New simple-to-use, low-cost smart phones

Consumer Reports
Jitterbug Touch

Jitterbug Touch (Photo: Kyocera)

Given the dazzle of the Galaxies, Droids, and other star smart phones, it's easy to overlook the many less expensive, less promoted phones on the market.

Some new models in our latest phone ratings are easy to use, easy on the wallet, and even boast a few cool features you won't find on their richer cousins.

Here's a rundown:

MORE AT CONSUMER REPORTS

Samsung ATIV Odyssey. ($50)

Samsung's first Windows Phone is among several Windows 8 models we've just added to our phone ratings. While the Odyssey lacks a high-resolution display, NFC-managed file sharing, a quad-core processor, and other features that define today's marquee phones, its hardware is more than adequate. It also comes with a decent number of useful apps, and is one of the few Verizon phones that will work on foreign GSM networks. That's a lot of phone for $50 with a two-year contract.

Pantech Discover. ($50)

This Android smart phone, $50 from AT&T, is brimming with top-shelf features, including a large, brilliant 4.8-inch, high-definition display, and dual side-firing speakers for stereo sound without headphones. There's also a 12.6-megapixel camera with time-lapse video recording and a still camera that lets you choose your subjects' best facial expressions from several different photos and "glue" them on one perfect photo.

(See also: Tech that can save you money)

The Discover also has an innovative and intuitive interface. For example, flicking your finger upward from the bottom of the screen summons a tray of convenient shortcuts for adding apps, widgets, changing wallpaper, and accessing phone settings. And for novices or "cognitively challenged" users, the Discover has an Easy Experience interface that clears desktop clutter to put core functions such as phone, contacts, messages, and camera front and center. It's also easy to increase the size fonts and app icons, and menus present a shorter list of options to simplify use.

Kyocera Jitterbug Touch. ($150)

If only this model, the first smart phone from a carrier aimed at people who find today's cell phones "often too complicated to use," was as successful at simplicity as the Pantech. Costing $150 from Great Call without a contract, this Jitterbug is a pudgy model that measures 4.1 inches x 2.3 inches x 0.7 inches and has a 3-inch touch screen that makes everything displayed on it a tad small for any user, let alone one who finds regular screens "difficult to see," though Great Call promises that its phones address this issue.

It doesn't help that text and images aren't very crisp because the display's resolution is relatively low. And the phone's touch interface is simple, but it buries core features such as phone, camera, photo gallery, and messaging under an Apps tab. On the plus side, there is a slide-out keyboard, with keys that are clearly labeled, logically laid out, and well spaced.

Samsung Galaxy Stratosphere II. ($30)

If it's a keyboard you want, a better choice is this Android model from Verizon—which costs even less, at $30 with a two-year contract from Verizon.

As with the original Stratosphere, the keyboard on this model is one of the best we've seen. It's clearly labeled, logically laid out, well spaced, and features five rows—a rarity among phones—with dedicated buttons for numbers across the top row, directional buttons, and buttons for search, accessing the Web, and messaging. Like its predecessor, it has a 4-inch touch-screen display, but it adds more internal memory, a higher camera recording resolution, NFC, and international GSM ability.

Copyright © 2006-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Christina El Moussa faces fans fury for 'inappropriate' bikini photo with daughter: 'What mother does this?'

      Flip Or Flop co-host Christina El Moussa has landed in hot water over a recent Instagram picture. Fans of the reality TV star flipped after she shared a bikini-clad picture with her seven-year-old daughter Taylor, and took to the picture-sharing site to criticise her "sickening ways". "Welcome to the family!!" the El Moussa matriarch had captioned the adorable picture celebrating the arrival of the newest member of the family – a French bulldog named Cashie.

      International Business Times
    • Ask Amy: My husband told me to ‘get over it,’ so here’s my plan

      DEAR AMY: I have been married for 33 years. I love my husband, but I have totally enabled him — to the point where I am now feeling abused. For instance, this morning, he was in a minor car accident. Through my business relationships, I have an excellent contact in the repair business, and so I kindly took his car in, gave him mine to use in the interim and picked up the rental. I asked him to drive the rental so I could have my car back, and he refused. I told him I felt used. He basically said I should get over it. Because of my family background and decades of behaving this way, I am now at the point where I feel incredibly put upon because of all of the expectations, as well as the total

      MercuryNews.com q
    • Rachel Dolezal struggles after racial identity scandal

      SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A white civil rights leader, fired because she led others to believe she was black, said she struggles to make a living these days because she was portrayed as a fraud.

      Associated Press
    • This woman wins Mom of the Year award for her response to her daughter’s failing math grade

      Moms have been around since the dawn of time but they still manage to surprise us with their heroism. For example, when…

      Hello Giggles
    • Security, parking, garbage irk Ivanka Trump's DC neighbors

      Residents of a posh Washington neighborhood say Ivanka Trump and her family don't make for very good neighbors, taking up much of the parking on an already crowded street and leaving trash bags at the ...

      Associated Press
    • Wife does too much and receives too little

      Dear Amy: I have been married for 33 years. I love my husband, but I have totally enabled him — to the point where I am now feeling abused. For instance, this morning, he was in a minor car accident. Through my business relationships, I have an excellent contact in the repair business, and so I kindly took his car in, gave him mine to use in the interim and picked up the rental. I asked him to drive the rental so I could have my car back, and he refused. I told him I felt used. He basically said I should get over it. Because of my family background and decades of behaving this way, I am now at the point where I feel incredibly put upon because of all of the expectations, as well as the total

      Chicago Tribune q
    • Astronaut who walked on moon says he knows the truth about aliens

      He was an astronaut on the second manned mission to the moon and the fourth man to walk on its surface. Alan Bean, 85, is one of only 12 people to have taken “one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind” on the moon. The lunar module pilot was one of three crew members onboard Apollo 12 who walked on the moon 10 days after it launched on Nov. 14, 1969. The crew’s primary mission objectives included an extensive series of lunar exploration tasks by the lunar module and the deployment of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package to be left on the moon’s surface to gather seismic, scientific and engineering data. Bean has logged 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space — 10 hours and 26

      New York Post q
    • LaVar Ball Crying Jordan memes and trolling surface after UCLA's loss to Kentucky

      As soon as LaVar Ball, the loud-mouthed father of UCLA star Lonzo Ball, started tearing up during UCLA’s eventual 86-75 loss to Kentucky on Friday, fans had to know that the memes were coming. Almost time to get those LaVar Ball crying jordan memes out

      The Dagger
    • Cop calls scammer back; awkward exchange goes viral

      "He is a trained professional – do not try this at home"

      CBS News q
    • ‘Flip or Flop’ Star Christina El Moussa Blasted for ‘Completely Inappropriate’ Mother-Daughter Bikini Photo

      Things didn’t go all that swimmingly on Christina El Moussa’s Instagram account this week. The “Flip or Flop” star came under fire after posting a photo of herself and her young daughter Taylor in bikinis on Thursday. Oh, and there was a French bulldog involved, too.

      The Wrap
    • 94-Year-Old Woman Has Worked at McDonald's for 44 Years - and She Eats It Every Shift

      Loraine Maurer, 94, Has Been Working at McDonalds for 44 Years

      People
    • Everything You Need to Copy Meghan Markle's Chic Style (11 photos)

      Everything You Need to Copy Meghan Markle's Style

      People
    • Op-Ed: Trump and the GOP should face it: There's only one option left to fix health care

      Ryan will never convince conservatives to play ball on health care. Here's his only option, says consultant Robert Laszewski.

      CNBC.com q
    • Bill Maher Gets No Smiles From Tyranny Expert: “I’m Not Going To Laugh At Any Of That”

      Bill Maher couldn’t get so much as a chuckle out of his history professor guest tonight when the subject turned to dictators. Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The 20th Century sat stonefaced as Maher read off a list of things about Donald Trump that remind him of Third World dictators. “Yeah, right, so I’m not going to laugh at any of that,” Snyder said on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, “because in your world it’s Third World dictators, but in my world…it’s the 1930s.” To be fair, Maher’s roster didn’t seem intended so much as a comedy bit as a fun-poking checklist of Trump habits – putting names on buildings, hiring family members, holding rallies, hating the press,

      Deadline Hollywood q
    • Mariah Carey Goes Braless in Sheer Lace-Up Dress While Out: Pic!

      She enjoyed a solo night out on Thursday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Charles Barkley says if he was dying, he’d kill Skip Bayless on live TV

      This is a real thing: Charles Barkley said on the Dan Patrick show that should he ever fall terminally ill and approach death knowingly, he would happily kill angry, opinionated and oft-inflammatory TV personality Skip Bayless.

      Sports Illustrated
    • This is the secret to unclogging sinks and drains anywhere in your house

      Okay, first things first: there is no miracle product that instantly clears any and every clogged drain. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Do you really think you pour some liquid down the drain in your sink and miraculously clear a fist-sized ball of hair in a matter of minutes? Newsflash... there's not. If you have a very bad clog, you need to snake your drain. It's the only way to handle it. To clear normal clogs and gross odors that happen during the course of normal wear and tear though, these is a secret to unclogging drains and keeping things smelling fresh: Sani Sticks . Drop one of these sticks down your drain to take care of average clogs and embarrassing odors in a matter of hours. Then, drop a new stick down each drain once every month to prevent clogs and odors in the future. Each stick includes enzymes and other ingredients found in a septic tank to break down waste and keep things clear. $17 gets you a pack of 48 Sani Sticks, and it'll be the best $17 you've ever spent. Some highlights from the product page: Sani Sticks drain sticks eliminate embarrassing odors from drains and prevent clogged sinks Save money on plumbers and drain snakes as powerful enzymes break down oil and grease to keep drains free and clear Sani Sticks drain deodorizer and cleaners are thin, round and only 6.3 inches long and 100 percent safe for plumbing and septic tanks with no toxic chemicals Avoid embarrassing smells and nasty water buildup in sinks and showers with just one Sani Stick per month Keep your drains clean and odor-free, all year long with Sani Sticks as part of your cleaning supplies

      BGR News
    • Teenager faked gang rape by 3 black men after stumbling into church covered in blood

      A teenage girl is facing criminal charges after she admitted faking a horrific sexual assault in which she claimed three black men in "ski masks" had kidnapped and gang raped her. On the same night the Denison Police Department (DPD) received a call from a man describing himself as the fiancé of Talbott and claimed she was missing and her car had been found in the parking lot with the driver door open, her phone, keys and a shoe nearby. Police say that she told them a detailed story claiming that three black males wearing ski masks took her in a black car to a wooded area where two suspects raped her while a third suspect held her down.

      International Business Times
    • ‘Flip Or Flop’ Star Christina El Moussa Gets New Boyfriend: Report

      The couple has reportedly been dating for "about a month."

      International Business Times
    • ‘Power Rangers’ Review Roundup: What the Critics Are Saying

      “Saban’s Power Rangers” (or, simply, “Power Rangers,” though its official title pays proprietary homage to the franchise’s co-creator) is careening into theaters for its March 24 release. Although the bulk of preliminary critiques yo-yo between appreciation for the film’s sugary overtones and apathy toward its lackluster subject matter, it seems as though this live-action reboot of... Read more »

      Variety