Get an unlocked Google Play Edition smartphone for cheap(er)
For $399.99 or less, you can score models including the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, and Sony Z Ultra.
Four out of five Android purists agree: The Google Play editions of popular smartphones offer a "purer" -- and therefore better -- Android experience, if only because they're free from manufacturer and/or carrier bloatware. Of course, to get one of these models, you'd typically have to pay unsubsidized prices in the $650 range. Ouch.
Today only and while supplies last, Expansys is offering three Google Play Edition smartphones at hefty discounts:
The Sony Z Ultra C6806 (16GB), unlocked, for $349.99. (Pictured at right.)
It probably goes without saying that the HTC One and Galaxy S4 were among the top-rated and most-loved smartphones of 2013. I've played with both myself; the One is a gorgeous piece of hardware, while the S4 offers arguably the best mix of features of any phone to date (save perhaps for the S5). Both come with Android 4.2 but can be upgraded to KitKat (i.e., 4.4).
As for the 6.4-inch (!) Sony Z Ultra, it received high marks from CNET for its gorgeous screen and water-resistant design, but was dinged for its $649 price tag.
And the LG G Pad 8.3? Any 8.3-inch tablet priced at $225 is automatically worth a look, and CNET's review noted that "if you're an Android purist, you're going to love this Google Play edition of the LG G Pad 8.3."
The phones are all GSM models, meaning you can take them to AT&T, T-Mobile, or any of their MVNOs (like H2O Wireless or Straight Talk) for no-contract LTE service. That's the beauty of the unlocked phone.
Which one should you choose? Much as I love the design of the HTC One, the S4 is probably the smarter buy (even though it comes with half the storage) because it offers a microSD slot and a removable battery. I suspect most users will find the Sony too large to be practical, but if it's a phablet you want, this is a mighty appealing deal.
Bonus deal: Contest time! If you'd rather win a phone than buy one, enter CNET's Great Tech is Calling Sweepstakes for your chance at one of five LG G3 smartphones. Approximate retail value: $579. To enter, just pony up your name and email address. (Sorry to say, this is for US residents only. No offense, rest of the world!) The contest ends July 22, so get clickin'. And in the meantime, check out CNET's G3 review. 4.5 stars!