I recently purchased a cheap “pay-as-you-go” Android smartphone after reading about it on Slashdot. The phone in question is an “LG 38c” being sold under the name, “LG Optimus Dynamic” with triple “Tracphone” minutes which you can pick up from Amazon for $19.99.
Before you rush out and get one, the processor is underpowered, the screen is small, it only comes with a 4GB microSD card and very limited internal memory, the viewing angle is relatively narrow, the touchscreen is a flexible plastic rather than sturdy glass, and runs an older version of the Android operating system that can’t handle many apps.12
That said, you would be hard pressed to be able to build or buy a device for $20 that is as capable as this little phone. The phone can use WiFi, can run the Netflix movie viewing app, be used as a web browser, alarm clock, MP3 player, digital camera, digital video recorder, GPS navigator, send and receive email (over WiFi), and run many useful apps available from the Google Play store. Also, you may not be aware of this or not, but every single cell phone out there – even those without any cell phone plan – is capable of dialing 9-1-1. ((Obviously, this phone can be as cheap as it is because the phone company is subsidizing the cost, hoping you make it up by buying phone minutes. Although I’m basically breaking this business model on a small scale, I just don’t seem to feel that guilty about it.))