The best pay as you go phones will provide you the freedom to buy minutes and data as you use them instead of paying up front.
Additionally, you don't need to sign a contract when you purchase a prepaid cell phone. I'm sure we can both agree that no-contract plans are a wonderful thing, as long as you don't use your phone too much.
"...how many people do you think are paying too much for minutes and data they don't even use?"
Pay-as-you-go phones are perfect for teenagers who want a cell phone for the first time. You can limit their usage to make sure they're not spending too many hours staring at their cell phone screen.
They are also perfect for those of us who don't use cell phones often or don't want to be put through a credit check.
In this article, I have reviewed the best pay-as-you-go phones based on price, specs, and features. By the end, you should have a better idea of what types of prepaid phones are out there and which one is best for you.
In This Guide
The Best Pay-As-You-Go Phones: Our Top Picks
Google Pixel Review
- Fast charge time
- Powerful processor and impressive RAM
- Amazing rear and front-facing cameras
- No expandable storage
- Not water resistant or dustproof like other similar devices
The Google Pixel prepaid cell phone is an Android pay as you go phone that charges quickly. It's a great alternative to the iPhone 7 if you're looking for an Android operating system with similar features and are afraid of Samsung (due to technical difficulties in the past year).
The only downside to this prepaid smartphone is that it's not as water resistant or dustproof as the Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. It can also be quite expensive depending on how much storage you need.
The Google Pixel comes with amazing software features including the Google Assistant. It also has one of the best rear and front-facing cameras around next to the iPhone on top of some of the best specs of any smartphone.
Specs include an AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 821 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a decent battery life. It does not, however, have expandable storage. The Google Pixel also has a newer version called the Google Pixel XL with a larger screen and better battery life.
Related: Compare Google Pixel Deals
Samsung Galaxy S8 Review
- Front and rear cameras take stunning photos
- Fast processing speed with 4G RAM
- Lengthy battery life
- Improved accessibility features
- Wireless charger compatible
- Fingerprint sensor is difficult to use
- Bixby is sorely in need of support
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a smartphone that doesn't mess around. It's large, 5.8" screen stretches all the way to the curved edges, launching you into a whole new world of reading, gaming, streaming or Web browsing than ever before. A massive overhaul from the S7, the newest iteration of the flagship line offers significant security improvements, a powerful processor, expanded storage, wireless charging, and more.
Packing practically everything you might want in a single device, the only downside we see is the awkward fingerprint sensor location and the lack of support for the Bixby virtual assistant.
iPhone 7 Review
- Large internal storage
- High-quality cameras
- Faster processor for better multitasking
- No external storage
- No headphone jack
The iPhone 7 is one of the most popular phones on the market today. It has a 12MP camera with 4K video, a 4.7-inch retina HD display with 3D touch, and the longest battery life of any iPhone.
Verizon Wireless and the other top providers offer pretty much any amount of storage you want for your iPhone 7, seeing as there is no external storage option. This may be a problem for some, as you will pay on average $100 more each increment of internal storage.
The iPhone 7 is water resistant, splash resistant and faster than the iPhone 6s; it is also two times louder with a new stereo speaker system built in. The iPhone 7 runs on iOS 10.
There are some cons, however. If you're looking for an affordable phone, however, you won't find it in the iPhone 7. In addition, there is no headphone jack for this device nor the iPhone 7 Plus. You'll have to use the earbuds that come packaged with the phone or a third-party brand that is compatible with microUSB slots.
Moto Z Force Droid Review
- The battery lasts all day and can charge in minutes
- Plenty of expandable storage
- Guaranteed shatterproof display and water-repellent
- Modular accessories
- Fast performance
- Thick design may be awkward to hold in your hand or in a pocket
- No headphone jack
- Verizon exclusive
What makes the Moto Z Force such a great device is that it takes all the great things you'd come to expect from a modern smartphone, and elevates them to a whole new level. It's a thick device in a world of slimmer phones, and with it comes a guaranteed shatterproof display and a water-repellant coating. In addition, it's impressive battery life contributes to the core vision of the Moto Z Force: it's your all-in-one entertainment and travel companion. With interchangeable Moto Mods, your smartphone suddenly becomes a movie projector, boombox, and more. Unfortunately, it has some strange downsides.
HTC 10 Review
- Crystal clear audio
- Themes and layout customization
- Less bloatware
- Great rear and front cameras
- Beautiful design
- Display quality fluctuates in sunlight
- Camera focusing can be troublesome
- Color detail isn't great
Although the HTC 10 looks visually attractive in a metal body, you'll fall in love when you hear it. The device's dual speakers and high fidelity audio technology deliver unparalleled sound. Bolstered by the earphones bundled in, music, video, and calls sound amazing. Beyond its audio capabilities, the HTC 10 boasts a powerful processor and 4GB RAM for gaming, streaming, and multitasking. The large battery ensures you can keep doing what you love without worry.
Key Considerations of Pay-As-You-Go Phones
According to Pew Research, 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Out of that 64 percent, how many people do you think are paying too much for minutes and data they don't even use?
Here's the deal: if you want to find the best pay-as-you-go cell phone for you, there are several things you need to consider. First of all, you should know how a prepaid plan works and why you might need a pre-pay phone.
1. How does it work?
Most cell phone companies offer prepaid plans. When you decide to purchase a prepaid mobile phone, you will be able to buy a prepaid cell phone plan with a sim card. The sim card will contain the number of minutes and data you've paid for. Once the sim card runs out, you'll have to pay to get it refilled. There are no contracts and no monthly plan bills involved.
There is a catch when it comes to prepaid cell phones. While they don't usually require a contract or a credit check, paying for minutes and data as you go is not always cheaper. For example, if you continuously buy hundreds of prepaid minutes and large amounts of prepaid data just to avoid a contract, you could be wasting a lot of money. When you pay as you go and don't commit, you don't get a deal on your purchase.
Every major cell phone company including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile now has an unlimited talk, unlimited text, and unlimited data plan. Although contracts may sound scary, committing to one can save you money on minutes and data by bundling them together into one cohesive plan.
Here's the bottom line: if you don't use enough minutes and data to merit committing to a contract, a prepaid, no-contract phone is a great option. If you're looking for the newest phone or simply want the best value, go with a contract plan of some sort.
Related: Check out the prepaid vs. postpaid guide for more information.
2. How much does it cost?
Price is obviously important to consider when you're looking through the best pay-as-you-go phones for one that suits you. Some prepaid flip phones cost just $20 while smartphones can cost over $800. If you only use your phone to text and call occasionally, you don't need amazing specs; therefore, you don't need a $900 prepay phone.
Tips to Save Money
- You may want to look up where to buy used phones. This way, you can save money on a cheaper used version instead of paying full price for a new one. Just make sure your wireless service will allow it.
- If you find a prepaid phone with a major carrier like Verizon Wireless or AT&T, I would always check to see if you can find it cheaper with carriers like Republic Wireless, Straight Talk, Airvoice Wireless, Consumer Cellular, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, or Cricket Wireless.
3. What do you need it for?
If you're looking to use a prepay phone for entertainment like streaming shows and playing games, you may want a larger screen. When looking for a prepaid cell phone, you should consider different specs. Depending on what you plan to use your cell phone for, specs. include the size of the screen, the screen resolution, data speed, storage, and battery life.
PAYG Phones for a Budget
Some of us need a prepaid cell phone to avoid unnecessary spending on unlimited talk and text plans or on any talk and text plan providing more data and minutes than we need. In relation, those people also don't want to spend too much money on a smartphone or flip phone for their cheap cell phone plan.
If you've never had a prepaid plan before, you may be surprised to learn there are some quality, affordable smartphone options for people on a budget. Here are a couple inexpensive prepaid mobile broadband smartphones with great features and specs.
The Moto G mobile phone is a couple years old but has pretty much everything you need in a smartphone. Virgin Mobile sells the 5-inch Moto G with just 8GB while Republic Wireless and Verizon Wireless have 16 and 32 GB options. It also has an SD slot built in, so you don't have to worry too much about storage limitations.
The Moto G is cheaper than most prepaid phones and includes a 13MP rear-facing camera as well as a battery that will last you all day long, guaranteed. It is also waterproof up to three feet, so there's no need to worry if your phone gets a little wet. One bad thing about the Moto G is that it doesn't charge very quickly. Additionally, it doesn't have the best display compared to other prepaid mobile phones.
Kyocera Hydro REACH
The Kyocera Hydro REACH is one of the cheapest prepaid phones provided by Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile. With a 5-inch touchscreen, 4G LTE speeds, and a front and rear-facing camera, the Kyocera Hydro has everything you need on a budget.
The Kyocera REACH is an Android phone with a 2,160mAh battery, which isn't bad (but it's not the best). Additionally, its camera and display aren't great compared to other smartphones. If you're looking for a cheap prepaid phone that can do what you need and defend itself from water and damage, however, the Kyocera Hydro REACH may be perfect for you.
If you don't necessarily need a fancy smartphone, you can opt for a prepaid flip phone with a cheap cell phone service provider like Cricket Wireless, Consumer Cellular or with one of the big four service providers. Here are a couple of the best flip phones available:
LG True Flip Phone
The LG True Flip Phone from Cricket Wireless is perfect for the simple cell phone user. It has large keys for easy texting and dialing, a 1.3 MP camera, video recording, a long battery life, and Bluetooth if you need. It is also capable of email and web browsing.
ZTE Z222 Flip Phone
The ZTE Z222 Flip phone is available from AT&T and T-mobile. This flip phone is simple to use and costs next to nothing; it's perfect for senior citizens who don't need intricate smartphones. This flip phone does, however, have Bluetooth connectivity for handsfree driving if necessary.
PAYG Phones For Entertainment
The OnePlus 3 pay-as-you-go cell phone is arguably one of the best and most affordable Android phones on the market right now. The OnePlus 3 is provided by AT&T as well as T-Mobile and is great for Entertainment with a 16-megapixel camera, 6 GB of RAM and a battery that will last you all day long. Its screen is 5.5-inches with 1080p resolution and it runs on a Snapdragon 820 processor.
The OnePlus 3 also has some awesome features including night mode to reduce eye-straining when you're viewing your smartphone at night. Its Shelf feature will even let you access your favorite contacts and recent apps without having to search for them. The only bad part about the OnePlus 3 is that its battery life can be iffy and its display colors are somewhat off. Other than that, this is a solid prepaid phone.
It wasn't easy to find the best pay-as-you-go phones out there. Some service providers offer plenty of options while others only provide the bare minimum. After careful analysis of reviews, research, and news, I believe that the Google Pixel and the Samsung Galaxy S7 are the best options for prepaid smartphone users along with the iPhone 7.
These amazing smartphones have the best specs of all with solid battery life, intricate entertainment features and apps, and advanced cameras for breathtaking photos and videos. If you're looking for a cheaper option, however, I would go for the Moto G. It has great water protection and plenty of features, as long as you don't need the best camera and display around.
The best pay-as-you-go phones are just as good as any contract phone with ample features, solid battery life, and fantastic screen and camera resolution.
Now that you've been briefed on great pay as you go phones across all major carriers and for a variety of budgets, you can use our smartphone comparison tool to look at the devices discussed in this article in greater detail.
Do you have experience saving money with a pay-as-you-go cell phone? Leave me a reply in the comments with your best tips and any thoughts on the subject.