As cellular providers get rid of contract plans with device subsidies, will customers balk at paying $600 to $800 for a flagship phone? A number of companies and individuals (including former employees of Apple and Google) think that may be the case and see this as an opportunity to offer full featured phones at lower prices. Here is a sampling of some of the new phones, all unlocked, 4G LTE capable, and running Android or a variation such as CyanogenMod or Oxygen OS:
- Former Apple CEO John Sculley is one of the founders of Obi Worldphone, a company that will be offering the SF1 in October. The phone, with a 5″ 1920 x 1080display, will cost $199 and, although relatively inexpensive, it features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, a Sony camera, Corning Gorilla Glass, and Dolby sound. It’s not known if this phone will be offered for sale in the US.
- OnePlus, a small company in China that gained international attention with the original “Flagship killer,” the highly rated OnePlus 1, is introducing the OnePlus 2. The OnePlus 1 runs the CyanogenMod OS and sells for $299; the OnePlus 2 runs the Oxygen OS and starts at $329. My main problem with the OnePlus 2 is that you have to wait for an “invite” before you can order the phone.
- WileyFox, the UK’s answer to OnePlus, will offer the 5.5-inch Storm (about $315). The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor and runs the CyanogenMod OS. It’s not known if this phone will be offered for sale in the US.
- Nextbit, a startup staffed by “a bunch of folks from places like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Dropbox,” is introducing Robin, “the only cloud-first smartphone,” as a Kickstarter project. The Robin will feature a 5.2″ 1080p screen, a Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB RAM with 32GB storage onboard plus 100 GB online, a 13MP rear camera with phase detection autofocus and dual tone flash, and a 2680 mAh battery. Kickstarter participants can purchase the smartphone for $349. The smartphone won’t be released until January, and will retail for $399 at that point.
- Motorola Moto X Pure Edition. This phone, starting at $399, has a 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, a 5.7″ Quad HD display, 3GB RAM, 16GB/32GB/64GB storage plus micro SD Card support (up to 128GB). The 21 MP rear camera has been rated as one of the top smartphone cameras, and it has a 3000 mAh battery with TurboPower charging for up to 10 hours of use from 15 minutes charging.
My current phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. It cost $750, although Samsung was offering a $200 rebate for pre-orders. It’s a very good phone with an excellent camera, removable battery, and expandable storage (micro SD card). Current Samsung phones, like the Note 5, no longer feature removable batteries and expandable storage. With quick-charging, removable batteries are no longer as important but, for me, the lack of expandable storage is a deal breaker, especially with cameras capable of shooting 4K video. Also, I see no reason to spend $600 to $800 for a flagship phone. My next phone will be something less expensive with the features I want (large display, good processor, good camera, and expandable storage) – something like the Moto X Pure Edition.
My guess is that most people will continue to purchase phones through their carriers, even though they may pay more and have a limited selection.