Nexus 5, priced at $349.99 for the 16GB version.
If you want the latest high-end Android smartphone without paying a lot, the Nexus is the one to get. Here's why:
- Android 4.4 KitKat the latest Android OS version
- Guaranteed OS updates: for the next 18 months the Nexus 5 will be get the latest Android OS releases direct from Google as soon as they are available
- State of the art internals: Quad-core 2.3 Ghz Snapdragon Krait 800 processor, 2GB of RAM
- Unlocked for use on any carrier with support for every GSM, CDMA and LTE band used in the US except for Verizon's LTE band 13.
- 4.95 inch 1080x1920px HD Gorilla Glass screen
- 8 MP autofocus camera with LED flash, optical image stabilization and 1080p video at 30fps
- Wireless charging
- NFC with Google Wallet support
- Value: the Nexus 5 has specs that meet or exceed those of $600+ phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and LG G2 yet it's priced at $349.99 for the 16GB version and $399.99 or the 32GB one.
There are lots of prepaid options that will work with the Nexus 5 but relatively few that include LTE data. Here are my top picks, all of which include LTE:
AT&T based: The gold standard of Nexus 5 friendly prepaid plans is AT&T's GoPhone Smartphone Plan which includes unlimited voice, messaging and 2GB of high speed data including LTE for $60/month. Additional data can be purchased at $10 for 1GB AT&T customer support is among the best among prepaid operators. It's easy to get started with this plan, any AT&T store should be able to give you a free SIM and set it up for you.
The only AT&T MVNO's with LTE are Tracfone's Straight Talk and NET10 brands which offer unlimited voice and messaging and 2.5GB of high speed data for $45 per month on Straight Talk and $50 on NET10. Straight Talk and NET10 are a good deal unless something goes wrong. Unfortunately lots of users are currently having trouble sending MMS on both services and TracFone tech support tends to be sorely lacking.
T-Mobile based: If T-Mobile's somewhat limited coverage (map) works for you and you don't talk on the phone a lot, T-Mobile's $30/month, unlimited data, unlimited messaging and 100 voice minutes plan is hard to beat. The first 5GB of data per month is delivered at full 4G LTE or HSPA+ speeds wherever those technologies are available. After 5GB, data speeds are throttled to an almost unusable 128 Kbps, but 5GB is a lot of data for $30. Additional voice minutes are 10¢ each so if you need 5GB of data, this plan is cost effective at up to about 300 minutes/month of voice usage.
The $30 100 minutes, 5GB plan is only available online or through Walmart. You need to either order a SIM from T-Mobile.com or Walmart.com or pick one up a Walmart store. SIMs from Walmart can be activated online or by calling the number printed on the SIM package. If you buy a SIM from T-Mobile.com you can only get the $30 plan by activating online at prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-activate.
If you need more than 100 voice minutes, and can get by with a bit less data, T-Mobile owned MetroPCS has a $50/month plan that comes with unlimited voice and messaging and 2.5GB of hi-speed data including LTE. For $60 a month MetroPCS will give you unlimited talk, text and unlimited, unthrottled data. SIMs are available for MetroPCS stores and online. MetroPCS SIMs use the T-Mobile network so coverage data speeds are identical to those on T-Mobile etc.
Sprint based: Although the Nexus 5 is technically compatible with Sprint's network, Sprint traditionally as been extremely unfriendly to the idea of customers bringing their own non-Sprint phones to their network. Change is in the wind and Sprint is officially allowing Nexus 5s from the Play Store to be activated, but only on post paid plans. Sprint will not activate a Nexus 5 on its Boost, Virgin or Sprint As You Go brands.
The situation on Sprint MVNOs is a bit more promising. Ting has reported being able to activate several Nexus 5s with working voice and SMS but no data yet. There have been several reports of activations on RingPlus and one on PrepaYd. One Ringplus user even says he has working data including LTE.
Update, PrepaYd dealer freedomwirelessbc.com, has posted a YouTube video showing LTE and 3G working on a Nexus 5 on PrepaYd's $60/month plan that includes unlimited voice, messaging and 4G data.
If you want to try activating a Nexus 5 on a Sprint MVNO you will need a special Sprint LTE micro SIM, part number SIMGLW206R. These are in short supply. Only a few Sprint stores have them and many reportedly refuse to sell them to customers unless they are willing to activate on a post-paid account. The special SIMs are currently available on Ebay for an average price of $20.
The Ting site has detailed instructions for activating a Nexus 5 along with a warning that it's an unsupported device and that data doesn't currently work. The process should be similar on RingPlus and other MVNOs that accept Sprint LTE phones like PrepaYd and ChitChat.
Here's a table detailing all the AT&T and T-Mobile based options mentioned above. I will add Sprint MVNO's plans to this table once it becomes straight forward to active a Nexus 5 on them with everything working, including LTE.
|T-Mobile||T-Mobile||$30||100, overage 10¢/min||unlimited||5GB 4G, unlimited 2G|
|Straight Talk||AT&T||$45||unlimited||unlimited||2.5GB 4G, unlimited 2G|
|MetroPCS||T-Mobile||$50||unlimited||unlimited||2.5GB 4G, unlimited 2G|
|AT&T GoPhone||AT&T||$60||unlimited||unlimited||2GB, overage $10 per 1GB|
AT&T and AT&T MVNO Prepaid Plans Compared
T-Mobile and T-Mobile MVNO Prepaid Plans Compared
Sprint and Sprint MVNO Prepaid Plans Compared