Editors' Note: Prices often vary during seasonal promotions. This roundup reflects Web prices at the time of publishing.
Carriers that promise cheap (or sometimes even free) handsets often ensnare users with pricey two-year contracts. Though inexpensive on-contract devices do exist, some customers are still wary of any carrier agreement.
As an alternative, users opt for prepaid devices. Because these phones don't require a contract, however, they often carry higher retail prices.
But, there are gems out there that pack the power you need at a price you can pay. CNET rounded up some of our recent favorites that have modern and respectable specs (like 4G), and cost less than $200.
LG Mach (Boost Mobile)
Currently available for $179.99 on Boost Mobile, the stylish Mach is ideal for messaging enthusiasts looking for a QWERTY handset. In addition to its comfortable 5-row keyboard, it also has an impressive 5-megapixel camera and LTE.
For Windows Phone 8 users, the Lumia 521 is a solid off-contract bargain. Sure, it doesn't have LTE, but its camera packs tons of features and it's equipped with a Snapdragon S4 processor. MetroPCS users can nab it for just $29 after applying discounts and rebates, and T-Mobile customers can get it for $160.
If you're looking for something with more survival tactic, the Hydro XTRM is a shock- and waterproof handset that costs $49 on MetroPCS and $99 on U.S. Cellular. It also sports a dual-core CPU, a 5-megapixel camera, and LTE.
Available on four prepaid carriers, the Optimus F3 is popular for a reason. This LTE device has an impressively long-lasting 2,460mAh battery, a solid 5-megapixel camera, and runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Boost, Virgin, MetroPCS, and T-Mobile users can purchase it anywhere between $99 and $184 without a contract.
At the time of our review, we dubbed the $149.99 Warp 4G Boost Mobile's "best, most frugal Android" phone, and we weren't kidding. The handset managed to impress us with its swift LTE speeds, excellent call quality, and clean design.
Also known as the Sprint Vital, Virgin's Supreme is an expansive LTE phone with a bright 5-inch display and a 13-megapixel camera that's capable of shooting 1080p video. Though it cuts our price budget close at $199.99, it's still a good value.
Sporting LTE connectivity, a vivid 4.5-inch screen, and a reliable 5-megapixel camera, the Optimus F6 should satisfy MetroPCS customers looking for a bargain. Especially considering that it costs just $49.99 after discounts and rebates, it certainly aims for those on a budget.