Virgin, VOIP & the LG
As a follow-up, after a couple of months using the LG Optimus V (on Virgin Mobile) I’d say for the cost, it works as well as can be expected. When you stray too far from the highway 3G and 1X data often disappear completely. Sometimes the 3G radio doesn’t refresh (which apparently is a bug in Android 2.2, but this phone certainly exhibits it) so in a spotty 3G location it takes a few minutes to find the data signal. Again, for $25/month this seems acceptable. A higher end smartphone, or an iPhone, cost closer to $90/month. Depends what you need as an end user, but Z & I find it totally acceptable, especially considering the cost savings and Google integration.
The downside of the $25/month plan is only 300 “anytime” cellular minutes (and no free night/weekend minutes). To get around this I’ve registered my Sipgate One phone number with the Nimbuzz app for Android. When I have a quality wifi connection I disable all cellular radios (Airplane Mode). To make an outgoing call I use the Google Voice Callback app, so I must first answer the call in Nimbuzz (Sipgate has free incoming calls like a landline) and then it connects me to whomever I’m calling. I tried using SipDroid and CSIPsimple, but neither worked consistently. For whatever reason, Sipgate and Nimbuzz work better together.
As far as apps that make the small screen on this phone more usable, I really like the Miren Web Browser over the stock Android Browser. For one, you can easily go in and out of full screen mode. Secondly, it’s easy to turn off images over 3G to improve browsing speeds. For a while I searched high and low for a decent RSS reader app to sync to Google Reader, and finally I realized a better browser would really make the difference, and I was right. Miren using Google Reader’s mobile page is quite usable and is much quicker than any of the other stand alone “readers” I tried. Thirdly, the stock Android Browser didn’t support HTML5 audio and video tags correctly, Miren seems to handle these better and is much quicker than Opera Mobile.
While certainly not Siri on the iPhone 4S, Android’s ‘Speech to Text’ functionality works quite well. I’ve taken to using it for sending short SMS’s and for dictating short emails, especially while walking. The touch keyboard isn’t great, especially on a screen this size. Swype is better for some things but I find the predictive standard 2.2 keyboard to be a little bit faster. Again, I think the dictation engine is clearly the “way forward” but right now on this phone, it can be a little sluggish at times.
I think if you’re willing to accept these limitations this phone is a terrific value. I’m pretty sure the Optimus V can be bought outright for ~$100. Virgin’s $25/month plan increased recently to $35/month and for $45/month you get 1200 minutes (with “unlimited SMS & data”). So again, it’s still significantly less expensive (per annum) than any of the other carriers, but you must be willing to accept potentially sub-optimal cellular coverage and a smallish screen on a slightly underpowered phone. But it works. And I have been quite happy to have unlimited calling on Wifi. So there you go.
Note of full disclosure: I bought my LG Optimus V at retail price using my own funds. I have no stake in LG, Sprint Nextel or Virgin Mobile. This is simply a blog post about a phone.