Back To School Buyer’s Guide 2010

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Back To School Buyer's Guide

Students are constantly on the go, and they need a way to keep in touch that’s as mobile as they are. Today’s best smartphones can do more than just send texts and take pictures; they have apps for keeping track of busy schedules, web browsers for doing instant research, and GPSs for not getting lost in new places.

But there are so many, choosing the best smartphone isn’t easy. This list offers some help picking what’s right for you.

$50 or Less | $50-$150 | Under $200 | More Guides…

arrow $50 or Less

Palm Pre Plus

Palm Pre Plus

The Pre Plus is easy to use, powerful, and affordable. This webOS-based smartphone is a bit weak in third-party software, though. It has 16 GB of internal storage, a built-in keyboard, and more. The Pre Plus is available from Verizon Wireless for just $50 with contract (or from AT&T for $100 with contract).
BlackBerry Curve 8530

BlackBerry Curve 8530

The latest model in the popular Curve series offers a redesigned look, with a QVGA display above a QWERTY keyboard. The 8530 has Wi-Fi, and other consumer-oriented features. Games and other third-party apps aren’t a strong point, however. It’s available for as little as $20 from Verizon, or $50 from Sprint.
LG Ally

LG Ally

The Ally is an Android OS smartphone recently released by Verizon Wireless. This device  features a sliding keyboard, WVGA screen, 4 GB of storage capacity, and a 3.2 megapixel camera. Like all Android devices, there are thousands of apps available. It is available for $50
Motorola Cliq XT

Motorola Cliq XT

If you’re willing to get a refurbished unit, you can get the Motorola Cliq XT from T-Mobile for free with contract. This device makes an excellent first smartphone. As our reviewer Jen Edwards said, “It’s small, powerful and it just works.”

arrow $50-$150

Apple iPhone 3G S

Apple iPhone 3GS

The iPhone 3GS isn’t the latest and greatest from Apple, but it’s still a very good smartphone. It offers 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, and access to thousands of apps. You can get an new unit with 8 GB of storage for $100 from AT&T, or a refurbished 16 GB unit for the same price, or a refurbished 32 GB unit for $150.
Motorola Droid 

Motorola Droid

The original Droid from Verizon was designed for those who plan to send a lot of messages. It has a 3.7-inch, WVGA touchscreen, and the latest version of the Android OS.  This smartphone also includes 16 GB of removable memory, a GPS receiver, and a 5 MPx camera. It’s available for $150.


arrow The “Must Have” Features for Smartphones

Apple iPhone

When someone is setting out to buy a smartphone, it’s important to get one with all the features they need. Brighthand‘s guide to ”Must-Have” Features for Smartphones goes through the possibilities, discussing the ones that students need, and the ones they might not.

It covers topics like 3G vs. Wi-Fi, video conferencing, high-end cameras, and more.


HTC Aria

HTC Aria

With its 3.2-inch, 320 x 480 (HVGA) touchscreen, the HTC Aria emphasizes portability, but still has a lot to offer, like a 5 megapixel camera, 3G, Wi-Fi, and much more. AT&T sells it for $130 with contract.

Samsung Moment

The Moment is a good choice for Sprint customers who want Google’s Android OS and a slide-out keyboard. It also has a beautiful AMOLED display, 3G, and Wi-Fi. It’s available for $100 with contract.

arrow $200



The HTC Evo 4G is the first smartphone available in the U.S. with WiMAX. This very high-end model also a 4.3-inch touchscreen, and 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, and an 8 megapixel camera. This Google Android OS model is available from Sprint for $200 with contract.

Apple iPhone 3G

Apple iPhone 4

The iPhone is probably at the top of many students’ wish lists, as it’s both cool and useful. It offers everything most people are looking for in a smartphone, like 3G, Wi-Fi, a GPS receiver, and many thousands of third-party apps. Plus, this new model has a much higher-resolution screen than any of its predecessors. AT&T sells it for $200.


arrow Best Wireless Phone Plans for Students


Deciding which phone to buy is only part of the process. Picking the right service plan is just as important. Students are typically heavy users of their phones, so for some an unlimited plan is the best way to go, but not everyone. Brighthand’s guide to the Best Wireless Phone Plans for Students can help you make a decision.



Motorola Droid X

The Droid X is Verizon’s current flagship Android OS model. It offers a range of cutting-edge features, including a an 4.3-inch touchscreen, 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 8 MPx camera, and more. This smartphone from Motorola is $200 with contract.

Samsung Vibrant 

Samsung Vibrant

The Samsung Vibrant offers cutting-edge features like a 1 GHz processor, a Super AMOLED touchscreen, and 16 GB of internal storage. This Android OS device also has a 5 megapixel camera, 3G, Wi, and much more. T-Mobile is asking $200 for it. AT&T has it’s own version called the Samsung Captivate that sells for the same price.

arrow Looking for more?

Moms, Dads, and Grads

Are you about to head off to school and want more than just a new smartphone? Thinking about a netbook or maybe a tablet? Let the editors of help you pick the right camera, printer, desktop, or notebook, with our Back to School Buyer’s Guide.

To see our top tech picks in all categories – not just smartphones – visit our main buyer’s guide page on



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