You can use it with virtually any GSM-based carrier around the world. In the U.S., the major GSM carriers are AT&T and T-Mobile. Both have prepaid plans comparable to Cricket and Virgin, so you should see similar savings. Plus, you can change carriers at any time to take advantage of special deals or when traveling overseas.
Verizon and Sprint also offer prepaid Android phones, but most are low-cost mid-range models. You'd be better off with the iPhone.
Either way, a top-of-the-line prepaid smartphone looks like a smart way to go — as long as you're comfortable keeping the phone for a couple of years to make the savings pay off.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit www.komando.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org