In the market for a new smartphone? Good news: You don't have to lock yourself into another two-year contract, and you don't have to settle for a low-end model.
Today only, Motorola is offering the unlocked Moto X (16GB) for $299.99 shipped. Better yet, grab the 32GB model or Developer Edition for $329.99 shipped.
Likewise, Republic Wireless is also offering the Moto X starting at $299. Typically you can get only the black or white model at that price, but as part of this May 1 sale, you get the Moto Maker option as well. That means you can customize the phone's color scheme in some 4,000 different ways.
So, with prices being the same, which version should you pick? Well, start by deciding if you want the Moto X at all. CNET rated the phone four stars and praised its hands-free voice capabilities, a feature I also find seriously awesome. And you gotta love the customization options, especially if you go for one of the college-color designs.
On the flip side, the Moto X lacks an expansion slot, and on the Republic Wireless version at least, I found battery life to be mediocre at best. (That was a surprise given that most reviews of the Motorola model singled out its superior battery.)
Assuming you want this phone (and, make no mistake, it's a nice one, if imperfect in a few small ways), here's what you need to know. Republic Wireless operates on Sprint's network and relies on modified firmware, meaning although you're buying the phone outright, without a contract, it's locked to Republic and can't be used with other carriers.
If you buy from Motorola, you can get a CDMA or unlocked-GSM version good for Sprint/Verizon or AT&T/T-Mobile (and their various MNVOs). Then you can shop around and find the service plan that best meets your needs.
With Republic, you get a choice between four very competitive plans, with prices ranging from $5 to $40 monthly, the latter good for unlimited* (usual asterisk disclaimer) everything, including 4G. I spent a couple months on the $25 plan (3G instead of 4G) and found it more than adequate for my needs.
However, all else being equal, I'd have to recommend buying from Motorola so you get a more "pure" Moto X experience. Republic's firmware caused me some issues (call quality, the aforementioned battery life, etc.), and their version doesn't currently support short-code texting. (YMMV, of course -- I've heard from lots of readers who love the Moto on Republic.)
What's more, you can take an unlocked Moto X just about anywhere, including services like AIO Wireless (starting at $35/month), UppWireless ($15/month), and Ting (highly customizable plans). Heck, if you get a CDMA model, you can jump on Sprint's popular Framily plan.
Once upon you'd have to pay $500 to $600 for an unlocked smartphone of this caliber, and with some models you still do. Here's your chance to score a Mother's Day gift (or a You Day gift) on the cheap.
Bonus deal: Smartphone cameras are getting better all the time, but serious (and even serious amateur) photographers know that for the best results, you need a camera. Like this one: For a limited time, Tanga has the Fujifilm X-M1 compact dSLR w/16-50mm lens for $499.99 shipped. That's after applying coupon code FUJI100 at checkout.
This model has a list price of $799 and sells elsewhere for $699, so this is a seriously good deal. CNET rated it 3.5 stars and said it "delivers the best photo quality in its price class," while Amazon customers collectively rated it 4.3 stars. It's available in black or silver.