Is the Cheap Smartphone Revolution Here?

This week, the tech world is buzzing about several new low-cost alternatives to the expensive, contract-laden smartphones currently on the market. Smartphones are becoming increasingly standard among mobile customers, but these new products could open up an entirely new market of entry-level users.

Mozilla Firefox debuted two new smartphone models that could retail for as low as $90. The ZTE Open is now available in Spain, while the Alcatel OneTouch Fire will hit Europe and Latin America sometime this summer. Both are expected to reach U.S. markets sometime this year. Early previewers are already making complaints about the phones' user interface and speed, but these phones aren't making any big claims to start with. We'd suggest waiting a few (phone) generations before purchasing these as anything but Christmas presents for your middle school-aged nieces and nephews.

Also leaked this week were images of the possible long-awaited "cheap" iPhone model. "Cheap" appears to be a relative term, of course, as these smartphones are still expected to retail for between $300 and $400. The real difference is the possibility of owning the iPhone 5 without getting tied down with an expensive contract. Today, the cheapest unlocked, contract-free iPhone 5 model goes for $649. Sign up for 2 years of service, and it's just $199 but the monthly bills can sneak up on you. Some are estimating that the "cheap" iPhone could enable users to pay at least $10 less per month in fees.

Unfortunately, the rumored phones come in a range of garish Crayola colors that look like they'd go better with your old Baby G than your smartwatch. Industry insiders are claiming that the new model will retain much of the same hardware and specifications as the original iPhone 5.

Photo Credit: UnWired Review, TechHive, and PhoneBuff