The argument against entry-level Android phones

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Android phones are kind of like cars: They come in all shapes and sizes and range from super-powerful to super-so-so. Depending on what you want -- and how much you're willing to spend -- you can get a top-of-the-line model with impressive performance, or you can get a lower-range model that'll get the job done but lack the added horsepower.

Entry-Level Android Phones: LG Optimus

Someone asked me my thoughts the other day on the new LG Optimus Android phone. The LG Optimus, announced this week, will sell for only $50 on Sprint. It's marketed as an entry-level Android phone, and its specs match that designation: The Optimus has a low-res (320-by-480) 3.2-inch screen, a 3.2-megapixel camera, and -- unofficially -- a 600MHz processor with either 256 or 512MB of RAM. (Sprint and LG, not surprisingly, aren't doing much to publicize the phone's under-the-hood hardware.)

So is the LG Optimus a good buy for someone looking to get their first Android device? My answer can most easily be summed up with one word: meh. The Optimus, at first impression, looks to be decent enough as far as entry-level options go. But ultimately, I can't see any reason to buy it -- or any other entry-level Android phone, for that matter.

Here's why.

The Problem With Entry-Level Android Phones

Let's think back to that car analogy for a second. If I'm shopping for a new ride, I know how much money I can reasonably afford to spend. I know I'm not going to spring for the Ferrari -- partly because I'm not Puff Daddy, but also because I'm in no position to drop that kind of dough. (I keep asking my bosses for a $300,000 annual bonus, but they won't come around. They're completely unreasonable, I know.)

Here's the thing, though: With Android phones, the pricing end of the picture is actually quite different. Sure, you can get a lower-end, entry-level device for 50 bucks. And sure, that's a good $150 less than the sticker price on most top-of-the-line Android models. But there's another piece to this puzzle.

If you take the time to do a little deal-hunting, you can frequently find high-end Android phones for about the same price as the LG Optimus -- or sometimes even less.

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Right now, for example, you can track down the Droid 2 for $10, the Droid Incredible for $50, and the Samsung Captivate for $60. Any of those phones blows the LG Optimus right out the water; they're simply in a different league. Other top-notch handsets are often on sale, too. You just have to look around and keep your eyes peeled for the deals.

Especially when you consider that you're committing to two years with most smartphone purchases these days, there's really no reason not to aim for the higher end of the spectrum. Remember: You're going to be living with this phone for the next 24 months of your life. Make sure you get a gadget you'll still be happy with after the first eight weeks.

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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