Here's Why You Should Be Wary of Amazon's $50 Phone Deals
Amazon is running a pre-sale deal on a few unlocked smartphones by BLU and Motorola, which will be released on July 12, 2016. The 8 GB BLU R1 HD is on sale for just $49.99, and the 16 GB version is available for $59.99, for a savings of $50 off either phone. You can also grab the 16 GB Motorola Moto G4 for $149.99, or the 32 GB variant for $179.99, again a $50 discount on each.
At the moment, Amazon is also offering an additional $25 off for the Moto G4 to bring the savings up to $75. There's no indication as to exactly how long the additional $25 off promotion will run, just that it's a limited time offer.
These sound like pretty good deals. Current generation unlocked smartphones for under $200? Seems almost too good to be true. Hopefully there isn't a catch.
Head to the product pages on Amazon and you'll see it right there in the listing:
Well, that sucks. You'll still be getting an unlocked phone at a cheap price, but now you've got to decide if it's worth it for a handset that will pepper you with targeted ads each time you turn on the screen. It's a similar offer to the reduced-price Kindles you can buy with "special offers," aka ads, so you can pony up the extra $50 to get a BLU R1 HD or Moto G4 without ads.
As if that wasn't enough, there are a few more reasons to be wary of this offer.
Both phones are only available to those enrolled in Amazon Prime. However, if you're not a member, Amazon offers a 30-day free trial of the service, so you can just sign up, order one of the phones, and then cancel it right after and not be charged anything. Just be sure to cancel Amazon Prime before the 30 days are up, or you'll be charged $99 for the whole year.
This doesn't apply to the Moto G4, which will work on all major carriers. However, the BLU R1 HD doesn't have a CDMA radio, only GSM, meaning you'll only be able to use it with AT&T or T-Mobile, and not Verizon, Sprint, or US Cellular.
We mentioned above the lock screen ads that you'll see each time you turn on your phone's display, but that's not the only way Amazon is taking over these phones. Both of them will also come pre-stocked with Amazon bloatware apps, many of which are geared toward Prime members.
These apps will become even more of a waste if you took advantage of the 30-day offer to buy the phone, then canceled your Prime membership.
Android offers many third-party lock screen replacements, but it's entirely possible that either the ads will persist through any lock screen, or that these phones will be locked down to the point that you can't replace the lock screen.
There's only one surefire way (aside from spending the extra $50 for the ad-free version) to get rid of those annoying ads and bloatware apps—you'll have to root the phone. While you'll be able to get rid of these unwanted add-ons after rooting the phone, doing so will void the manufacturer's warranty, and can affect usage of services like Android Pay.
Update: We've been able to confirm that you can in fact remove ads from the lock screen simply by installing a third-party lock screen replacement, as mentioned above. And the good news is, there isn't anything Amazon can do about it.
These aren't Fire devices, and because they ship with Google services, they have to abide by certain rules. One of those rules being that you can not lock down the lock screen, so luckily, this one is an easy fix.
So is all of this worth it? Probably not, when you consider that there are similarly-priced smartphones out there that you can buy unlocked without having to deal with any of Amazon's absurd conditions. If you're in the market for an affordable, unlocked Android phone, have a look at some of the offerings from ZTE and Alcatel.
The best part? You can buy them from Amazon, without any bogus "special offers."