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Amazon Offering Deep Price Cuts On Unlocked Phones, But There’s A Catch

Amazon has dramatically reduced the prices on a pair of unlocked smartphones for Prime members in exchange for receiving ads on their lockscreens.

The phones are the new Blu R1 HD, available at half-off its $100 retail through the debut Prime Exclusive Phones program, and the just-released fourth-generation Motorola Moto G, available for $50 off its $200 street price.

The personalized ads and offers include deals and product recommendations, which customers can tap to pursue or dismiss by unlocking the devices.

Laura Orvidas, Amazon’s CE VP, said unlocked models are the e-tailer’s fastest-growing category of cellphones, and that the five-year-old commercial-content concept was borrowed from subsidized Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers, “to make [the phones] even more affordable for our Prime members.”

See: Amazon Intros Ad-Subsidized Kindle

Orvidas noted that Fire and Kindle models “with special offers” have been a hit with customers, and that “the vast majority … choose the lower-priced option.”

The budget phones, which represent two of Amazon’s best-selling mobile brands, feature Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Google Mobile Services including Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Play.

The Blu R1 HD, offered for $50 under the new program, features a 5-inch curved Gorilla Glass HD display with a brightness rating of 420 nits; an 8MP rear-facing camera and a wide-angle 5MP selfie camera with LED flash; an aluminum enclosure; a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor; 4G LTE speed; 1 GB RAM and 8 GB of internal storage, plus MicroSD card support for up to 64 GB of additional storage; and is compatible with GSM carriers including AT&T and T-Mobile.

By comparison, the $150 subsidized Moto G features a 5.5-inch FullHD display; a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset with an octacore processor at up to 1.5 GHz; 2 GB RAM; a 13-megapixel camera with dual LED flash; a 3,000 mAh battery with TurboPower charging that provides six hours of usage from a 15-minute charge; and is compatible with both GSM and CDMA carriers including Verizon and AT&T.

“We’re thrilled to work with Amazon to offer customers the best of all worlds with the new Moto G,” said Jeff Miller, Motorola Mobility’s corporate VP, North America sales. “When considering the purchase of an unlocked smartphone, customers want the technology and features they really care about, and at a great price.”

Amazon began taking pre-orders on both models today for mid-July delivery.