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I have the Virgin Mobile LG Optima V, which is $150 now and goes on sale for less periodically. That's $150 unsubsidized and with a month-to-month, no contract plan. It's not the greatest phone in the world but I'm largely satisfied with cost/performance tradeoff.

Covered here previously: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2171107 My write up on how to activate the Optimus for WiFi use only: http://blog.gerundinganimal.com/2011/01/cheap-wifi-only-andr...




Are locked phones really unsubsidized? Not $200 subsidy, obviously, but maybe $50 or $100, considering that Virgin expects you to use it with a $30+ monthly plan and would treat it as a customer acquisition cost.

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As I understand subsidized vs. unsubsidized, yes it is. I can buy the phone without entering into a contract. I can terminate service with VM after 30 days. I can sell the phone to someone else who can choose to buy service from VM or not.

True it isn't unlocked, but I'm not aware of anyone saying unsubsidized == unlocked.

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I work for Vodafone (Australia) and we definitely subsidise our locked phones. We charge a $75 (first six months)/$25 (thereafter) unlocking fee to cover the subsidy costs.

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Given that the subsidy provided by the carrier is funded by the monthly contract payment of the customer, it probably isn't worth splitting hairs here.

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It is worth splitting hairs because AT&T and Verizon are guaranteed to either make $75+/mo (it was $110 for my minimal minutes plan) for 2+ years OR a $200+ cancellation fee to make up for the cost of the phone.

You can buy a Virgin mobile phone and never activate it. You can stop paying without penalty after your first month. That's unsubsidised.

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OTOH, Virgin USA may still be subsidizing it (by charging below cost), and just willing to take a loss if you never activate it. Since it only works on the Virgin network anyways, this isn't a risky gamble.

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