Motorola Electrify 2.

We’re officially in the thick of the holiday season, and carriers are hoping now is the time you’ll sign away your wireless soul for the next two years for the promise of a shiny new device. But before you head to the mall, take a deep breath and weigh your options closely — just because it’s that time of year doesn’t mean you have to do anything rash.

For U.S. Cellular customers, 2012 just may be the best holiday season so far. Over the past year, the carrier has been steadily adding more high-end devices to its portfolio. If you’re ready to sign a two-year contract, you’ve got plenty of solid choices: The Galaxy Note 2, the Galaxy S3, and the new Motorola Electrify M are all good devices with best-in-class specs. But at $300, $100, and $100 respectively, these three heavyweights might be just a bit too rich for your blood, especially if you’ve got to fill more than a couple stockings this year. But fear not, USC has some budget-friendly options, the best of which being the Motorola Electrify 2.

VPN Deals: Lifetime license for $16, monthly plans at $1 & more

Motorola Electrify 2.Motorola Electrify 2.Motorola Electrify 2.Motorola Electrify 2.

Put the Electrify 2 in a cage match with either of Samsung’s higher-end offerings and Moto’s mid-level smartphone will almost certainly leave with a black eye: The Electrify 2 simply cannot go spec-for-spec with industry-leading devices. But for for the price, it's difficult to argue with the hardware on offer.

And that price is as follows: $99.99 after $50 mail-in rebate in non-4G LTE markets and for $149.99 after $50 mail-in rebate in 4G LTE markets. It's also part of US Cellular's BOGO promotion, so if you buy one, you get a second one for free.

The 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor is more than enough to push Ice Cream Sandwich along smoothly, and the 4.3-inch display pops thanks to Motorola’s ColorBoost technology, despite its outdated qHD resolution. It comes with 8 GB of internal storage, so you may want to utilize that microSD slot, and while its 8 MP camera suffers from Motorola’s notoriously less-than-stellar optics, it manages to produce decent enough shots in nearly all conditions. Battery life here is stellar, too, thanks unfortunately to the lack of LTE connectivity, something that the higher end of U.S. Cellular's portfolio now offers.

What I like most about the Electrify 2, though, is its appearance. Gone are the days of settling for bulky, heavy, and outdated hardware when working with a budget — the Electrify 2 is slim, sleek, and handsome, utilizing the original-generation RAZR’s Kevlar-infused design. In fact, think of this as a sibling of the RAZR — you could get this hardware cheaper on Verizon thanks to Big Red’s aggressive holiday pricing, though you’ll end up spending way more on account of Verizon’s more expensive plans.

There are other options with even lower pricetags, including Samsung’s Axiom, LG’s Splendor, and HTC’s One V, but all are outpaced by the Electrify 2’s superior (and larger) 940 x 560 display and Moto’s now signature near-vanilla Android experience.  For U.S. Cellular customers on a budget this holiday season, the Electrify 2 is the best bang for your buck.