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Best smartphones for under $100 (roundup)

Jessica Dolcourt picks her latest favorites that cost less than a Benjamin.

When it comes to picking out a smartphone that'll cost you less than $100, there's plenty of good news to go around. Constant sales on older-model phones mean that carriers are giving away great handsets in exchange for your two-year contract commitment.

Thanks to pitched smartphone and carrier competition, more excellent handsets launch at less than $100, too, and I'm not talking about phones labeled $99.99, even though many of those, like the Nokia Lumia 900, offer great value in their own right.

Here's my current crop of favorites, in no particular order.

Nokia Lumia 710
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Nokia Lumia 710 (T-Mobile), October 26, 2011
We all wondered if Nokia was making the right decision when it introduced the $50 Lumia 710, a budget smartphone, as its first U.S. Windows phone. The company's strategy seems to have paid off, since the Lumia 710 isn't just a likeable phone, but also a moderate hit. Read the full review of the Nokia Lumia 710.

Samsung Exhibit II 4G
Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung Exhibit II 4G (T-Mobile), October 26, 2011
A front-facing camera, 4G (HSPA+) speeds, a decent 3-megapixel main camera, and Android 2.3 Gingerbread for only $30? Not bad, T-Mobile! Sure, you can only nail down the price after a $50 mail-in rebate, and the handset may never see an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update, but that's a pretty decent little package for not a lot of dough. Read the full review of the Samsung Exhibit 4G II.

Pantech Burst
Josh Miller/CNET

Pantech Burst (AT&T), January 23, 2012
Two colors -- red and titanium -- and a horde of features make the $50, 4G LTE-ready Burst the cell phone country's best value Android phone. It has a beautiful 4-inch Super AMOLED display, a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, a great 5-megapixel camera, and a front-facing camera to boot. Read the full review of the Pantech Burst.

Samsung Focus Flash
Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung Focus Flash (AT&T), November 4, 2011
Another $50-at-launch phone with a Super AMOLED screen, the Focus Flash is a terrific budget Windows Phone with the complete package: dual cameras, a fast 1.4GHz processor, and a surprisingly strong speakerphone. I also like the classy design and the support for HSPA+, which was AT&T's fastest data network before it launched LTE, after the phone's release. Read the full review of the Samsung Focus Flash.

Pantech Breakout, PantechBreakout
Josh Miller/CNET

Pantech Breakout (Verizon), September 21, 2011
Pantech knows how to create some solid design and good value. The Breakout's LTE-capability proves that a little can go a long way. There are some problems with the camera on the Android 2.3 Gingerbread phone, but the call quality is a plus. Read the full review of the Pantech Breakout.

Looking for specs and pricing? Compare these phones head-to-head.