Long term contracts? Phablets? Gold iPhones?
If the mere mention of these terms gives you hives, you are probably in the market for a Pre-Paid phone. But if you thought that picking between the top models was tough, it gets worse, and a lot more competitive, towards the cheaper end of town.
So how do you pick the best Pre-Paid phone? Well, before we get into our favourite phones, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Beware of crappy old phones
Pre-Paid phones are a mixture of new handsets designed for this segment, and old phones that can't be sold for top-dollar any longer. The tricky bit is that they are all about the same price, giving you the impression that they all offer the same power and features.
With a few exceptions, try and avoid the older models. New phones designed as Pre-Paid phones tend to have better and newer hardware, newer software and some nifty new features.
SIM-Locked phones save you money, but unlocked versions usually available
If you are shopping at a general electronics store, like Dick Smith, you'll notice multiple variants of the same phones, and some will be cheaper. Typically, the telcos will offer a discount on a phone when it is bundled with the telco's SIM card.
This is great if you want to use this carrier's network, otherwise it could be problematic. In order to make the phones cheaper, the telcos usually demand that the handsets be locked to their networks. If you want the freedom to try and few different networks, choose the slightly more expensive, 'unlocked' option.
Keep an eye out for 4G
4G networking isn't a particularly common feature in 4G phones, but it is definitely worth getting 4G if you can find it.
HTC Windows Phone 8S
Telstra locked - $129
Windows Phone is always a good option for Pre-Paid handsets because of how versatile Microsoft has made this operating system. Even on phone's we low-end specs, Windows Phone runs like an iPhone and performs many of the same tasks.
Launched first at the end of 2012, HTC's 8S isn't particularly old, either. It looks sharp and comes with a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera.
Telstra Frontier 4G
Telstra locked - $149 ($129 Dick Smith Electronics)
Manufactured by ZTE, the Frontier 4G is a decent smartphone with an Ace up its sleeve -- 4G connectivity. Fast mobile data is not something you tend to find in Pre-Paid phones and not at this price. It is locked to Telstra's network and you can only buy it through Telstra's store, but it is a good option if you are considering a Telstra Pre-Paid SIM.
LG Optimus F5
Optus locked - $299
One of only three 4G phones in this list, the LG F5 is a good option for a Pre-Paid handset, but it is a bit more expensive than many of the other phones in this list. And remember, the price above is for a handset locked to Optus.
Nokia Lumia 720
Vodafone locked - $199
This is a great example of a phone designed for the Pre-Paid segment. The Lumia 720 is a relatively new device, but it is priced like an older model. It has a 4.3-inch IPS LCD screen, which is a great screen at this price, and it has a very competent (if odd-sounding) 6.7-megapixel camera.
Vodafone is selling the 720 for $199 (network locked) at the time of writing, which is a great deal, but we'd still recommend checking out this handset even if it were up to $100 more.
Vodafone locked - $299
This is one of the pricey options in this round-up, but like the LG F5, it is one of the 4G models, and for some of us, that is worth paying extra for. It has a nice look and feel, and decent performance too. HTC saves money on a low-resolution screen, but this is expected at this price point.
Nokia Lumia 520
Unlocked - $199
You may not have heard, but the Nokia Lumia 520 is one of the most popular phones of the year. Nokia has sold boatloads of these handsets (literally) and there is a good reason why. For its low-price, you get a very good smartphone, which runs smoothly and includes features you'd expect in a more expensive model.
Huawei Ascend P1
Unlocked - $199
Chinese phone-maker Huawei has probably the most powerful phone in this list, with the quad-core processor in the P1 outdoing the others on paper. The only let down for us is the lack of 4G networking. If faster internet is on the top of your list, you might want to check out the more expensive Huawei Ascend G526, instead).