Trimming the Budget - Android on the Cheap
LG Optimus V - Virgin Mobile
[As mentioned at the end of the article, you’re wasting your time reading this if Sprint’s coverage is no good in your area]
This doesn’t exactly fall into the category of the “latest and greatest” news, but given our economic situation, domestically and internationally, many people have been forced to cut back their budgets. I was one of those people, and felt this could be of benefit to those of you that are in the same situation, but still love your Android phones.
I have a running joke with my wife. If she says to me “Baby, would it be ok if I went and bought this?”, I’ll simply respond, “Sure, let me go grab some extra cash off the tree in our backyard.” (insert cliché rimshot).
I owned an original Motorola Droid, HTC Incredible, and Droid X, so my experience was typically with the “latest and greatest” (though, crazily, those are now almost obsolete). Though there were great practical benefits to owning these phones, they were by no means a necessity for someone who worked 5 miles from home and was either in office or at home 99% of his time. Because of that, plus my constant hacking, tweaking, etc., they were categorized as toys – and rightly so in my case. Therefore, when it came time to trim our family "money tree", my toy was near the top of the list of things to go. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t justify it – our prepaid “dumb” phones cost us on average $25-30 per month (each) and served their purpose. My “toys” cost around $80-90 per month, and that was on the lowest plan possible with Verizon. Sure, I lost the benefits of a smartphone, but those “benefits” quickly became non-essentials. ( As a side note, it was somewhat liberating and therapeutic to be disconnected from those “benefits” for a time – it helped bring back some perspective on what these devices are truly meant for, and how much they really affect our lives with constant “interruptions” – but that’s a rabbit trail!)
One disclaimer: financially, this made sense in our situation because I was at a point in my contract where I could recoup the early termination fee by selling via Craigslist or Ebay – which is one benefit of owning a later model phone.
So, enough with the boring build up. Longer story short, I found a perfect solution for us. Virgin Mobile recently released the LG Optimus V for $150. This is the same phone as the Optimus S on Sprint, Optimus T on T-Mobile, etc. It comes with Android 2.2, and LG has claimed they will update their entire line of Optimus phones to 2.3 (no schedule announced yet). Here are some other points of interest:
- Android 2.2 – besides the Nexus series, this is the most “vanilla” Android phone I’ve seen since the original Droid. Yes, there are a few “bloat” apps, but no UI overlay or anything along those lines – it’s quite nice.
- No Flash – yes, that’s right, no official support for Flash 10+, despite 2.2. I’m guessing it’s a processor limitation. However, I’ve seen Youtube videos of Flash running just fine (likely rooted)
- 600 mhz Qualcomm MSM7627 (I’ve read it’s overclockable to 800mhz+, but haven’t even gotten into rooting it yet, and being a lower end phone, I don’t even know if I’d risk it)
- 512mb RAM – this is huge and plays a large part in helping this phone “feel” very smooth
- 2gb micro-SD comes standard
- 140mb internal memory
- CDMA (Virgin uses Sprint’s network – more below)
- 3.2 megapixel camera – no flash
- 3.2 inch display, 480x320 resolution (same as the iPhone 3Gs)
- Dimensions: 4.47" (h) x 2.32" (W) x 0.52" (D)
- Weight: 4.60 oz – the phone feels very solid, and has good ergonomics in my hand and pocket
- Wifi hotspot, without root (more below, likely to change)
- Voice quality/volume is solid in my area – not as good as the Droid X was, but still good.
There are some obvious drawbacks here, or rather, “left behind” specs – internal memory (though the micro-SD slot helps), 600 mhz processor, screen resolution, camera specs, lack of Flash support – those are the most obvious to me. However, we have to remember the category of this phone. And, so far, the 600mhz has not felt bad at all, especially when combined with the 512mb of ram. I, personally, don’t care much about resolution and the camera, as long as it runs well. And, again this is just me, I’ve never seen a benefit for flash or even needed it on any of my previous phones. Others do, but I never did – especially with the Youtube app. So I didn’t even notice this one until I had the phone for a few days. I can also tell you both from experience and from reading/watching online, this phone runs a heck of a lot better than the other Virgin Android phone, the Samsung Intercept, with its 800mhz processor. It also, easily, runs as good as my original Droid.
With regard to the Wifi hotspot “exploit”… currently, if you download an app such as Quick Settings, you can turn on the Wifi hotspot without rooting your phone. I’m sure this will be fixed in a future update, but it’s kind of handy to have for now, if you ever need it.
My favorite part of this phone? It’s a very vanilla Android experience that runs really well. Yes there are shortcomings, but given that it’s actually cheaper (albeit slightly) than our average monthly cost on our prepaid “dumb” phones, it’s worth every penny, and then some. And that brings me to the last part of the equation – Virgin Mobile’s service.
Virgin uses Sprint’s network. Let’s face it – Sprint is no Verizon when it comes to coverage and quality (from my experience). But if Sprint is good in your area, then Virgin will likely be good as well. Fortunately for us, pretty much every cellphone carrier is solid in the DFW area. Virgin’s plans start at $25/month for 300 minutes and unlimited data/text, $40/month for 1200 minutes and unlimited data/text, and $60 for unlimited everything. We’re on the $25 plan as my wife and I rarely go over 300 minutes, each, per month. Since we’re not big travelers, and every major carrier is good in the DFW area, it’s a win-win… for us. If Sprint’s coverage is no good in your area, then obviously this whole article is probably a waste of time. (maybe I should add that note to the top instead of at the end!)
So in summary, to anybody that needs to seriously trim their “money tree”, has decent Sprint coverage, and still wants a solid Android experience – I highly recommend checking out the LG Optimus V on Virgin Mobile.
02-14-2011 02:20 PM
Last week I jumped from Verizon to Virgin Mobile. The Optimus V is a really nice entry-level Android phone. I'm now limited to the Sprint network, but I'm paying less than half as much for 3 phones and getting a lot more for my money.
I used to live in DFW (Plano and Murphy) and was with Cingular then, but I now live in rural Southern Illinois. AT&T coverage here is terrible. I was with Verizon for almost 6 years, but like you, I needed to trim some expenses from the budget. In the places I usually am (home, work, etc.), I still get about the same signal with the Sprint network as I did with Verizon, and better in some places. While it's true that Verizon 3G coverage nearly blankets even rural areas here, I'm satisfied that Virgin Mobile is still a very good deal for me.