Yeah, they basically give them away in hopes you will use their service. I just checked, and there’s a newer upgraded ZTE for $14.95.
They aren’t bad phones if all you want to do is make phone calls, and txt message. In the US, all phones are required to be able to make emergency calls to 911 whether or not you subscribe to a cell service. So these cheap phones are good for emergency use as well
Not sure how good those meters below $50 will work, but here's what I've been using (about $180).
I've been using a Reed Instruments SD-1128SD (Amazon link) for all my runtime graphs. You can view my runtime graphs by clicking on my J5 or SC700d reviews in my signature. It meets all your requirements (except price) - although it has an RS232 connector for hooking up to a computer and would require a USB/RS232 adapter (I've never used or needed that function). Runtime data is copied to an SD card that you simply pull out and plug into your computer for the basic Excel file. Uses six AA batteries, which I've found gives about 3-4 days of runtime on Eneloops, but I also use the optional wall adapter for long tests.
If you order one of those Aliexpress meters, I would like to know how well they work.
This might be a good option, except for the price ;) But I might just get it... the smartphone is hopeless.
Tonight another problem. After waiting 3 hours, I noticed the Ceilingbounce app already stopped after 2 hours :(
My phone probably just turned the app off or something, but this is annoying. I need to log longer runtimes as well.
I have had the same issue with the Android app I use, but it’s just a quick trip over to the Doze settings (or your OEM equivalent) to make sure it doesn’t happen.
App info > Battery > Battery optimisation on stock Android Q.
Finally got myself a second hand Extech HD450 for my runtime graphs. It's not perfect at all, but it will do the job..... I hope..
We'll see how cumbersome this is. It uses a USB Mini (not micro) to connect to a PC. You can either use it as a standalone meter, or connected the the PC. I tried it, connected to the PC, and it seems to be doing the job.... except for the data output.. it adds timestaps like: 2019-09-25 22:10:05. so need to figure out how to make that into clear data... starting from 0 minutes. Instead of the hours of the day.
How about the UI/UX? ughhhh the buttons you have to push and the settings you have to set.. just don't make sense at all.... so completely useless. I prefered having a few extra buttons just to manage these things. A clear Start recording and Stop recording would have helped as well. Can't understand these companies make so horrible UIs.
Sorry, I meant a light sensor. I also used the Light Meter app with my phone, but needed it to receive calls and messages. A second phone would be as expensive as a second hand /new lux data logger, but with extended battery life.
I could never figure that out either. So . . . . .
In my Reed Instruments, I always zero the hours/minutes/seconds just before I start a runtime graph. I have to do this every time I do a runtime, but it only takes seconds once you figure it out. Excel then accepts this as starting at 12:00am.
The Benetech GM1020 is ok if you master installing the driver (the device apparently uses a fake FTDI chip and needs an old driver) and upload the settings (doing this the first time is tricky). Beware: Windows 10 eliminates your driver in more recent versions, so it has to be reinstalled from time to time. And it’s getting harder each time.
Last time I did this I had to deinstall the Win driver and install the old driver before Windows could find the new, non-working one. Disconnecting from the net might work, too.
I can help if anyone wants to take this route. The GM1020 is the only budget meter able to store that many data points.
Note that the Reed Instruments does NOT have to be tethered to a computer. It has a memory card slot - that I remove when done with runtime tests. It also has an optional external power supply that can keep the data logging going for days if necessary (see sample below). I don't think the Extech has either. I wonder how long the Extech can run on one 9V battery? The Reed Instruments uses six AA's.