This is an update of a deal I posted a couple of months ago. Now it's even better!
You know the deal with free or nearly-free phones: The not-so-fine print locks you into a service contract for two full years, with monthly rates that are anything but competitive.
Alternately, if you want a no-contract phone, be prepared to pay a lot more up front, as you won't be subsidizing the purchase price over those two years.
All that goes out the window with today's deal: TextNow has the refurbished 1st-gen Motorola Moto G for $13.99, plus $9 for shipping. And thanks to newly updated monthly plans, you can get unlimited-everything service for as little as $18.99 -- no contract required.
I'm going to start with the lowlights, because there are a couple big caveats -- mostly concerning the phone itself. The Moto G is about as entry-level as modern smartphones get, with a measly 8GB of non-expandable storage, a lower-end screen (4.5 inches, 720p resolution) and data connectivity that's limited to 3G.
Of course, not every user has high-end needs. For example, if you have a teen who's clamoring for her first smartphone, this is something she could pay for herself. And she probably doesn't care about the hardware limitations; she just wants to text, Snapchat and listen to Spotify -- all very doable here.
One minor but notable plus: Although it's a refurb, it comes with a full one-year warranty.
TextNow's $18.99 plan includes unlimited calls, texts and data, though you get 3G only for the first 500MB. To bump that to 1GB, you'd need the $26.99 "Grande" plan.
A cool perk is that once you have a TextNow phone number, you can use it across a variety of devices: tablets, PCs and so on. And not just for calls, but also for messaging. Visual voicemail and call forwarding are included at no extra cost.
If you like the TextNow model but want a handset that's a little more robust, the company recently added the 1st-gen Moto X ($149.99) and LG Nexus 5 ($249.99) to its lineup -- both equipped with 16GB of storage, both capable of 4G.
The last time I wrote about this, the phone was a buck more, and the plans weren't quite so unlimited -- but existing customers will automatically get upgraded! If you grabbed it back then, hit the comments and share your feedback.
Bonus deal: Still renting your cable modem? Check your bill: That might be adding an extra $8-$15 per month. Fortunately, many cable providers will let you BYO modem and stop renting theirs, and here's a great option: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Yugster has the refurbished Motorola Surfboard SB6141 cable modem for $47.97 when you apply coupon code SURFBOARD at checkout. Shipping adds $5. The SB6141 is compatible with most major cable providers, though keep in mind if your current modem also serves as your router, you'll need to buy a router as well.