CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again


Which of Amazon's new Prime-only phones should you buy?

OK, that's kind of a loaded question, but it's a discussion worth having: The reseller now offers 10 models priced between $50 and $200. Plus: Get Portal 2 for just 2 bucks!

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Twitter!


So many phones, such affordable prices. How to choose?

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Sorry this is so late today! I'm just going to go with, "The dog ate my post."

Yesterday I wrote about a phone, the big ol' LG V20. It's a premium model, no doubt about it, one that was very compelling at over 50 percent off the original price. Of course, at $379, it's still an expensive purchase.


The Alcatel A30 Plus is a 5.5-inch unlocked GSM phone for $80. Whaaaat!


Shortly thereafter, Amazon shared news of five new budget Android phones, all of them available at exclusive discounts for Prime subscribers. Of particular note: the new Nokia 6, which Amazon will be the first to bring to the US.

Let's talk.

I'm really going to miss you, iPhone

As I've mentioned a few times recently, I don't think another iPhone is in my future. My 6s Plus has served me well, and hopefully will continue to do so, but I have no intention of buying an iPhone 7 or 8 (unless the latter comes with a hot-fudge dispenser).

Why? For one thing, I want a headphone jack. Never mind the reasons; I just do. I think Apple was foolish to remove it. But the bigger issue is price: I cannot justify spending $700 (or more, if the rumors are true) for a phone. 

Not when I can get, say, a OnePlus 5 for $479. Or, in this case, a Nokia 6 for $179.99.

That's the price for Amazon Prime subscribers. (Non-subscribers can get the phone for $229.99.) In exchange for saving $50, you'll see ads on the lock screen -- a fairly familiar sight for most Kindle and Fire tablet owners. (Aside: How much would that bother you? A lot? A little? Not at all? I think it would bother me zero, though I suppose I'll miss seeing my kids, wife and/or dog for that split-second before I unlock my phone.)

Too many low-cost choices?

With yesterday's announcement, Amazon added five new models to its existing "Prime exclusives" lineup, meaning you can now choose from 10 unlocked Android phones priced between $50 and $200.

There are four models from Alcatel, one from Blu, four from Motorola and the aforementioned Nokia. This is where things get challenging, because all these models seem pretty similar. And whoever heard of Alcatel or Blu? And what's the difference between, say, the Alcatel A30 for $60 and A30 Plus for $80?

Obviously you can pore over the specs and such, but I think Amazon just made things unnecessarily confusing for customers. Speaking personally, even if I'd decided to go with a name brand like Motorola, I'd still have to somehow choose between the Moto E4 and and Moto G Play -- both priced at $100 -- or "splurge" on the G4 or G5 Plus ($150 and $180).

Make no mistake: I'm not complaining about a broad selection of unlocked, feature-rich phones all priced under $200 (and many under $100). That's awesome. I just think it's easy to get lost in the sea of specs and oh-so-slightly different prices.

Have no fear: I'm here to help.

Decision-Maker-Bot 3000


The Nokia 6 has a metal body. Amazon Prime subscribers can get it for just $180.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

First things first: Let's focus on the five new models, because new is always best, right? OK, here's how to choose:

  • All five phones are GSM-compatible, meaning they work with AT&T, T-Mobile and their various MVNOs. If you need something that works with Sprint or Verizon, your only option is the Moto E4.
  • If you want the most screen estate, the Alcatel A30 Plus and Nokia 6 have 5.5-inch displays -- but the latter offers "full HD" (1,920x1,080) resolution to the former's 1,280x720. There's also a considerable price difference between the two: $80 and $180.
  • If speed is a priority, the Alcatel Idol 5S has the fastest processor in the group. However, it's hard to gauge how much faster; it's a 2GHz chip, versus 1.4-1.5GHz on all the others.
  • All the phones come with at least 16GB of onboard storage, and all can be expanded with microSD cards -- but the A30 Plus can accommodate only up to 32GB of extra storage, while the others support cards up to 128GB. (The Idol 5S can accept up to 512GB!)
  • All the phones come with Android 7.0 or 7.1. My semi-educated guess is that the Motorola and Nokia models are the most likely to get OS updates, and to get them reasonably quickly.

And the winner is... you! Seriously, these phones may lack certain premium features, but they're all unlocked, all equipped with decent screens and processors, all running a current version of Android. Oh, and all extremely affordable, especially when compared with the likes of an iPhone, or the latest from Samsung.

I know this has been a bit long-winded, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Think you'd still buy a premium phone when models like these are now available? If so, what features are driving you in that direction?

Bonus deal: Game time! I think I mentioned this already a few days ago, but it bears repeating: Steam has Portal 2 (Win/Mac) on sale for $1.99. I love this game so... frakking... much. It challenges your brain in cool and unique ways and features the vocal talents of Stephen Merchant. You wouldn't think a game like this -- or any game, really -- could be quite so funny, but it is. This is the best 2 bucks you'll spend all month, I guarantee it.