As regular readers (or Twitter followers) know, I’ve been quite strongly dissatisfied for some time with my smartphone, a first-generation Palm Pre. While I do like WebOS, the hardware for this first incarnation of the Pre is, well, truly awful, while development of apps for WebOS leaves a great deal to be desired. This week, the screen for the phone started to malfunction, and required jiggling the USB port to get it to stay functional.
Fortunately, I’ve also been trying to think of ways to reduce my phone bill. While I’ve been on Sprint’s 450 “anytime minutes” plus unlimited data plan for $70 a month, any future phone purchase would see a $10 rate hike (to make Sprint’s 3G phone plan rates match 4G phone plan rates). I’m also “only” paying *this* much due to being a city employee; if/when I leave city employment, I’d presumably lose the 15% discount.
After some research, I found that prepaid phone company Virgin Mobile offers a few smartphones, including the LG Optimus V. The Optimus V is a Virgin Mobile-branded version of the LG Optimus One, an entry-level Android phone sold globally under various names by LG. The Optimus One’s offspring have received positive reviews on various tech sites. The Optimus V costs $200, and comes with a charger and the usual manuals. The phone comes with a reasonably stock Android 2.2 installation (plus a few Virgin Mobile-branded apps). Aside from the VM apps, the VM logo on the front of the phone, and the order of a few front buttons swapped (for some reason), the phone is an exact duplicate of the Optimus S offered by Sprint, who also own Virgin Mobile.
While I’ve only been using the phone for a short while, it’s been quite nice to use. The processor is a 600 MHZ CPU running Android 2.2; not the highest end phone, as I noted above, but so far there’s been no problem with any of my usual smartphone activities. The phone also has access to the Android Market, which greatly expands its abilities. The phone’s body (particularly the back) is mostly made of a rubberized material, which helps make it feel less cheap than my old Palm Pre. There’s also no physical keyboard, which means my getting used to typing on a virtual one.
What makes Virgin Mobile appealing as a service are the pricing plans: 300 voice minutes plus unlimited data for $25/month; 1200 minutes plus unlimited data for $40/month; or unlimited minutes and data for $60/month. I chose the $25/month plan, which, even with the costs of the phone and accessories (screen shield, early termination fee for Sprint, etc.) factored in, will cut my phone expenses in half. Since VM uses the same network as Sprint, voice quality and data worked the same as before. The main tradeoff is that Virgin Mobile doesn’t offer roaming, which for me shouldn’t be an issue.
Between this phone and my rooted Nook Color, I might consider dedicating some of these “Tech thoughts” posts to writing about my favorite Android programs. As for WebOS, I wish HP the best of luck reviving its fortunes.