I’ve had time to really settle in with my new phone and provider now, so I thought I’d let you all know how things are going. Long story short: so far so good. Just a note: this is a follow-up to my article here.
The Optimus V is not the fastest smartphone I’ve ever used (given, I’ve only ever used iPhones). I do find myself having to reboot it more often than the iPhone 3GS, but never more than once a week or so. It has frozen a couple of times and I’ve had to remove the battery. That’s annoying.
Angry Birds doesn’t run very well on it. I think it has something to do with the processing necessary for the physics engine. I read about a version of Angry Birds (Lite) that was supposed to make the game run faster on less powerful handsets, but all I’ve been able to find is an out-of-date beta that crashes on the first screen. All the other games I’ve tried on it worked just fine, including Zenonia 2.
I find it kind of funny that LG has a model of the Optimus on just about every major and minor carrier, and every carrier seems to have a different price for it. So far Virgin’s $199 and below is the cheapest non-contract price I’ve seen, so I’m feeling pretty good about the investment.
For the most part, all my dealings with Virgin Mobile have been automated through their website. There was a bit of a blip the first time my auto-bill was supposed to go through which made me have to actually call a human being, but the one I talked to was pleasant and helpful. We’ll see after my next billing cycle if the problem was fixed.
Virgin uses Sprint, so coverage is exactly the same as the Cricket phone I had. Over the past month I haven’t run into any places where I had no voice service, but data has been all over the place. Sometimes I have five bars and only 1X data, other times I have 1 bar and 3G data.
My phone seems to have issues moving between Wifi and 3G data sources. Sometimes I have to put the phone into airplane mode to essentially wake it up that it’s changed data methods.
Speaking of data, I haven’t yet run into the soft cap of 5.5 GB that someone mentioned in my last rant. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time, since I tend to stream Pandora 8 hours a day. When it happens, I’ll be sure and report on how Virgin handles it.
If I may get on my soapbox for a moment, I think it’s pathetic and dishonest how so many cell phone carriers claim they just “don’t have the bandwidth” to support truly unlimited data. I’m talking to you, AT&T and Verizon. You’re making record profits and instead of paying back your loyal customers by building out your infrastructure to support all their devices, you’re slapping them with a cap and charging 1990s-era data rates.
It angers me to no end when AT&T touts some new mobile device with “blazing fast internet speeds” and then says you can only pull down 4GB a month. What good is it to sell someone a Formula One racer and then tell them they can only drive it 20 miles an hour? There’s no technological reason for data caps, it’s strictly a cash grab. AT&T and Verizon can build out their networks to support unlimited data, they simply won’t.
Okay, stepping down from my soapbox now. So far Virgin Mobile hasn’t throttled me as far as I can tell, nor have I received any nastygrams from them saying I’m “abusing” their network. I sincerely hope this trend continues, but as I’m an admittedly high volume data user, I think it’s just a matter of time before I run afoul of someone.
If I have one complaint about Virgin Mobile (and this is true of just about any carrier who offers “unlimited” service with asterisks after it) I wish they’d just come out and tell the truth. Unlimited up to 5.5GB is not unlimited. It’s service up to 5.5GB. Don’t bury that in your FAQs ten pages deep, and don’t put it in asterisks or fine print. I much prefer a company who’s up front about what I can expect than one who clandestinely monitors my data and has some random employee determine when I’m “abusing” the system. I had that problem with Clearwire, and I’m no longer a customer because of it.
The Optimus V has a relatively plain vanilla version of Android 2.2 “Froyo” (with promises from LG that 2.3 will come soon). I’ve replaced the default home screen with LauncherPro, the default web browser with Dolphin HD, the default messenger with chompSMS, the default Twitter app with TweetDeck, and the Android Marketplace with the Amazon Appstore.
I check the Amazon Appstore regularly for their “Free App of the Day.” I’ve picked up quite a few apps this way, including Angry Birds Rio, Zenonia 2, Chuzzle and Trillian. So far I have yet to spend any money on apps for the Optimus V.
The only time I find myself opening the Android Marketplace is when I either need an update to one of the baked-in apps that Virgin installed and I can’t get rid of, or when I can’t find an older app on Amazon. This second case is becoming more and more rare as the appstore fills out.
The Android version of Pandora is buggy and lacks features the iPhone version has. Shame on you, Pandora. I pay for the ad-free version of your service, so getting the second-tier experience is especially galling to me.
Pandora freezes or crashes to the home screen at least once a week for me, and I can’t keep track of the music I’ve bookmarked on the app itself (which I can do on the iOS version). Also, at random times the app will skip to the next song without any action from me. Fix this. There’s just no excuse for it. It’s not as if Android is a new OS at this point.
UPDATE: In fact, just while I was writing this article my Pandora app has frozen once, randomly paused once, and skipped a track I didn’t tell it to skip. Lovely.
I almost put this in the “Hardware” section, but I think it needs to be addressed by itself. Battery life on most smartphones just plain sucks. The LG Optimus doesn’t buck the trend. Over the past month I’ve tried several scenarios and tried to figure out just the right setting that gives me the most functionality for the longest amount of battery.
The phone has 3 screen brightness settings. The lowest is sufficient for indoors, but in sunlight you pretty much have to go middle or full brightness to see anything. This of course will suck your battery like nobody’s business. My Optimus stays on the lowest brightness most of the time.
Turning off the radios helps a lot. Unless I’m actively trying to figure out a route somewhere in Google Navigation, I keep my GPS radio off. I don’t use Bluetooth all that much, so that stays off too. Whenever possible, I also turn off background data syncing, but this one is kind of hard for me to do with my job. It’s worth mentioning that all these settings can be easily toggled on or off with the Power Control widget from your homescreen, no menus needed.
There’s quite a debate on the various Android forums as to the usefulness of “Task Killer” apps. This was a new concept for me, since the iPhone doesn’t really do multitasking. Once you leave an app, it’s essentially frozen in a save state until you open it again. With a few notable exceptions (iPod, Pandora) most apps on the iPhone can’t run at the same time.
If you take a look at the “Running Applications” section of your Settings menu in Android, you’re likely to find at least half a dozen apps you never remember launching just hanging out resident in memory. The theory in some circles is that these are bad and must be killed.
I’ve played with several task killers. They do what they claim: kill the apps you tell them to. However in most cases the apps will just respawn themselves at seemingly random times, so you spend more time killing apps than using your phone.
The other side of the coin says that all this constant killing and respawning uses more resources (and by extension, more battery power) than just letting the processes go. I’ve gone without task killers for several days and with for several days. In my own unscientific opinion, neither one seems to matter. Smart phone batteries in their current incarnation just suck.
As is usually the case, if I leave my Optimus V in my pocket while I’m running around town and only use it for actual phone things (voice and messaging) the battery lasts me a day, sometimes more. The moment I open up Pandora or surf the web, the percentages drop off quickly.
Provided I don’t have any particularly nasty pushback from Virgin regarding my data usage, I’m pretty happy with the phone and carrier. I started out using their $25 a month plan with 300 minutes and “unlimited” data and texts, but now I’m on the $40 a month that gives me 1200 minutes. For the convenience of not worrying about my minutes, I’m willing to pay the $15 more.
Compared to my wife’s iPhone plan, which costs us $110 a month for 900 minutes and unlimited-only-because-you-bought-it-two-years-ago data, I’m still getting a much better deal. When her contract runs out next spring, we’re seriously considering buying her an Optimus or whatever the equivalent is at that point. We could nearly cut our collective phone bill in half that way.