Review: LG Optimus V for Virgin Mobile


optimus

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!

LATEST UPDATES
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.

Other Specs:

  • Android 2.2™ Operating System
  • 600 MHz Processor
  • Video and 3MP camera with no flash (see a few sample shots here)
  • Speakerphone
  • Bluetooth®
  • MP3
  • Speech To Text
  • SCVNGR
  • Where®
  • Text Messaging
  • Picture Messaging
  • Ringback Tones
  • Email and Instant Messaging
  • Ringtones
  • Games
  • Graphics
  • 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.

Conclusion

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).

*Prices current as of August 8/16/11
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37 thoughts on “Review: LG Optimus V for Virgin Mobile

    • I may post one later. I keep learning new things about this phone so this post keeps getting updates anyhow :)

      The Optimus is definitely worth the money in my opinion. The only real setback is the battery life but as I said, that’s pretty much the norm with devices like this. Very happy with it otherwise.

      Like

  1. Regarding no charges on Google Voice, I’m confused when you say you save minutes by using Google Voice. I thought GV rang your cell and minutes get deducted.

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  2. So, when you’re using the Google Voice app to call out, your minutes get deducted? Then what’s the point of using it?

    What about receiving calls? Same?

    I thought since Google Voice is online, you only use your 3G… was really looking forward to Virgin Mobile + Google Voice.

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    • That was my impression as well. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I guess we can’t have it all…

      Minutes get deducted when you call out or receive calls through Google Voice. However, I still use my Google Voice number for forwarding to my mobile. Should I change carriers or whatever, I can just have the calls forwarded to my new (or home) number without having to send out notices to everybody. In that respect, it works well.

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  3. Can I ask the specific step you went through to install Skype? I have the exact same phone, and trying to install skype is making me want to pull my hair out

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    • What kind of difficulty are you having? I’m not exactly Tech Support but I’ll see what I can find out.

      All I did was download the app from the Marketplace, install it, enter my existing user info and I was good to go. Haven’t had any issues.

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  4. Thanks for all of the information you posted about the Optimus V. I’m interested in seeing the video you posted, but youtube is saying it’s a private video. Can you open it up for us to see?

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    • Thanks, Mike! And thanks for making me aware of the video. I generally mark all my videos as Private while uploading so that I can tweak the info, tags, etc. later. I apparently forgot to make this one Public but it should be good to go now.

      Thanks again :)

      Like

  5. actually you can get all your facebook my space yahoo gmail or any othe mail you want synced together so it alerts you of any mail in ether

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  6. Hi,

    I bought this phone less than a month ago and I’m very happy about it. Whenever there is a new text, I get a chime and a smilie at the top the screen. May be you need to set it up….

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    • I do have the alert show up whenever I get a text but what I meant was that, even in screen timeout, the screen on any previous phone I had would turn on or at least have an LED light up to let me know.

      Short of manually checking by pressing a button every few minutes, there is no way for you to know you got an alert if it is in Silent Mode and the screen is timed-out. So I guess the issue is if the phone is in Silent Mode. Otherwise, I do get audio alerts or a vibe on all alerts.

      Still, digging this phone.

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  7. There is now a 10.00 extra charge for smartphones with Virgin Mobile. My 40.00 dollor plan is now a 50.00 plan. I just bought my Optimus V and HAD to add the 10.00. Sadly, they are having some issues at this time and some of us are not able to get a data connection of any sort. Right now they are having me “wait” and see if it comes back in a day or so. If not, they will THEN start a ticket. That and my phone after a full charge over nite is drained by 6 in the evening WITHOUT doing anything but making a couple of 3 minute calls, has me wondering if this was such a good purchase. I should’nt have to go in and find out what things are running, what they are, and if I can do without them, but I guess that is the option. I mean seriously, coming out of the box stock, I wouldn’t even be able to use it for voice alone let alone any of the cool stuff without the battery being dead in half a day. But yes, I will find out what is runnig and shut some of it off. What kind of issues will that bring too? I’ll tinker with it. Not a problem right now anyway with no data service. lol

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    • Really? I haven’t been billed any additional fees nor was I contacted about the price increase which I think would be a legal requirement. I will have to wait and see. It would be pretty disappointing if that’s the case — $20 extra per month would not be good for my wallet.

      I’ve had no problems connecting today but I’ll agree with you on the battery life. I have the luxury (if you can call if that) of being at a desk job all day so I can charge it as needed.

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    • Sorry Chuck, but I don’t know what you did to incur such fees. Virgin Mobile confirms it with this e-mail (correct as of the date of this reply):

      Plans [Incident: 110403-001541]: Let me confirm you that the only phone model that needs to have the $10 add on is the BlackBerry Curve since it has other features like the BlackBerry messenger and MyApp and it is required for the customers to pay the extra $10 in order to be able to use the full service. On the other phones it is the same price ($25, $40, $60).”

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  8. Why pay an extra $10/month to tether when you can already to it for free? We are too poor to afford internet right now so we tether. Websites load rather quick. Only issue is downloading torrents and long youtube videos.

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  9. Great post! Glad to know someone takes the time out! heheheh
    Any idea on how we can check talk minutes? They say hold the “Up” button… but in case no one noticed that on the LG Optimus.. Its hard to find.. Still havent found it.

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    • Thanks!

      Honestly, I just check them through their site on my PC. Just makes it easier :) I haven’t found a shortcut to do it on the Optimus. On my old phone, as you mentioned, all you had to do was hold the UP key and there it was. On this one, there’s the My Account button which just leads to the site and log-in is required. Not only that, the phone can barely handle it. Pretty dumb if you ask me.

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  10. So your using skype to dodge minute usage? Nice! so does that only work for calls or also when using video chat while wifi connected to pc/laptop?

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    • Definitely use Skype while at home but I do pay them $3/mo. to dial any number within the US. Haven’t tried it with video chat, though.

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    • I use Skype to not use my A/T minutes. I can use it with either wifi or 3g – both work and neither counts on my airtime minutes. From what I understand, you can’t use video chat onthe Optimus. It’s a great way to keep your cell phone bill low though!

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    • Just gave it a try and so far it hasn’t counted against my minutes. I tried it once before and, from what I saw, it did but I could have been wrong. But I do pay $3/mo. for Skype to call other numbers so that may or may not have something to do with it. I’ll check again later, and thanks for the comment! You’re my first Facebook person to leave one :)

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    • I use Ringmaker. Pretty easy to edit and assign music files as ringtones, alerts, notifications, etc. Actually, I’ve tried several apps and they all seem to function pretty much the same.

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    • Not exactly sure; all I need is for it to work and it does :) But I did find an app you might be interested in called Vibrate Tools. Check it out: http://bit.ly/nJ752s

      I tried it and it’s not too bad. You can create your own vibrate patterns so this might be what you are looking for.

      Like

  11. Not sure if this was corrected but in “other specs” its 32gb sd card i believe, not 16.
    Sorry to be picky but just thought i should put that out there.

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  12. After reading your review, I’m extremely glad that I placed an order for this phone. I was very skeptical since it is my first Android phone or touchscreen smartphone ever. The thing that surprised me the most was the amazing video quality in your sample video. It’s like a Flip camera almost and great color! So no need for me to go out and buy a separate device just for YouTube uploads. I’d like to ask though; what are some great customization apps you recommend? I was told that Launcher Pro can give the Gingerbread launcher and make the phone run a billion times faster. I’ve been on the hunt lately for recommended apps; you should post a list sometime. By the way, if you have Google+, I’d be sure to get the Google+ app. It’s great and you can do Huddles (Group texting) from within the app according to what my friends have told me about it.

    Your review was the best review I’ve found so far, I’m glad I found it. Thank you so much, once again for giving me another reason to realize I just made the smartest decision in my life! Can’t wait to start droiding :)

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    • Hey, thanks so much for the kind comment. I truly appreciate it! Onto some highlights.

      As far as the video goes, you now know why Flip met its demise. There’s almost no need for another device if your phone can already do the job, and this isn’t HD either. Imagine that kind of quality :)

      I never looked into Launcher Pro due to the memory restrictions of the phone. I have it pretty much maxed out the moment and have to choose the apps I want wisely, and most of the ones I have installed now are just what I’m looking for. I did just look it up and it does look nice; I thought it would be much bigger in size. One of the things I’m hesitant about is that if I install it and decide it’s not worth it, I have to go back and reconfigure all of my previous settings. Kind of a hassle.

      I tried Google+ and, aside from it being really large (almost 8MB), I just didn’t like it: layout, overall feel, etc. I haven’t posted there in close to a month and haven’t missed it, so I’ve decided that adding another social network to my life is probably what I don’t need!

      I do have a few games on here but rarely play them, and they are usually the first to go when I need more space.

      Glad you liked the review although it could use some serious updating by now. All I can say is that you will not be disappointed in the phone! When compared to VM’s current Android offerings, the Optimus definitely stands out in terms of price and overall functionality. The TRIUMPH has gotten horrible reviews from what I’ve read.

      And thanks for the idea about app suggestions. I will take it and run — and post a few over the next couple of days. Watch for them!

      Like

  13. This is a very popular post. 34 comments including mine. I am wondering now, does using skype to dial out eat up your minutes? I haven’t tried it and I only have the free skype on my laptop. I used to have a skype out number but replaced it with magicjack because it was cheaper.

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    • Yeah, it’s still one of my most popular ones ever, something I never anticipated.

      At one point I could have sworn Skype was using my minutes but I may have been wrong. Google Voice was because it was dialing out using a phone number. We switched back to Skype for use at home via WiFi and are paying the $3/mo for service, even if we rarely use the home phone. Just saves us minutes.

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    • When you install Skype on the Optimus, it will ask you if you would like to use Skype or the standard calling whenever you dial a number provided you have signed up for one of their plans that allow you to call regular numbers (I use the $3/mo. plan). The phone will also do this if you have the Google Voice app installed, and your option call be defaulted when you make your choice or later in the phone’s settings. Calling Skype-to-Skype remains free.

      As far as a new phone goes, I’m pretty sure that most all current smartphones will run Skype. I even have it on my iPod.

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