Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Contract-Free on Virgin Mobile



It’s been a little over a month now since I canceled all my T-Mobile contracts, and made the drastic switch to Virgin Mobile. I posted back in April about the Virgin Mobile plans and the phone I had purchased: the LG Optimus V. That being said, I won’t waste your time about the nitty-gritty of the plans and phones, but I would like to share my experience with the service, support and LG Optimus thus far.

Lets start with the phone. The LG Optimus V is considered a mid-range Android device with the basics to get the average user through their day. Reading the reviews online, I decided on this phone after I saw it received a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Virgin Mobile website (compared to the Samsung Intercept which had a 3.1 out of 5). Now, it’s up to 4.7 stars with over 1,100 reviews from users. It was a great choice as far as I’m concerned. In terms of performance, the phone is almost equivalent to the MyTouch 3G Slide I had with T-Mobile.

The phone is fast, and hasn’t slowed down since I got it, even though it runs on a 600mhz processor (average phones are coming out with 1ghz now). The screen has been responsive, but occasionally doesn’t like to swipe from panel to panel when unlocked. It usually kicks back on and works fine after a few trys.

My two biggest complaints are app memory and the camera. The apps only have 140mb of space, and even though you can move apps to the SD card to save space, not all of them allow it. So the space gets pretty full, and especially when I’m browsing the web a lot. My suggestion: clear out the app cache weekly by going to Settings > Applications > Manage Applications and clicking on the BIGGEST apps, then clearing their cache. You can sort by size to see which ones are the hogs. Also, download the Dolphin Browser app to replace the standard web browser on the phone. This app has a nice feature that puts all the downloaded cache from browsing, on your SD card.

The camera is kind of weak. It’s a 3.2 megapixel, which could be good. My Galaxy Tab has a 3.2MP camera and takes great photos, they just can’t be sized up too much. The LG Optimus camera however, takes grainy photos, and the focus isn’t amazing. Some people complain about the lack of a flash on it too, but I personally hate hard flashes on cameras. They tend to destroy the photos.

Now lets talk about Virgin Mobile. So far, 3G service in the Phoenix Metro area has been good. Not great, just good. Because it’s technically the Sprint 3G network Virgin Mobile runs off of, the speed is surprisingly fast. However, it has some dead spots that I’ve noticed are quite annoying. T-Mobile had its dead spots too, but they were understandable (i.e. the mountain preserve, art museum theater, spots in the North Valley). Virgin Mobile seems to lose service in random retail stores and spots across the city. A big problem with the service is it’ll say I have 3G service, but no data will send or recieve. I either have to leave the location or restart the phone and it’ll pick up the signal again. It happens a lot in Tempe (for those familiar with The Valley).

As horrible as I’m making the 3G service seem right now, all in all, it’s not that bad. It’s actually pretty good. And for $40 a month, I’m not going to complain too much. Plus, if you’re like me, you’re always around wifi signals, and a simple solution to spotty 3G service is connecting to your wifi connections. I should also mention, calling still works during these mysterious data losses.

Overall, Virgin Mobile is a pretty good service when combined with the LG Optimus. I’ve looked on their facebook to see if they have the support of their users like T-Mobile does, but...well, if you just look at the comments on any of their posts, you’ll see there’s not a lot of love for VM. I’m thinking this is simply because those complaining are not in an urban area, and just failed to check the service before they bought the phone.

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