Upcoming $200 ASUS smartphone ideal for contract ditchers

For those looking to dump their phone contract, ASUS may well have the perfect pre-pay phone. Here’s a look at some of the numbers.

asus lead image
Credit: ASUS

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been recently feeling some device-screen envy. A number of buddies are currently bandying around phones with larger screens than me.

The reason for this unfairness is that those of us still on 2013’s phones likely have sub-five-inch screens. My once splendidly large, and still perfectly functional, mid-2013 Moto X squares up at a paltry 4.7 inches.

The newer Samsung Galaxy S5 runs 5.1 inches, and the Note 4 scores 5.7 inches.

Call it superficial if you like, but I’m jealous. I want a bright, large-screened phone too.

ZenFone 2

That’s why I was delighted to see that ASUS has announced its Intel-driven ZenFone 2, a pretty-gargantuan 5.5-inch full HD display device. And it’s $199 off-contract.

It should be available in March, according to the manufacturer. And that’s my kind of pricing.

What is off contract?

The key factor here, and why this price point is attractive, is that this phone is priced off-contract and unlocked.

“Off contract,” for those unfamiliar with the nuances of phone pricing, means that the phone is able to take advantage of pre-pay, or pay-as-you-go, SIM cards. The alternative is known as post-pay, or contract-based. Those post-pay plans are more expensive on a monthly basis.

While other solid, high-end phones, such as the Apple iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, are available for $199 too, that price requires a two-year contract with a Mobile Network Operator, or MNO, such as AT&T.

If you wanted to buy one of those phones without a contract to use for pre-pay purposes, it would cost you $649. That’s a difference of $450, in this case at least.

Why pre-pay?

The advantage of avoiding a contract is that you can reduce your monthly spend. For example, AT&T Mobile Virtual Network Operator, or MVNO, América Móvil’s Straight Talk, which I use, gives me unlimited calling and 3GB of data for $45 per month.

A similarly featured but two-year contract plan with MNO AT&T proper, in which AT&T sells you the phone subsidized at $199, costs $80 per month.

AT&T’s monthly charge is more because it needs to recoup the subsidy difference between the $649 full price and $199 contract price—the $450.

However, if you do the arithmetic, the numbers in that scenario don’t work in your favor.

Here’s why: understandably, AT&T needs to recoup $450, or $18.75 a month over two years. However, the difference between the $45 Straight Talk pre-pay deal and the $80 AT&T post-pay monthly fee is $35, not $18.75. Where’s the $16.25 going? Good question.

Hence, the holy grail of pay-as-you-go aficionados like me is to find high-end phones that don’t cost much to buy outright, yet can take advantage of pre-pay. The 2013 Moto X fitted that bill, as does this new 2015 device.

What is it?

The ASUS device features a 5.5-inch HD IPS display, a 13-megapixel main camera, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera, along with advanced DSLR-like features, such as ISO light level adjustment.

Processing power is care of a 2.3GHz 64-bit Intel Atom processor.

RAM is up to 4GB, but reckon you won’t get all that RAM at the $199 price point. The manufacturer will have more expensive variants of this phone too. The battery supplies a healthy 3,000 mAh.

Other no-contract options

ASUS’s $199 price beats out self-importing the latest 5.7-inch Xiaomi Mi Note from China, at $370 later this month, or the 5.5-inch OnePlus One at $349. Both are available off-contract.

Buying tips

One tip. If you do decide to kiss your MNO goodbye and go MVNO pre-pay, always verify that the technology and bands of the phone you’re buying match the MVNO’s.

CDMA technology is not the same as more common GSM, and frequencies, in particular 4G LTE bands, are different throughout the world.

Good luck, and by the way, anyone want to buy my slightly scratched, small, but perfectly formed 2013 Moto X?

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10