I’m making this post a Sticky again. Watch for constant UPDATES when I decide to post something new or am corrected on something. Thanks!
2/12/11: Now includes sample video (bottom of post, fixed)
2/14/11: Widgets (below Apps section)
2/15/11: Should you pick one up and you like what I’ve put together here, enter my Kickbacks Code when activating online: dJWQc09H
2/18/11: Special thanks to whomever used my Kickbacks Code! I earned an extra $10 (30 minutes) in airtime, which is used until it is all exhausted. The Plan then switches to your regular Anytime Minutes.
3/1/11: For those of you who had difficulty viewing the video, my apologies. I uploaded it as Private and forgot to switch it to Public. This has been fixed and it should be good to go. (Thanks to reader Mike for the tip!)
3/4/11: I got two $20 Kickbacks (or 120 minutes) today! Thanks for using my code (dJWQc09H)!
3/13/11: Updated the “No Visual Alerts” section to “No Visual Alerts in Silent Mode“ since that is what I have the real issue with.
4/3/11: $50 Price increase! The unit currently has an MSRP of $199.99. I guess Virgin Mobile saw what was going on and decided to make the most of it.
4/15/11: The problem with visual alerts has been solved. Check under “No Visual Alerts in Silent Mode”.
10/17/11: Price has been reduced to $129.99.
I want to start this review by stating that I am not by any means an expert in the area of mobile devices or technology. That said, I do like my gadgets and thought it would be fun to write up a review about my new LG Optimus V (Virgin Mobile) which I picked up at Radio Shack last week for $149.99. This was after visiting two Best Buy and Target stores and having the employees look at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears when I asked if they had them in stock.
I truly find it amazing that when you want to drop $300 on merchandise (since I bought one for myself and for Ann), nobody wants to take it. Strange. Anyway, onto the review.
This is my first smartphone so naturally, I loved it right off the bat when compared to my previous phone: Virgin Mobile’s LG Rumor 2. There wasn’t much wrong with that phone and do plan on keeping it should something happen to this one but I just felt it was time to upgrade. And upgrade I did. Now let’s start off with the good, shall we?
What I Like
Apps: It’s all about apps these days, isn’t it? I have at least 8GB on my iPod touch (mostly games) that I don’t even use regularly, and the other ones don’t do me much good unless I’m within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot which is pretty rare away from home. Now that I have the Optimus V, apps are suddenly useful to me. If someone calls and wants a copy of my resume, I can retrieve it from my Dropbox account and send it while talking to them. Where’s the cheapest gas? Check the Poynt app. Have a quick rant? Audioboo can handle it. I can also check-in at places via foursquare, Facebook, etc. in real-time, not an hour before I get there and should I get tired of the over 8,000 songs I have on my iPod, there’s apps for online radio stations like Pandora and Slacker. I now have a big, fat world of apps to discover—all of them useful. Me likey. Quick Settings is another must-have.
UPDATE 2/14/11: Widgets: Perhaps one of the best things about the Android OS is widgets, which are nifty little gadgets designed to simplify tasks rather than forcing you to navigate through menus which can be tedious. A few that I downloaded include Gauge Battery Widget which shows you the remaining battery life in variety of attractive gauges and optional percentage in numbers, and SilentMode OnOff which lets you toggle between sound/vibe/off functions with a simple touch of the icon. Both are extremely useful and, best of all, free. Some apps, such as Facebook and Yahoo! Sportacular, offer in-app widgets that can be added to your Home or adjoining screens. With widgets, there’s definitely a lot to love.
Wi-Fi: Much like previous Virgin Mobile smartphones, the Optimus V features Wi-Fi capability which is nice to use at home since I am a Verizon FiOS customer. Apps download quicker, pages load faster, etc. Another advantage to using Wi-Fi at home is that I can Skype out with the Skype app and save some of my monthly minutes. And is if that wasn’t enough, I’ve also been using Google Voice to make calls since I’m always connected. That means saving even more of my 300 minutes. I think I may have used 15 minutes since Friday when we bought the phones; all other calls have been on Skype or Google Voice.
UPDATE 2/10/11: I stand corrected on the Google Voice saving minutes. Thanks to a reader Ed’s comment, I went back to check my minutes and yes, Google Voice does indeed deduct minutes from your plan when calling. I was under the impression that I was strictly using 3G for connectivity and didn’t have to rely on a standard phone number when making a call, ala Skype and Wi-Fi. Ah, the things you learn, eh?
Speaking of Skype, I pay the $3/mo. for their unlimited calling within the US.
[Thanks for the clarification, Ed.]
Google Integration: Say, do you have a Google ID? Then you’re in luck because that’s all you need to get all of your information onto this Android: Gmail, Voice, Calendar, YouTube, Contacts, etc. Granted, not all of my contacts were saved in Google so I still had to input many of them the old fashioned way but the good thing is that all of them can be exported to the included 2GB Micro SD card. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Speaking of YouTube, you can also shoot videos with this camera and upload them directly to YouTube via the included app. And being a Google/Android device, it also includes Google Maps Navigation.
Swype: Ah, Swype. How I love and loathe thee. The Optimus V has no keyboard so inputting text is taking some getting used to, even though I’ve had a few iPod touches to practice with for a few years. While Swype definitely makes it easier to input text by, well, swiping your index finger across the virtual keyboard on the screen and pointing at the letters, it’s also not without its flaws. For example, there is no autocorrect (or at least I’ve yet to find it) but it does offer suggestions for words that it might get confused with. It may also pop up some message about a “mystery word” that it has found which can be quite annoying in the middle of a text should one of the word you misspelled is a “mystery word”. But it is fairly accurate and beats ticking away at the phantom keys.
Ringtones: Virgin Mobile has finally given users the opportunity to use their files as ringtones and for that, I am truly grateful. I’ve never paid for one in my life and still refuse to do it to this day. I mean, why should I when I have a collection of songs that I’ve already paid for, songs that I wouldn’t be able to buy as ringtones to begin with? There are also some nifty ringtone editing apps that allow you to save songs as Notifications, Ringtones, Alarms, and a whole lot more. To do it, just drop the files onto your phone’s Micro SD card (which works better with the phone connected via USB rather than removing card) and using an editing app from the Marketplace, edit to your liking.
UPDATE 2/9/11: As of now, I’ve only tried this with MP3 files. Still no luck with WMAs but I just discovered that ACC (iTunes) files will work as well.
So there’s a lot of good about this phone but now…
What I Don’t Like
You knew this was coming, right? Of course you did. While this is an amazingly cool device, I do have some issues with it, which include the following.
Sending Pictures via SMS Can Be Slow: Perhaps it’s my location at work but there have been a few times when I tried to send Ann a picture and all I got was an error message. She has no difficulty sending them to me at work. I always get them so it’s kind of weird. At home, however, pictures send smoothly so take note: I might have a dead spot somewhere but while I could chalk this one up to strictly the location, I had no problems sending pictures with my old dumbphone from work.
Icons Misbehaving: Much like the iPhone/iPod touch, you can drag-and-drop app icons on any number of pages but I’ve run into a problem. Sometimes when I want to drag one from the Home screen onto the Main screen, it will disappear when I drop it into place. It won’t be anywhere or may turn up in one of the many folders I’ve created to organize my mess. Either way, it’s annoying but I think I’ve figured out how to save them: the icon must be dropped on top of another icon. Dropping it in a blank space might make it disappear.
No Visual Alerts in Silent Mode (updated 3/13/11): My biggest beef with this phone is that it offers no visual alerts for incoming text messages in Silent Mode. Sure, it will vibrate (a light vibration, I might add) and even chime but I work in a quite environment and turn off all audible alerts when I’m there. Should Ann send me a text, I will have no idea other than checking the phone manually when I remember to. It also has no LED alert. Big, big fail on this one when you consider my dumbphone did both.
UPDATE 4/19/11: I have solved this problem with the addition of the SMS Popup app which does exactly as its name implies: displays a popup on your screen regardless if it is in Silent Mode. One word of advice: make sure your phone has the lock pattern enabled or you risk hitting the Close, Delete or Reply buttons. It’s sort of the equivalent of “butt-dialing” but with text messaging. And if receiving them is that important to you then you should definitely have the lock enabled. There are others available but SMS Popup does a great job, has positive ratings, and is free.
No One-For-All E-mail and IM App: Well, kind of. Let me explain. Another thing my dumbphone had was an IM + E-mail app that checked Gmail, MSN, Yahoo! and AOL mail accounts. That has changed with this device. Sure, there’s an e-mail app included which is fine for corporate e-mail but in order to retrieve Web-based accounts, you need to pay extra for your provider’s POP3 capability whereas with the dumbphone app, you didn’t. So instead of having them all contained in one, you need to have separate apps–the included Gmail plus grabbing the Yahoo! app from the Marketplace in my case–for each of them which can be a pain in the ass when you want to check them.
Battery Life: This is always a gripe with smartphone owners so I guess it really shouldn’t count as a strike against this one. The thing is that these new devices are more than phones; they are computers running an OS, programs, connecting wirelessly, and doing one Hell of a lot of stuff while sitting in your pocket. All of that takes power, and the Optimus V is no different when it comes to battery life in that, much like my laptop’s battery, I wish it would last a whole lot longer. As a precaution, I always take my charger with me which I can also use in the car with my iPod’s USB plug.
More on Battery Usage (UPDATE 2/9/11): Along with turning on the phone’s Bluetooth and GPS functions, another thing that will drain battery life is the usage of apps which tend to remain open in the background and not only use up the battery but also a lot of the phone’s resources. Additionally, some will open on their own since they require connectivity. For example, that damned eBay app always turns up in the background even when I’m not using it. Fortunately, there’s an called Advanced Task Manager that shows you what’s running and lets you kill whatever you don’t want to be there. It also shows you how much battery life you have left and the memory you save when you kill the apps.
That’s what I’ve observed. Here’s more you might want to know.
Service Pricing Plans
Owning a smartphone means paying ridiculous amounts of money for service, right? Nope. If you are looking to enter the world of smartphones on a budget, you can’t beat the LG Optimus V and Virgin Mobile’s pricing. You buy the phone outright without any silly contracts, then you get to choose from one of Virgin Mobile’s amazingly low pricing plans:
- $35/mo. for 300 minutes*
- $45/mo. for 1200 minutes*
- $55/mo. for unlimited minutes*
All plans include unlimited data so you can text, browse (on Sprint’s 3G network) and check e-mail until the cows come home. That’s insane when you consider most people are paying about $25 or more for their data plan alone. And yes, I’m pretty smug when I bring this up to iPhoners of Blackberriers. More information can be had on the Virgin Mobile Web site.
MSRP: $149.99 (currently $199.99 as of 4/3/11) at any major retailer that might know what you are talking about, but there are barcodes on the bottom of the box for Target, Best Buy and Radio Shack so it’s safe to pick either of those. I’d suggest calling them first since my local Radio Shack was down to their last two. They could be a hot seller and it’s easy to see why.
What’s In the Box: LG Optimus V phone (duh), USB/DC charger, earpiece, 2GB Micro SD card and Instruction Manual.
- Android 2.2™ Operating System
- 600 MHz Processor
- Video and 3MP camera with no flash (see a few sample shots here)
- Speech To Text
- Text Messaging
- Picture Messaging
- Ringback Tones
- Email and Instant Messaging
- Micro SD card slot (32GB max capacity)
The Possible Future?
Before I end this post, I want to throw this out there.
I took a Virgin Mobile survey before I bought this phone and it asked a few interesting questions about possible future offerings, which included:
- Tethering for an additional $10/mo.
- Family Plans
- 4G speeds for an additional $10/mo.
About the only thing I’d be interested in there is the Family Plan but even so, it’s doubtful it will be cheaper than the $50/mo. I’m already paying for my two phone lines. The reason I switched to Virgin Mobile was the price so paying an extra $10/mo. for these features isn’t really that big of a deal to me (but it might be to others). That, and because Verizon was sucking me dry with my plan of 600 minutes and extremely limited data and texting that cost well over $100 for two lines. I cut my bill in half when I switched to Virgin Mobile and can do twice as much for as long as I need. Well, I do take a hit in cutting my minutes in half but I’m not a huge talker on my phone; it’s more for “Yeah, I’ll be right over” and small talk. Texting is how I most of my contacts get in touch with me.
Despite its few shortcomings, I am extremely happy with Virgin Mobile’s LG Optimus V and highly recommend it to anybody. The features, the price, and cost of service are just too good to pass up.
Just a word of warning, though, that Virgin Mobile’s live customer service can really, really drive you insane when you need them. I’m not gonna lie–the flat-out suck. Fortunately, I’ve only had to call maybe twice and the rest has been smooth sailing.
Other than that, this phone is sure to please anybody—especially those on a budget yearning for a little more than a phone that (gasp!) just makes calls.
UPDATE 2/12/11: Here’s a video sample in which I ask my almost 7-year-old son what he thinks an original Atari 2600 VCS does. Shot on the highest setting possible, which was High (30M).