When the Lucky LG16 came to public attention last month, that smartphone's $10 price and middling specs made it immensely popular. It quickly went out of stock, and continues to stay out of stock.
Fortunately that isn't your only option for cheap pay-as-you-go smartphones that can double as reading and media devices. Amazon is now offering the ZTE Valet, a smaller and older model, for fifteen dollars (from a third-party seller).
The ZTE Valet runs Android 4.1 on a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU with 512MB RAM and 4GB internal storage. It has a 3MP camera, promises six hours of talk time, and has Wifi/Bluetooth/2G data connectivity.
It's small, too, with its 3.5" screen boasting of a resolution of 480 x 320. That's a small and low-res screen, but on the plus side the single-core CPU is more than powerful enough to use the screen to its fullest abilities.
According to reviewers, you can get a device this cheap and still expect to get a lot more than nothing. Earlier this month Ars Technica and Teleread posted contradictory reviews of ten-dollar smartphones that convinced me that these cheap devices are only as bad as your expectations.
Ars went into the review expecting the performance of a several-hundred dollar smartphone, and was disappointed when a ten-dollar device didn't meet its standards. Chris Meadows at Teleread, on the other hand, notes that "The phone wasn’t just “better than nothing,” it was actually a lot better than nothing." He goes on to add "I am happy to report that it is a reasonably useful e-reader—and the fact that it only costs ten bucks makes it an excellent e-reader".
This phone is considerably less appealing than the LG16, but that matters little given that one is available and the other is not. And anyway, this phone doesn't need to be very powerful to act as a simple cellphone or a budget reading device. And since the ZTE Valet does have Google Play, it can be used for just about any kind of digital reading once you've installed the necessary Android reading apps. (We've previously covered the topic at length, so I won't repeat it here.)