By Jared Newman | Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm
As I looked over Verizon’s announcement of the Motorola Droid 3 today, one thing in particular caught my eye: Without a two-year contract, the phone costs $460.
That may look expensive next to the Droid 3′s two-year agreement price of $200, but it’s a lot cheaper than what high-end, off-contract smartphones used to cost. Last year, for example, the Droid 2 debuted for $599 without a contract. At the time, that was pretty much the standard price.
So I figured the Droid 3 was cracking the mold, until I looked around. Right now, Verizon’s Droid X2 sells for $450 without a contract, and the Droid Incredible 2 sells for $440. Over on AT&T, you can get a contract-free Motorola Atrix 4G for $450. These are all high-end phones, with dual-core processors and screens of 4 inches or higher, but you might not know it from their off-contract prices.
Not everyone needs zero commitment, but it does have some advantages. Without a contract, you’re free to pick up a second phone and alternate, switch carriers without paying an early termination fee, buy a new handset before your contract is up or spend the winter in Tahiti without paying any extra bills. It’s something to consider, especially now that prices have come down.
But don’t expect wireless carriers to make a big deal out of these off-contract prices. They’d much rather lock you in with a lengthy contract, and although some high-end handsets’ contract-free prices have fallen, subsidized prices for the most part have not.
Which begs the question: Why are these off-contract phones now cheaper in the first places? If you have any guesses, I’d love to be enlightened.