Others in this same class of less expensive, top five, user ranked phones include: Nokia Lumia 920, running the recently released Windows Phone 8 operating system and being offered on AT&T for $100, a price point that one user called "unbelievable" for a phone of this quality; the Nokia Lumia 822 on Verizon for $100; LG Spectrum 2 on Verizon for $100; and Google Galaxy Nexus, by Samsung, now offered by Sprint for free via a "Web special" promotion.
Just below the top five listings, there are also some incredible deals for phones praised by users.
The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, first released a year ago, is also just $1 via AT&T and it's highly ranked by users: 4.5 ranking, and a 91% recommendation rate. Another dark horse: the Pantech Flex, for just $20 on AT&T, with Android 4.0. It has only a handful of user reviews, all 5.0, but for a budget LTE phone it's got positive spin from reviewers like Android Community, which notes that it "offers the same level of performance as a lot of current- and last-gen top-tier smartphones."
That's a theme for a lot of our honorable mentions: The tradeoffs that you have a lower-end LTE phone may not be tradeoffs that 1) you notice or 2) you care about. A lower-end camera may be plenty "good enough," for example. And a less powerful processor may still deliver all the speed you need.
One example, an "honorable mention" at Sprint, is the Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE, now $50 with mail-in rebate. Its display may lack the "wow factor," as PCMag says, but one customer review says it has "plenty of resolution for the size, plenty of RAM, an S4 processor [from Qualcomm], and decent design and decent-sized battery."
Speaking of battery, users in reviews are all over the map about whether battery life is acceptable (except for users of the incredibly long-lived Motorola Droid Razr Maxx and Maxx HD models). For almost any given LTE phone, you can find reviews that complain bitterly about short battery life and others that fulsomely praise its long battery life. Overall, look at the carrier's average for "battery life" ranking for a given model. Justified or not, most of these users give LTE smartphone battery life somewhat lower rankings than other features.
We also checked T-Mobile for its top five user-ranked HSPA+ 42 4G phones (the company's fastest offerings) with 20 or more user reviews. Here are the results: