Some seek out names like iPhone and Galaxy to avoid being married to a deficient phone for two years, others are drawn to the flagship smartphones' ability to reinforce their own statuses and others, still, are taking the time to suss out midtier smartphones that meet all their needs. And those in that latter group are searching out value-packed phones in increasing numbers.

Apple has struggled to keep up with demand for the iPhone 6 series, while Samsung still reigns as king of the smartphone market. But thanks to advances in mobile processing power, the lower cost of midtier and low-end phones is enabling consumers to pick up devices that compromise little in the way of features and cost up to a third less than flagship options.

"There's a certain status to carrying an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, as an example, but there are also people who say, 'I want a good, reliable phone, but I'm not willing to spend as much money on that,' " says David Owens, a senior vice president at Sprint.

Market research firm IDC reports roughly a third of smartphones sold during the quarter ending in September were priced at $200 or cheaper. These value-priced phones have pulled the mobile market into a "dramatic shift" in terms of the way services are marketed, according to Brian Haven, senior research analyst for U.S. Mobile Consumer Services at IDC.

"The majority of mobile network operators are embracing nonsubsidized equipment installment plans and early upgrade plans as an alternative to the traditional two-year contract model," says Haven. "Subscribers have responded positively to these new choices, and the market is moving away from device subsidies in the long term."

To compare the value of a prepaid smartphone, let's place Apple's $550 16-GB iPhone 6 alongside the $180 ZTE Warp Sync and the $80 Motorola Moto G. Yes, the iPhone 6 can be subsidized by a two-year contract, but the prepaid phones often benefit from retailer promotions that see their prices slashed for a weekend.

The Warp Sync's display is 5 inches and protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, the Moto G has 4.5-inch display behind Gorilla Glass, and the iPhone has a 4.7-inch display that's covered by Apple's proprietary mix of crystal and glass.

The Warp Sync has 2 GB of RAM and 8 GB of ROM, the Moto G has 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of ROM, and the iPhone 6 has 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of RAM. Warp Sync users can add up to 128 GB of memory to the handset's 8 GB of ROM.

The iPhone 6 has an A8 processor that's believed to have two cores, clocked at 1.4 GHZ. The Warp Sync and Moto G each have a quad-core, 1.2-GHZ processor

The iPhone 6 features an 8-MP iSight camera, which is superior to the 8-MP camera on the Warp Sync in several areas. The Moto G has a 5-MP camera.

Consumers in search of the best the mobile market has to offer will likely be pleased with the features and performance of the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5. But as prepaid phones close the gap, consumers are starting to find they can pay for exactly what they'll need and upgrade whenever they want without penalty.

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