I have a chick-like appreciation for a sale and a good deal. I can’t bypass a 25c coke machine to save my life. I don’t care if it’s a crappy house-brand, it’s 25 cents! Who can pass that up? Even now, as I get all the free coke I want at work with most of my favorite brands in stock, I can’t help myself when it comes to a 25c Dr Cheapo or Mountain Moisture or whatever. It got pretty ridiculous when I used to go to thrift-shops and it’s one of the reasons I try to stay away from places like Woot or 1saleaday.com.

If you’ve ever wanted a Smartphone but didn’t want to shell out a few hundred dollars for one (or otherwise get involved in an odious contract or contract extension), there are a couple of phones that you might be interested in. Because of the cheap price, I’m mighty tempted to myself. Except for the fact that (a) I already have something better and (b) they have some hardware limitation that doesn’t suit my purpose. But they might suit yours!

Since I’m unlikely to get one of these myself, I hope to satiate my need to take advantage of a good deal by spreading the word.

The i-Mate JAMA 101 is a little like what I currently have and sells for $137. It has a 2.4″ screen, Windows Mobile 6, and Bluetooth support. Like most keypadless devices, It’s more Pocket PC than phone. It’s supposed to be pretty slick and hand-friendly, which is nice. i-Mate also has a solid brand-name and they make my Dream Device, which unfortunately costs a lot more than $122 and I can’t justify getting it. On the downside, Bluetooth support is limited to 1.2 rather than 2.x. For a lot of people this isn’t a problem, but for me it is. Older Bluetooth’s sometimes have difficulty transmitting non-phone audio over Bluetooth (though they’re perfectly fine when using a Bluetooth headset to make calls and whatnot). There’s also no Wi-Fi, which I don’t care about because any time I’ve ever tried to use Wi-Fi it blows the battery to smitherines. It also lacks 3G capability, which is a little problematic if you want to transmit data. But, if you want a starter smartphone, it’s a pretty good deal. Here is a more complete review and a video (with a cameo appearance by my current model):

If you don’t presently own a smartphone, the BenQ E72 will probably be a little more familiar and comfortable. Cost: $128. With the i-Mate is more Pocket PC, this is more phone-like. It’s got the keypad and feels and looks a lot like non-flip dumbphones. The downside is that since it’s shaped more like an ordinary phone the screen is only 2″, which is kind of small. But I’ve considered getting this because of my frustration with how irritating it is to use the phone functionality of my curent phone and this would be an improvement in that area. The processor is a bit slow, but unlike the JAMA it does have Bluetooth 2.0 capability. And it comes with some UI improvements over the standard WM interface. The processor is slow, though, and the battery life means that it needs to be charged on a nightly basis. On the upshot, it uses MiniUSB for charging so you can get extra chargers relatively inexpensively. BenQ doesn’t have the brandname that i-Mate does, but this model generally has moderate-to-good reviews. So much so that I haven’t completely counted out getting one for myself or a loved one. If you get it, though, let me know how it goes. Here is a more complete review.

Both of these phones share some common drawbacks. They’re somewhat slow if you’re wanting to multitask and use it heavily. They also have 2 Mega-Pixel cameras, which is quite adequate for a lot of uses but if you want to take nice pictures you’ll still need to lug a phone around (the same is true for my 3mp device). No 3G capability, which means that data will be slow if that’s your thing. But you really can’t beat the price and the phones are unlocked so you aren’t stuck with a specific carrier or contract. If I’d known of these devices and weren’t so risk-averse (my current phone was risk-free cause I get to play with a variant of it at work to test interoperability with our product), there’s a pretty good chance I would have gone with one or the other. Really, the only thing that prevents me from getting the first is that it has all of the drawbacks of my (more expensive) current device with fewer of the benefits and the only thing that prevents me from getting the latter is my general satisfaction with what I have and the sense that if I ever need a backup or another one, I’ll probably get another of the same. Unless I can afford The Dream Device, that is.

Category: Market

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