Amazon’s Prime Exclusive phones start at $49.99, but there’s more than meets the eye. The ultimate question is “Is this really a bargain?”

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Is Amazon Prime really worth it?

Is Amazon Prime really worth it?

July 11, 2016

You’d think Amazon’s ill-fated Fire phone would have discouraged the company from selling smartphones altogether, but given just how lucrative this market is, Amazon just doesn’t seem to be able to quit. Back in June of 2016, Amazon announced that it’d be selling the Moto G4 and BLU R1 HD for $50 cheaper exclusively to Prime members. However, there was a big catch. In addition to being a paying Prime member, you would have to endure Amazon’s ads and offers on the lock screen of your Prime Exclusive phone.

Well, perhaps the online retail giant saw enough of success from this strategy: this week, it added five more phones to the Prime Exclusive list, and now it has a total of ten Android smartphones to offer its Prime members at discounted prices. The rules of the game haven’t changed though, so you will still have to deal with pre-installed Amazon apps as well as the company’s presence on your lock screen. But just how bad are these ads?

How bad are these ads?

They’re not that bad.

Though it’s important to point out that these phones do come with Amazon’s own modifications, I think it’s as important to point out that for most users, these advertisements probably won’t be all that bad. Let me explain.

Essentially, Amazon inserts ads in two ways: when you have no personal notifications, the company will use the entire lock screen to promote its content, whether it’s an app, a new best-selling novel, or a Prime-exclusive TV show. As you can see above, it doesn’t look ghastly; in fact, often times, these full-screen ads feature pleasant images and aren’t all that intrusive. The second type appears when you do have personal notifications displayed on the lock screen. Amazon will resort to a simple card-style ad, which blends in with all other notifications – for better or worse.

As for the apps that come pre-loaded on these phones, most of them can be disabled and tucked away, and they don’t actually take up a lot of space.

So with that in mind, are Prime Exclusive phones really the bargain that Amazon makes them to be?

Scenario #1: You are already a Prime member

You should probably take advantage of these deals.

Now, assuming that you are already a paying Prime member and that you are looking for an affordable smartphone, the ultimate factor in deciding whether these discounts are a true bargain or not lies within just how often you use Amazon and how important personal notifications are for you. Sure, you could save up to $80, but it’s important to note that these Prime Exclusive discounts come in the form of an Amazon gift card. Plus, all of them come with a bunch of Amazon apps, and Amazon will push personalized deals and recommendations onto your lock screen.

You could save up to $80, but these Prime exclusive discounts come in the form of an Amazon gift card

Now, this trade-off might not be so much of a trade-off if you satisfy the following:

  1. If you use Amazon Prime services like Prime Movies and Music often
  2. If you shop on Amazon frequently enough to not mind (or even prefer) receiving personalized ads and receiving the discount in the form of an Amazon gift card
  3. If you don’t mind seeing personal notifications mixed in with Amazon’s offers on your lock screen

If this is a somewhat accurate or even a spot-on description of you, read on. If not – if the prospect of Amazon’s apps and ads bothers you to no end – you’re probably better off paying those extra $20 to $80 for an ad-free device.

Let’s see what this Amazon Prime Exclusive phone has to offer:

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Big screen

Since there are ten phones whose prices range from $49.99 to $199.99, it’s safe to say that not all of them will perform the same. If you are looking for a device with a large screen, your best bet is probably the Nokia 6. After all, for $50 less than the regular price, you’re getting an all-metal phone with a 5.5-inch Full HD display and a 16-megapixel camera. The Alcatel A30 Plus is another 5.5-incher, and it’s $100 less than the Nokia 6. However, it has limited storage options, and the screen is “only” 720p.

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Taking a look at the Nokia 3, 5, and 6: Baby steps

Taking a look at the Nokia 3, 5, and 6: Baby steps

July 21, 2017

For selfie-lovers

You should definitely consider the Alcatel Idol 5S if you’re a big selfie fan. It sees the biggest price cut out of all ten phones and can be yours for $199.99. Sure, it’s the most expensive device on the list, but considering the fact that it’s originally priced at $279.99, it’s quite a bargain. In addition to a 5.2-inch Full HD display, it sports an 8-megapixel front-facing camera as well as an LED flash, so you can take selfies even when it’s pitch black.

For Verizon and Sprint

While all ten phones are carrier-unlocked, a lot of them only support GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile. Of the phones that support all four major US carriers, the best device is probably the Moto G5 Plus (for now at least until the Alcatel Idol 5S gets CDMA support this summer). Priced at $179.99, it has everything you’d expect from a mid-ranger: 5.2-inch Full HD screen, 12-megapixel camera with f/1.7 aperture, expandable storage, and a juicy 3,000 mAh battery.

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Moto G5 Plus review

Moto G5 Plus review

April 13, 2017

Scenario #2: you are NOT a paying Prime member

Paying for Prime just for a phone makes no sense. 

What if you’re not a Prime member?  This is where things get more interesting.

  1. You are not a Prime member yet, but you would like an affordable phone. You can see yourself using Amazon for books, pantry stuff, electronics, knickknacks, clothes, food, and even groceries in some areas, and you’ve been thinking about joining. Do it – I honestly think it’s worth it. Buy the phone that tickles your fancy, and you can use the Amazon gift card to buy pretty much anything.
  2. You are not a Prime member yet, but you would like an affordable phone. You do not see yourself using Amazon for your shopping needs. This probably is not a bargain for you.

Prime membership in the US costs $99 a year. It’s cheaper for students at $49. Even if you are eligible for the student discount, Prime Exclusive phones probably won’t be a bargain for you. There is only one phone that’s discounted by more than $50 to offset the amount you’d pay for the membership, and it’s the Alcatel Idol 5S. However, not only are you stuck with Amazon’s bloatware and Amazon deals that mean absolutely nothing to you, but you have a gift card that you’ll probably never use. In other words, you’re probably better off spending a few extra dollars or buying a used or refurbished phone at a discounted price.

Bottom line: if you’re not a Prime member, this is a lucrative-looking deal that comes with too much baggage

Amazon may have given up on manufacturing its own smartphones, but its ambitious plan to push its software and promote its ever-growing merchandise lives on. Chances are, the company will add even more phones to the list in the near future, tickling the curiosity of many potential (mid-range) smartphone buyers out there. The bottom line is this: if you’re already a Prime member, this may be a chance to save more than just some pocket money. If you’re not a Prime member, this is a lucrative-looking deal that comes with too much baggage.

Are you an Amazon Prime member? Do you think these are good deals despite the lock screen ads? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

Brian Reigh
Brian Reigh is a contributor at Android Authority, covering all Android-related news and features. He has always been passionate about technology, especially mobile phones. He is a recent alum of Dartmouth College and is currently in law school.