Amazon is discounting a bunch of new smartphones for Prime members, but there’s a catch

Amazon on Tuesday announced a number of new phones for its “Prime Exclusive Phones” program, in which the company sells discounted, ad-supported versions of certain phones to subscribers of its Prime shopping service.

There are five new devices in total. Here’s the rundown:

  • The Nokia 6, which on Monday was confirmed to arrive in the US, will cost $US180 instead of $US230. It has a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a Snapdragon 430 chip, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of expandable storage. It will fully work only on T-Mobile, however.
  • The Moto E4, a budget-level version of the excellent Moto G5 Plus, will cost $US100 instead of $US130. It has a 5-inch 720p display, a Snapdragon 425 chip, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of expandable storage. It works with all four major carriers, though it’s worth noting that Verizon sells a prepaid variant for $US70.
  • The new Alcatel Idol 5S looks like the highest-end option here: Its Prime Exclusive version will cost $US200 instead of $US280. It comes with a 5.2-inch 1080p display, a Snapdragon 625 chip, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of expandable storage. Like its predecessor, it has a glass and metal body. It will work with AT&T and T-Mobile to start, but Amazon says a future update will give it Verizon and Sprint support.
  • The Alcatel A50 and Alcatel A30 Plus will cost $US100 and $US80, respectively. Both go for $US50 more without the Prime Exclusive modifications. They’re both fairly basic budget-level phones that work on AT&T and T-Mobile, though the latter is said to get an update for Verizon compatibility later this year.

All of these phones have the makings of a good deal for those on a budget, but it’s worth noting that buying a Prime Exclusive phone means putting up with frequent ads for products available on Amazon and a large number of pre-loaded Amazon apps.

Moto E4
Lenovo’s Moto E4 is an impressive phone for its ultra-cheap price. Jeff Dunn/Business Insider

Much like it does with its line of Fire tablets, Amazon treats its Prime Exclusive phones like Trojan horses: The idea is to entice Prime members — who are far more likely to spend money on Amazon — with lower prices, but make that money back, and then some, with customised software that nudges them toward buying more things from Amazon and using Amazon’s services. None of the company’s modifications can be easily removed, either.

If you use Amazon’s stuff frequently, or you just want the cheapest price possible — the $US99 it takes to subscribe to Prime aside — those changes might be worth the discount. Amazon, for what it’s worth, says some of its existing Prime Exclusive phones “have been consistently featured” near the top of its list of best-selling unlocked phones — though it’s worth noting that it does promote the devices heavily on its site.

But if you aren’t all-in on Amazon, each device above is fairly affordable in its own right. Amazon says each Prime Exclusive device will arrive on July 10, with the exception of the Moto E4, which will arrive on June 30.

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