Verizon Wireless will sell the Android 4.0 Pantech Marauder smartphone for $49.99, after rebate, with a two-year service agreement starting Thursday.
The phone joins a growing list of subsidized sub-$100 smartphones sold by U.S. carriers to lure first-time users -- and gain a two-year contract. The minimum Verizon Wireless Share Everything plan -- offering unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of data -- for the Marauder and other smartphones costs $90 per month.
Even so, the Maurader has a robust 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM and can run on Verizon's fast 4G LTE network that's now widely available.
While some high-end smartphones offer large, high definition touchscreens, the Marauder's is 3.8-in. and only has a 480 x 800 resolution. (By comparison, the recently-released Samsung Galaxy S III has a 4.8-in. touchscreen with 720 x 1280 pixels and is available from Verizon for $199.99 with a two-year agreement.)
Verizon described the Marauder as "the perfect crossover choice for basic phone customers switching to a smartphone." It has both a touchscreen and a physical slide-out Qwerty keyboard, as well as a 5-megapixel camera for photos, video and video chat.
The Marauder touchscreen has two interfaces.
One, called Starter mode, is simplified for first-time smartphone users. It has four home screens with pre-set widgets and a quick-dialer icon for making calls directly from the home screen.
The other interface, called Standard mode, has seven fully customizable home screens. Users can move from Starter to Standard and back again, without losing any settings.
Marauder measures 3.8-in x 2.57-in. x 0.46-in. and weighs a mere 6.1 ounces. The battery is 1,680 mAh, and is rated to provide 490 minutes of usage.
All the U.S. carriers are adding to their stock of affordable smartphones subject to a contract.
Verizon's Web site alones lists 14 phones under $100 with a two-year agreement. Some have been on the market for several months to a year, such as the $99.99 Galaxy Nexus and the Droid Charge, also priced at $99.99. Even the popular iPhone 4 with 8 GB of storage sells for $99.99.
Verizon also sells three phones for $50 with a two-year contract, two for $30 and the one, the XperiaPlay, for $20. Both the BlackBerry Curve and HTC Rhyme are currently offered for free with a two-year agreement.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.