2.1 features, like turn-by-turn navigation, the Android Market, and more. However, as with all Android devices on AT&T, no side-loading of apps! $0.00 at WireFly; $0.01 at Amazon; $0.00 at LetsTalk.com; $129.99 at AT&T
  • Motorola Backflip - An appealing Android device the Backflip is not, with its outdated version of Android, (1.5 Donut, to be clear) AT&T limitations, and flip mechanism that flips the wrong way. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a phone that will have people staring at you, (not in a good way) look no further. $0.00 at WireFly; $0.01 at Amazon; $0.00 at LetsTalk.com; $49.99 at AT&T

Sprint

  • HTC Hero - The Hero is a great example of how fast technology advances; just about a year ago, the aforementioned device was the cream of the crop, and yet now, its 3.2-inch 320x480 display, a 528MHz processor, and similar specs, just make it easy to see why people say, “leave the past in the past.” Still, at least it’s had its update to Android 2.1, which is more than can be said of some other phones (isn’t that right, Behold II?). Not available on WireFly; $0.01 at Amazon; $149.99 at Sprint
  • Samsung Moment - Another flagship (at the time of its release) device, the Moment is the proud carrier of an 800MHz processor, a 3.2 inch 320x480 display, and a physical QWERTY keyboard. Sound good? Take a look at its big brother, the Epic 4G. Not available at WireFly; $0.01 at Amazon; $69.99 at LetsTalk.com; $99.99 at Sprint
  • Samsung Intercept - Unlike the last two items on this list, the Intercept was never a top-of-the-line device. Even at its launch, the small screen and 3MP camera filed it under the category of phones commonly referred to as “cheap.” $4.99 at WireFly; $0.01 at Amazon; $4.99 at LetsTalk.com; $99 at Sprint

samsung intercept

T-Mobile

  • MyTouch 3G Slide - The MyTouch 3G Slide is certainly a unique phone, even if it’s not necessarily the best phone. For one thing, it’s got the genius button, which, put simply, is a work of genius. For another, well, there’s that not-so-stunning 3.4-inch 320x480 display, slow processor, and questionable software skin. Still, Amazon’s selling it for a mere $0.01, WireFly handing it out for $99.99 a phone, LetsTalk.com has it listed for $149.99, and T-Mobile itself will happily charge you $179.99.
  • Motorola Charm - This square little device sports a 2.8-inch display, a 600MHz processor, and a trackpad on the back. $0.00 at WireFly; Not yet available at Amazon; $0.00 at LetsTalk.com; $74.99 at T-Mobile. Sound like a good deal? Wait ‘til you see the next item on this list.
  • Samsung Vibrant - That’s right, another member of the Galaxy S family has made its way onto our list. A nearly idential device when compared to the Captivate on AT&T, it packs a 1 GHz Hummingbird processor, a 4-inch Super AMOLED display, and the movie Avatar for your in-class viewing pleasure, right out of the box. And, best of all, it’ll cost you just $49.99 at LetsTalk.com, which is still $25 less than the Charm’s official price. $69.99 at Amazon; $99.99 at WireFly; $199.99 at T-Mobile.

samsung vibrant

Apps

Even the best new phone is useless without some good software. To really get the most out of your Android phone this school year, check out some of the following apps to help

Quickpedia/Wapedia (Free)

While it may not always be the most reliable source of information, Wikipedia is still great for first reference and occasional fact-checking. Both of these Wikipedia apps offer some special: the aptly-named Quickpedia is incredibly fast, even on less-than-stellar budget phones, while Wapedia offers access to multiple other Wikis, such as Wiktionary, Wikiquote, and Wikibooks (as well as a slew of less useful entertainment Wikis). Alternatively, if your budget phone is running low on memory, you can bookmark Wapedia’s mobile site and add a shortcut to your home screen; it uses the same icon as the app, and is usually just as fast (or even faster) than the app itself.

quickpedia

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.taptu.wapedia.android Wapedia

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.nextmobileweb.quickpedia Quickpedia

Evernote (Free)

Simply put, it’s the best note-taking app Android has to offer. Users can create notes based on images (called “Snapshots”), sound/voice, files saved on your phone, or plain old text. These notes are then uploaded to the cloud, which allows your notes to be accessible from any computer as long you keep your Evernote username and password handy. Each note can be categorized with tags, and the built-in search feature assures that you will never be lost in a sea of unorganized notes (kind of like how you would be if you still used paper notes).

evernote

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.evernote

CampusBooks (Free)

Every one needs to save money when they’re going into college, but sometimes cutting your food intake to just ramen noodles just won’t cut it. CampusBooks can help you save tons on all the books you’ll need for college. Using the search feature or the built-in barcode scanner, you can find all the books you need, and the app will determine which locations have the best prices. If you’re a returning student, CampusBooks can even help you make some money, as it allows you to sell any books you still have.

campusbooks

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.campusbooks

CoursePro (Free Demo, $2.99 Full)

If you’ve already replaced your notebook with Evernote, you probably won’t have too much of a problem with throwing away an organizer in favor of CoursePro, which allows you to input information from all of your courses, including the subject, professor, location, number of credits, and each assignment type, as well as the weight of each type (i.e., Quizzes are 25% of your final grade). Once you added all the information, you can add new assignments, and once they are completed, you can view your report card; assuming all the information you added on grading is correct, this report card should be fairly accurate.

coursepro

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.makemobile.coursepro.trial CoursePro Demo

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.makemobile.coursepro CoursePro Full

RealCalc (Free)

Sure, all Android phones have a Calculator app pre-installed, but that’s not going to help you get any real work done. For that, you’ll need a fully-featured scientific calculator, and that’s where RealCalc comes in. With numerous improvements to the stock calculator, most notably results history, this app will have you forgetting about your bulky old TI in no time.

realcalc

QR code for market://search?q=pname:uk.co.nickfines.RealCalc

Docs To Go (Free Viewer, $14.99 Full)/Quickoffice ($9.99)

In case none of these other apps have convinced you that your Android phone can become the center of your productivity, these sure will. Docs To Go and Quickoffice both offer full Microsoft Office functionality, allowing you to create, edit, and view Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and PDF files on the go. Which app you choose is mostly a matter of personal opinion, but either way, they will be enormously helpful, especially with…

docs to go

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.dataviz.docstogo Docs To Go Main App

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.dataviz.docstogoapp Docs To Go Unlock Key

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.qo.android.am3 Quickoffice

Dropbox (Free)

If you’re planning on dragging and dropping all of your Office files onto your phone’s SD card, think again. Dropbox makes syncing files between devices incredibly easy, which will certainly help if you’re taking a laptop to school and leaving the desktop at home. The Android app makes accessing these files from your phone a breeze, and if the free 2GB of storage is enough, you can pay to upgrade your storage space to a staggering 100GB. And because all of your files are stored on the cloud, they are accessible from any computer, as well. This way, you’re guaranteed to never forget an important document again.

dropbox

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.dropbox.android

Have these apps helped you get through classes? Any good ones that we missed? Feel free to shout out in the comments!

The “Phones” section of this article was written by contributor Jaroslav Stekl.

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