UPDATE 4/7/11: Information about the supposed “data plan fees” has been posted.
First of all, I would like to thank everybody for the comments on my first post about this phone. It’s been great getting some feedback and inquiries on this amazing device.
Second, another big “thank you” to those of you who have used my Kickbacks Code (dJWQc09H) to score me some additional minutes! Thanks to you (and the many I’ve convinced to make the switch), I’m nearing my annual $230 limit and I haven’t used a single paid minute since March 5, 2011 since it seems that the bonus minutes rollover into the next month. I still have 98 remaining and with the way I talk, that could last me a while. But since I’m still paying my $25/mo., they are not really “bonus” minutes if you think about it
Anyway, onto the update that includes some of the features I’ve been messing with lately.
Music Player: I’ve only used this a few times and on one occasion, I was unable to receive text messages. My wife even called me later to ask me if I was okay since I wasn’t responding to her messages. Maybe I was just caught up in the podcasts I was listening to at the moment and I did have it on vibrate, so there’s a chance that it was just my ignorance showing on this one. Either way, I never intended to use this as a music player other than loading some MP3 files on the microSD card to use as ringtones.
Built-In Memory is Lacking: If you start loading up your phone with apps, chances are you will start to get the “Low Phone Memory” status message at the top of the screen. The Optimus V is packed with 512MB of RAM to run them and sure, it sounds like more than enough to run what you have but you will really be surprised at how soon those resources are used up. Even if you move some apps to the microSD card, there’s a chance you will still get the message. Sadly, I’ve had to uninstall a lot of apps – even those not too graphically intense – in favor of ones I really wanted or needed. I suppose clearing out the phone’s cache could help; I’ve only deleted long text conversations. Also, apps running in the background will eat up a lot of RAM.
Amazon App Store: I was referred to the app store by a friend of mine and I’ve been grabbing apps there since. What’s great about it is that they offer one normally paid app for free every day which a great way to try out some apps you’ve been curious about and if you don’t like it, delete it. Since using the app store, I have downloaded a few free games including Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons. One other app is so good it requires its own section, so here it is.
SwiftKey: As you might have read in the first review, I have a love-hate relationship with Swype, a text input option that comes with the phone. I tolerated its faults since I didn’t care much for the Android system keyboard’s suggestions or overall functionality. So when SwiftKey was the Amazon App of the Day about a week ago, I thought I’d give it a try and I have to say that this blows the aforementioned keyboards away. Predictive text is much more accurate, and it will also remember some of your more commonly used words and as you type, they will pop up. I’ve sent text messages only typing one letter then pressing the space bar, an option that will choose the middle suggested word. It makes typing much easier and enjoyable and even if you have to pay for it, it’s worth every penny.
Battery Life: While battery life continues to be a concern, I came across an app that has definitely extended its life: Juice Defender. JD offer several levels of energy-saving options from Default to Advanced. So far, I’ve only dabbled with Default and saw a notable increase in battery life since it will disable your mobile data until you decide to turn it on (and a widget can be placed on your Home Screen should you need to use data a moment’s notice). Juice Defender also acts as an app killer to keep your phone’s memory in line, making it run a bit smoother – although I’ve still gotten the low memory warning after installing JD. Either way, it’s a nifty app that is worth a look.
Endomondo: While not a fitness nut, I do take pride in the fact that I remain active and lost 100 pounds over the course of several years. That said, my love of fitness and all things geeky or gadgety gives me a reason to mention Endomondo. I won’t say much about it here; just go to my weight loss blog and check out my review over there.
Google Maps Navigation: A GPS unit was about the last thing I had ever intended to use my for. It just didn’t seem like the right thing to do when you already have a GPS unit on your dash, you know? Why make things more complicated? That was how I thought before I actually tried the phone’s navigation system and wow, to say that I’m impressed is an understatement. In fact, I’ve since replaced my Magellan unit with my phone. In the few days I’ve been using it, navigation has worked amazingly well which is a good thing when I was delivering pizzas for a friend’s restaurant in an area I’m not entirely familiar with. I have, however, encountered a few flaws. If you are using voice input for your destination and the street name is a different language or uncommon, it may not recognize it. For example, the street “Bouquet” returned as “book ok” and it also has problems with to/two and the like. Granted this only happened a few times but it can be frustrating so if you want to avoid this mess, just type it in. When data is enabled, you get voice prompts with also tell you which side of the street you destination is on. Also, when you arrive, it will show you a Street View of the destination which I thought was an interesting touch.
Additional $10 Monthly Data Fee: In the Comments section of the original review post, one reader posted that Virgin Mobile has charged him an additional $10/mo. for data on his Optimus. I’m not really sure what to say about this because my bill remains at $25/mo. I have contacted Virgin Mobile and will post their response when I get it but as of now, aside from their Blackberry phones, I know of no additional fees for data plans on any other Virgin Mobile smartphones.
UPDATE 4/7/11: We can officially put the rumors about the data plan fees for this phone to rest. Here is the reply I got today (at least the only part that really matters):
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).
So there you go, guys and gals
Tethering: It is possible with this phone and a certain app but be warned that this could be a violation of Virgin Mobile’s TOS and lead to cancellation of your service. If you really must know, here’s a video on how to do it.
Cheap Car Charger: If you are lucky enough to have a Dollar Tree store in your area, check them out. I bought a USB cable that fits the phone as well as a dual-outlet USB charger that plugs into you car’s cigarette lighter (or power) port. They work great and I can’t complain about the $2 I spent on them.
Price Increase: Finally, to wrap things up, the Optimus V has seen a $50 hike in MSRP, making it $199.99 (as of this post) as opposed to its initial offering of $149.99. My guess is that all involved saw how much the phone was in demand and decided to make a few more bucks on their end. I’m just glad I bought mine when I did.
UPDATE 10/17/11: Price has been reduced to $129.99.
All in all, I’m still getting a tremendous amount of use out of this phone and don’t regret buying it for a minute. In fact, I was in Target the other day and saw someone buying one. As a happy owner, I had to walk up to them and tell them what a great phone it is and showed them a few features as they paid for it. I know, perhaps I’m going a bit too far but this phone, while not entirely perfect, is definitely one of the best out there at the moment.
Of course, paying a mere $25/mo. for service probably has a lot to do with that assessment, too