$99 now gets you in the Android game without a contract

Pre-paid smartphone prices have slowly been declining, and now Virgin Mobile is offering a new Android 2.3 handset for $99. The no-contract smartphone, built by Alcatel One Touch, offers basic hardware but could be appealing based on Virgin’s $35 monthly plan that includes unlimited Sprint (s s) 3G data and texts, along with 300 voice minutes.
This device introduction has me going back in time to February of last year. At that time, Virgin Mobile offered a pre-paid Android phone for $149: the Optimus V. I tested a variant of the device and found it to be quite serviceable, especially for the first-time smartphone buyer. A year later brings a similarly equipped device — with a full QWERTY keypad, this time — for under $100 and without a contract.
Virgin Mobile’s new Android device is called the Venture, and it appears to be a rebadge of the Alcatel One Touch 909. The phone offers a 2.8-inch QVGA touchscreen, hardware keyboard, 2 megapixel camera, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and a microSD card slot. I suspect the 600 MHz processor is a last-generation chip, and I also see no mention of GPS support.
Regardless, for a first-time smartphone owners or a pre-teen child, this is a solid deal without the traditional two-year commitment. A small investment nets a 3G-capable device with keyboard for texting, plus access to most apps in the Google Play(s goog) app store. Not bad if you live in an area that Sprint covers, which is the network used by Virgin Mobile.