• U.S. Cellular Smartphones

    U.S. Cellular Smartphones

    U.S. Cellular may be as popular as bigger names such as AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, but it still has some of the most popular smartphones on the market. With one of the highest customer retention rates in the industry, there’s got to be something about U.S. Cellular that’s keeping people around. Below are some of the various cell phones it has to offer.

    The Latest Smartphones
    One of the main drawbacks to U.S. Cellular is its complete lack of Apple devices. That’s right, anyone who was hoping to use an iPhone or iPad on U.S. Cellular’s network is out of luck. While that may deter some potential customers, those that remain have several Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone devices to choose from.

    Samsung Galaxy SIII
    At just $149.99 with a two-year contract, the Galaxy SIII is a top-of-the-line smartphone that runs Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. (For those of you who don’t know, Android operating systems are named after desserts in alphabetical order.) The $149.99 model comes with 16GB of memory, with the 32GB model costing $179.99. It might be worth the extra $30 to double your storage space, especially if you keep a lot of music or videos on your phone, but keep in mind that the Galaxy SIII has a micro SD slot for additional memory. It also comes with 4G LTE compatibility, which is currently the fastest technology available. It has a large 4.8″ screen and an 8 megapixel camera, which is about the best you’ll find on a smartphone today.

    Samsung Galaxy Note II
    Competing with the Galaxy SIII is the Samsung Galaxy Note II. It has a lot of the same features as the Galaxy SIII: 4G LTE, 16GB of storage, and an 8MP camera. However, it works with Android 4.1, commonly referred to as Jelly Bean. (You can’t make this stuff up.) It also packs an impressive 5.5″ screen, making it a sort of phone/tablet hybrid. Depending on your personal tastes, that massive screen will either be the pinnacle of human engineering or the most annoying thing you’ve ever had the displeasure of carrying around in your pocket. The best thing to do if you’re considering the Galaxy Note II is to find a store that has them on display. Hold it in your hand before you decide one way or the other, because two years is a long time to live with a phone you regret. It also lacks the 32GB option with U.S. Cellular, but a micro SD card will fix that issue easily.

    Blackberry Torch 9850
    The Blackberry Torch 9850 is a bit of a downgrade in all respects, including its price. For $99.99, you get a 3.7″ screen, a 5MP camera, and a lack of 4G connectivity. If you don’t need the fastest speeds or the biggest screen, though, the Torch 9850 may be the best choice for you. It runs Blackberry OS 7.1, which lacks a dessert-based name but still performs its functions fairly well. Its biggest selling point is its $99 price tag, which is 33% cheaper than the next smartphone in this category. Keep in mind that you’ll be stuck with this phone for another two years, though, and two years is a long time in the smartphone world.

    Free Phones
    Okay, you caught me. U.S. Cellular doesn’t actually offer any free cell phones, but it does have a lot of phones for $0.01 with a two-year contract. So go find a penny, because I’m going to refer to them as free phones for simplicity’s sake.

    LG Splendor
    The Splendor isn’t half bad, especially considering it’s a free phone. It runs Android 4.0 and has a 4.3″ screen, while maintaining the 5MP camera used in some of the pricier cell phones. It even has a solid 3.8/5 rating, making it an attractive option whether you can afford one of the other phones or not.

    HTC One V
    The next free cell phone, the HTC One V, compensates for its smaller 3.7″ screen by incorporating Beats audio into its design. While other phones may have semi-decent built-in speakers, the HTC One V blows them away with its high quality sound. It keeps the usual Android 4.0 and 5MP camera, but only has 4GB of internal storage–the smallest of any free cell phone on this list. You’ll need an SD card, especially with all the music you’ll be playing to show off those Beats speakers. Not too shabby for a free cell phone.

    ZTE Render
    Finally, a Windows Phone is thrown into the mix. The ZTE Render runs Windows Phone OS 7.5, also known as Tango 2. It has a 4.0″ screen and the same 5MP camera that seems to come standard on these free cell phones, but it runs a completely different operating system than Android and Blackberry phones. Windows Phones work best when used with other Windows devices, much like Apple devices. The biggest advantage of the ZTE Render is its Xbox Live connectivity, allowing you to play games and keep up with your Xbox Live account right from your phone.

    Other free phones, such as the Blackberry Curve 9360, HTC Merge, Samsung Repp, and Motorola Defy XT, all fall short in one or more areas that make them vastly inferior to the free cell phones mentioned above.

    Cheap Cell Phones

    U.S. Cellular also has a handful of other cheap cell phones to choose from, but as far as smartphones go, there are really only three options.

    Motorola Electrify 2 and Motorola Electrify M
    These two cell phones are very similar, with the Electrify M being the newer model. Both have 8MP cameras, 4.0″ screens, and run Android 4.0. The Electrify M, however, has a 1.3MP front-facing camera, while the one on the Electrify 2 is only 0.3MP. The Electrify M is also 4G LTE compatible, while the Electrify 2 is not. Pricing for both phones varies by location, but here’s the reason they made this list: both have a buy-one-get-one-free deal. If you’re buying for yourself and someone else, this might be your lucky day.

    Samsung Galaxy SII
    The Galaxy SII also has the buy-one-get-one deal, and comes with a 4.52″ screen. Unfortunately, with no 4G connectivity and a horribly out-of-date operating system–Android 2.3, Gingerbread–the Galaxy SII is a bit behind the times. It can be upgraded, but older phones tend to be last in line for receiving OS updates. Still, you get two cheap cell phones with this deal, so it’s at least worth consideration.

    Summary
    U.S. Cellular has a smartphone to fit any budget, from $0.01 to $299.99. Though it doesn’t have the ever-popular iPhone, its lineup of alternative smartphones is enough to satisfy most customers. The overall best deal has to be the Samsung Galaxy SIII, or for you penny pinchers out there, the LG Splendor. The best advice is usually to go out and handle the phone for yourself before committing to a two-year contract, but now you’ll have a better idea of what to look for. Maybe afterward, you can enjoy a nice ice cream sandwich.