I continue to regard Motorola's Moto G as one of the best entry-level phones you can buy, but the current-gen model is limited to 3G connectivity -- and you still have to pay for service, most likely to the tune of at least $30 per month.
That's what makes today's deal so intriguing: It's a premium smartphone with an entry-level price tag, and the first year of service is included gratis. What's the catch? Nothing significant, if you ask me.
Ending Monday, StackSocial has the refurbished Google Nexus 5 with one year of service for $199.99 shipped. That service includes unlimited calls and text messages, plus 500MB of 4G data, all on Sprint's network. (More on that in a bit.)
The Nexus 5, of course, was the big smartphone story of late 2013 -- "fast, gorgeous, and stocked with features,", and "the best unlocked smartphone on the market" at that time. Although it debuted running Android 4.4, this version -- despite being refurbished -- has Android 5.1 Lollipop already locked and loaded.
Other noteworthy specs include a 1,920x1,080-pixel display, 16GB of storage (not expandable, alas) and fast performance courtesy of a Snapdragon 800 processor.
In case you haven't guessed by now, the free-service largesse comes courtesy of FreedomPop, a Sprint MNVO that, admittedly, not everyone loves. I typically get an earful whenever I share one of their deals, but allow me to speak from personal experience: I have a FreedomPop mobile hotspot that has worked flawlessly (and repeatedly proved invaluable) for well over a year.
Also, I asked StackSocial to let me test-drive the Nexus 5, just to make sure the phone and service worked as advertised. They did. All you get is the phone, a charging cable and a wall plug in a fairly nondescript box, but to my eyes the handset looked good as new, and worked that way as well. Sprint coverage in my area remains mediocre, as it has for years, but like many folks, I spend most of my time connected to Wi-Fi anyway.
Again: personal experience. Your mileage may vary, and I definitely encourage you to do some homework before pulling the trigger on this. I'm sure some fellow Cheeps will have FreedomPop thoughts to share in the comments, so look there, too.
Perhaps the coolest news of all: The Nexus 5 comes to you unlocked, meaning you can take it to another CDMA or even GSM carrier if you wish. Doing so will forfeit your free year of service, but it's good to know you have that ace-in-the-hole if FreedomPop doesn't work out for you -- or you just want other options after your year is up. (Read the Compatibility section on the promo page for more details.)
I think this is an amazing deal. The Nexus 5 remains a terrific phone, especially for a teen or someone upgrading from a much older model. And free service for a whole year? Even if you occasionally slip past the 500MB cap, you'll still end up paying way less than you would with most other carriers. This is, truly, a smartphone for cheapskates.
Bonus deal: Now let's flip this whole cheap-smartphone thing on its head. For a limited time, and while supplies last, Best Buy has the first-gen Motorola Moto G for $29.99 (plus tax and shipping). It's the Verizon model, but there's no contract required -- meaning you can use the phone without any service at all. Turn it into a dedicated music player, e-book reader, Roku or Chromecast remote, game system for the kids, or whatever. And if you want calls and text messaging, just use apps and Wi-Fi. $30!