Best T-Mobile Smartphones for Grads

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There’s a good chance that many of you grads out there are going to be switching off of mom and dad’s wireless plan, given your newfound independence (right?). And given that T-Mobile just phased out its contracts and is no longer overcharging for device subsidies like the other Big Four carriers, it may be an appealing choice for those looking to pinch pennies. So we’ve pulled together some of the best phones the wireless provider has to offer, all for your benefit.

Moms Dads and Grads Buyer's Guide

Keep in mind that what we’re looking at here isn’t just the quality of the phones, but price as well. Those that produce the best price-to-performance ratio are the devices that are favored here. Each pick is listed with its optional one-time, total price as well as its down payment in the even that you opt to pay in monthly installments. All monthly payments are handled over the course of two years. So without further ado…

BlackBerry Z10#5 BlackBerry Z10 ($531 or $100 down and $18/month)

We knows it’s a tall order to ask people to make the jump to BlackBerry, especially at a time when its fate is still in question. But that’s why we have the BlackBerry Z10 at the bottom of this list despite the fact that it’s actually an excellent smartphone.

The build of the BlackBerry Z10 is beautiful and the hardware is respectable, though a dual-core processor in a smartphone in this day and age is already becoming dated. The real star of the show is the new, completely revamped BlackBerry 10 OS, which is the epitome of efficient. Thanks to an intuitive set of gestures and the well-implemented BlackBerry Hub, the software is the true highlight of the BlackBerry Z10.

But there’s no denying that of all the platforms found on this list, BlackBerry is easily the weakest. With a small “ecosystem” and limited app selection, it’s a tough sell to those who really value these aspects above all else. Also, it may not be the most expensive phone that T-Mobile offers, but it’s not the cheapest phone either, and that isn’t working in its favor.

HTC 8X#4 HTC 8X ($432 or $0 down and $18/month)

This is, hands-down, the best deal on this list. The HTC 8X is a great piece of hardware, making its $432 price tag or $0 down payment almost criminal.

The 8X has a unique build that comes in a number of different colors and feels great in the hand, thanks to its curved back and matte finish. It has all of the hardware features that are afforded by Windows Phone 8, such as a dual-core processor and NFC compatibility, and the 1280 x 720 display looks solid.

Despite the fact that the Windows Phone platform isn’t particularly strong either, the real reason the 8X is all the way down here at #4 is because of how uncomfortably frequently they become bricked. Numerous users have reported on forums all over the web that their 8X units have been rendered useless after certain actions (usually factory resets), yet the problem has yet to be addressed by HTC.

Apple iPhone 5#3 Apple iPhone 5 16 GB Model ($579 or $100 down and $20/month)

There’s no question that the Apple iPhone is a high-quality device, but value/affordability plays a big part in this list, hence the iPhone 5’s placement at number 3. It’s the most expensive phone T-Mobile offers, and while it’s definitely a top-tier phone, there’s almost nothing that it offers that you can’t find on another phone for a better price.

That being said, there’s one major deciding factor at play here: how much do you value your apps? As of January, the App Store has a selection of over 800,000 apps, giving users plenty to choose from. Sure, some people may simply prefer iOS and the Apple “ecosystem”, but really the only tangible difference between the iPhone 5 and the competition is the size and quality of the app selection.

And for those of you looking to make the upgrade to the iPhone 5 from an older version of Apple’s smartphone, there are some unpleasant surprises in store that are worth keeping in mind. The traditional 30-pin connector has been ditched in favor of the new Lightning port (say goodbye to all your peripherals, unless you’re willing to shell out for an adapter), and iOS 6 is far from perfect.

Google Nexus 4#2 Nexus 4 ($458 or $50 down and $17/month)

In terms of value, the Nexus 4 and the HTC 8X are neck and neck, with HTC’s phone getting the edge simply because it was marginally cheaper and costs $0 upfront should you opt for monthly payments. Nevertheless, the Nexus 4 for T-Mobile is a fantastic deal for an equally fantastic phone.

In fact, as we mentioned in our review of the Nexus 4, one of its most attractive traits is its price-to-performance ratio. Despite its relatively low price tag, the Nexus 4 has a powerful quad-core processor that delivers exceptionally fast performance. To top it off, the Nexus 4 sports the new Android OS 4.2 (though confusingly still dubbed Jelly Bean), bringing new lock screen, widget, shortcut, and desktop features.

Nothing’s perfect though, so it’s worth noting that the display contrast is lacking, as is the rear-facing camera performance. Some may take umbrage with the limited storage capacity as well, as the Nexus 4 only comes equipped with 8 or 16 GB of storage, with no microSD card slot.

Samsung Galaxy S III#1 Samsung Galaxy S III 16 GB Model ($550 or $70 down and $20/month)

This may seem like a dated choice giving the impending release of the Galaxy S IV, but until it does, the Galaxy S III remains the best Android phone T-Mobile has to offer. And guess what? The Galaxy S III is only going to become a better deal once its predecessor is released and this phone receives a price drop.

Featuring a 4.8-inch display that makes for a slightly more comfortable build than the colossal screens on many of today’s flagship phones, the Galaxy S III provides far better performance than its dual-core processor would have you believe (though the international version does feature a quad-core Tegra 3 chip). It has a slim, understated build and a litany of cool features like S Voice, NFC, and some neat camera software.

Sure, the Galaxy S IV will likely be a better phone, but it isn’t out yet, we don’t know its exact release date, and we don’t know how much it will go for. But what we do know is that it will be more expensive and we’re looking for the best value for all you soon-to-be-broke grads out there. The Galaxy S III is your best bet if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck.


Looking for more technology gift ideas for moms, dads or grads?  Go to our MDG Special Report Buyer’s Guide for top picks and articles from across our sites!



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