Get a TextNow Galaxy S4 for $279.99 and service for $19
Last year's flagship phone is this year's steal, provided you're willing to live with a couple of compromises.
Regular Cheapskate readers know that when it comes to no-contract smartphones, the deal to beat is the Republic Wireless Moto X, which costs $299 and has voice/high-speed data plans starting at $25.
Watch your back, Republic. TextNow now offers a very similar option, with specially coded Android phones that tap Wi-Fi networks for voice calls and texting, switching to cellular only as needed. And they've crafted a deal just for Cheapskate readers.
Through Friday, you can get the refurbished Samsung Galaxy S4 for $279.99, plus about $9 for shipping. Regular price: $349.99. That's already a steal, but here's where it gets really sexy: service plans start at $18.99 per month.
TextNow? If the name rings a bell, you're thinking of the company behind the popular eponymous texting app. In recent months, the company has joined the ranks of Sprint MVNOs, and the S4 is one of several available phones you can get. (It's definitely the best.)
Right up front, let me note that although it's a refurb, the S4 comes with a full one-year warranty. And the loaner unit I received was indistinguishable from new. Also, unlike the Moto X from Republic Wireless, the TextNow S4 can be unlocked and firmware-wiped for use with another carrier, should you decide you want to take it elsewhere.
You probably don't need me to explain much about the S4 itself. In early 2013, it was the hot smartphone. And it's still fantastic. Anyone who doesn't insist on every little modern bell and whistle will find it an excellent mobile companion. TextNow's iteration features Android 4.4 (KitKat), 16GB of expandable storage, and the option to port your existing number (post-purchase).
TextNow's cheapie plan gives you unlimited texting and incoming calls, 750 outgoing minutes (which roll over month-to-month), and 500MB of data. This last will probably prove to be the hiccup for some prospective buyers; the average user chews through around 750MB per month. Still, if you spend most of your time connected to Wi-Fi, you may find it more than sufficient. If not, the next tier nets you 1GB per month for $26.99, and you can max out at 2GB for $39.99.
Downsides? Like Republic, TextNow doesn't currently support short-code text messaging -- though a company rep said they're working on it. Also, in my experience, Sprint coverage (or at least Sprint MVNO coverage) is mediocre at best. Inside my house, I barely get a signal. And 4G LTE seems to appear in pockets, not everywhere. Your mileage may vary, of course, but do check the coverage map. Even better, check with local friends and family about their experience with Sprint (or, even better, Sprint MVNOs like Boost and Virgin Mobile).
Those two wrinkles aside, this is an amazing deal. The S4 is a steal at this price, as is 4G service for as little as $18.99 per month. Anyone shopping for a high-end smartphone without the painful monthly bill (and two-year lockdown) would do well to give this serious consideration.
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