A hundred greenbacks is a respectable chunk of change, but when it comes to personal electronics like the ultra-personal smartphone, $100 (before taxes and fees) is a darn good deal. Since the smartphone operating system remains the same across handsets from the most entry-level to the most premium, what a price hike usually gives you is a step up in features -- like LTE or HSPA+ 42 support, a faster processor, and more premium camera components, for example.
Here are some of today's top picks.
With the iPhone 5 now on sale, the iPhone 4S gets an automatic deep discount to $99 on all its postpaid networks. Its 3.5-inch screen may look shrunken next to the 5's new 4-inch face, but this phone still has the power that made it the blockbuster it was last year: a brilliant screen, terrific camera, and a robust operating system that will support iOS 6 and even more software tricks. Its smaller screen size and absent 4G LTE speeds are the more pertinent drawbacks. Read the full review of the iPhone 4S.
Like their movie counterparts, smartphone sequels can be hit or miss. Ideally, they should build on the highlights of their predecessor while advancing the story with something new. With a less ambitious feature set and a design that shows few changes, the Motorola Atrix HD for AT&T doesn't quite follow the perfect sequel script. And while it has a few faults, that's not to say that it lacks power, speed, and poise. There's 4G, a bright display, Android 4.0, and a very affordable price tag.
The first Android smartphone to have Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus stirred the Android pot when it launched late last year. The main camera isn't great, but the handset has a beautiful screen, fast 4G, and top-notch internal performance. It's also one of the first phones to get the fast, fluid Android 4.1 Jelly bean OS, and it costs just $99 with a contract.
A strong choice for T-Mobile, the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G is a sweet package that contains a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, a solid 5-megapixel camera, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and T-Mobile's fastest data network. It currently runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Read the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G.
If a Benjamin is still more than you'd like to part with, you should also check out our best smartphones for under $100, and of course, always keep your eyes out for limited-time carrier promotions.