Is a Cheap Cell Phone Really Cheap?

Cheap phones can be a real temptation when you have just been inundated with the rising costs of high end cell phones. This is especially when the quality, looks and features seem fairly comparable. Mobile phones are churned out so rapidly by Asian companies, and are being sold at very competitive prices. No, the quality is not on the same level that you would get from your service provider in the United States, but in all honesty, if all you are looking for is a simple cell phone to receive and send a few calls on, they would be fine. You will be getting exactly what you pay for.


So if you are on the lookout for a new phone at cheap rates, you have two main options to choose from. You can try a cheap model from an Asian country or go for the low-priced or free version of the high-priced model offered by a carrier as part of a one or two year contract. Every cell phone has to have a service provider through which the calls are routed. They sometimes offer the free or cheap cell phone and then make their money on the service plan you sign up for. Or you can go for a high tech phone, a longer contract, and pay a bit more. One way or the other, they service providers are going to make their profit.

These deals, both on cell phones and service plans are usually very short term, since there are new phones, new features, and therefore new and different deals to replace them very quickly. Because cell phones are no longer considered a luxury, the market has blossomed and the prices have soared. Businesses, politicians, Realtors, and insurance adjusters can hardly do business anymore without them. No teenager can survive without one! Parents have gotten used to knowing where their kids are at all times.

Feature Limitations

If you go out and buy a cheap cell phone, don’t expect it to have a bunch of cool features. If you are lucky it will have text messaging. Don’t expect the high definition performance you would get in a high tech cell phone. And make sure that the few features you have work adequately for your needs. Your reception needs to be clear, the signal strong, and, if it has text messaging, the screen has to be readable.

You do not want to play around with a cheap cell phone if you are heavily into the internet from your phone, want music, GPS, adequate memory, and a camera. You need a decent high end, high tech phone for that purpose. However, it is possible that you may find a plan that will include a high tech phone at a very reasonable price…if you agree to a long term contract.

Bad Practice

There are other, more nefarious ways to get cheap cell phones. Prepaid phones are out there…loaded with minutes and selling for under $15. And with no required contracts! Of course, it is questionable as to whether this is legal.

Apparently, in Georgia, Texas, California, South Florida and New York (and probably elsewhere as well), traffickers are making huge profits by purchasing thousands of these phones, tweaking the software, and then, in their unlocked condition, they can be used on any cell network. Tens of millions of dollars have been lost by the phone companies. Technically it is not illegal to unlock the software on your personal cell phone. Buying them by the gross and unlocking and selling them cheap is another story.

Another thing that is occurring of late is the selling of cheap batteries and chargers for your cell phone. Safety experts say that it is safest to use only the batteries that are recommended by the cellular phone maker. Avoid the chargers and batteries made by different companies. Never buy a battery that has any sign of damage (scrapes or dents).

Only lithium-ion batteries should be used. Beware of counterfeit batteries. There are reports of cell phones exploding because of these incompatible batteries.

Nokia has put out a warning manual to help you identify these counterfeits. Look for misspelled words, Made in China labels, unevenly printed, or crookedly applied labels. These are all signs of counterfeits.

In the long run, it appears that cheap phones are not really cheap. One way or the other you are going to pay. You can purchase a cheaper phone and not get the quality you desire. You can purchase all kinds of accessories for a higher end phone, and it is no longer the great deal you thought it was. Or you might risk picking up a hot cheap cell phone on the street.

There are those prepaid cell phones that are walking the tightrope of legality. Or you can buy a used phone, and hope it was unlocked properly, and will function normally. Frankly, if I had an extra, I would donate to charity and write it off my taxes. To use an old adage:

If it seems too good to be true, it usually is!