Virgin Mobile Galaxy S3

Some background…I have been a Virgin Mobile customer for almost 2 years…. I picked up two Motorola Triumph’s (one for my wife and one for me) when they came out and signed them up for the $25/month plan, which gave me 300 minutes of voice, unlimited text, and theoretically unlimited data.

I crunched the numbers, figuring I would get 2 years out of the phone, making my monthly cost a little less that $35 each for a bone fide smart phone with a decent size screen (for 2 years ago) Not too bad for what I consider to mostly just be a toy, and significantly less than what the other providers had at the time. I’ve been fairly satisfied that I am getting what I am paying for (not a lot) so I really can’t complain that the voice quality is bad…especially in my house, and that the connection speed is pretty slow…sometimes painfully slow. The phone itself gets the job done, but compared to some other phones I have had a chance to play with, it is kind of primitive. My primary complaint is the keyboard. After 2 years….I still can barely type out a text without misspelling half of the words, and it’s not like I have fat fingers or anything….just dainty/clean accountant fingers. Also, battery life is abysmal, even after getting a new battery, and half the time, a fully charged phone will be completely dead by morning (but sometimes completely full). Finally, on my phone, it thinks that it has headphones hooked up to it 24/7….thus disabling the speakers…for everything..music, calls ect…

So, I decided it was time to get new phones…..just one problem. VM had a price increase on my plan from $25 to $35 and upgrading new phone cancels the grandfathered plan and bumps you up to the higher rate. So I was looking at $120 per year x 2 phones extra, not even counting the cost of a new phone. Doh!! So I put it off as long as I could, but with my phone near death, and the recent release of the Galaxy S3 on VM, I decided to stick my toe in the water. I purchased one S3 about a week ago for my wife, and switched her Triumph to my number.

Here are my first thoughts….the $400 S3, compared to the Triumph is an amazing device. The camera takes good pictures, on demand…no 5-10 second wait between. Also…it automatically uploads pics to my amazon cloud drive, so no worries about backups or sharing. The keyboard is a 10X improvement over the triumph….I played with it for a little bit and felt like I could write an essay on the thing….it was extremely precise. Other than that, it was fast, battery life is great, no issues on the device.

That said….I expected a huge increase in my connection performance, but I actually think it has declined. The Triumph runs off of the 3G network, my understanding is that the S3 would have the ability to run on either the 4G Wimax or the 4GLTE network. According to the VM coverage map, my home should have good coverage for both. WRONG!! In my home, the phone occasionally has no connection at all. Now, it’s on wifi, so it is primarily being used for text at the house….but it is extremely annoying when texts are not received or sent out timely because this is one of our primary communication channels during the day when I am at work and my wife is at home. An OMW isn’t that helpful if it is received after I actually get home, and it doesn’t help to get an item added to my grocery list when I am already  loading up the car.

But it’s not just inside the house….nowhere in my neighborhood have I observed the phone connecting to 4G. It will connect to 4G a few miles away, but the coverage map clearly shows 4GLTE for about a 10 mile radius around my house. A few nights ago, late at night after watching The Lone Ranger, I did a speed test on my two phones. The S3 on 4G clocked 250kb download speeds compared to the Triumph’s 200kb. Both are good enough to download a website in a few seconds, but nothing fast about either one. I’m not going to cry about it, but have decided to just hold onto my crappy 3G triumph until it dies.

Bottom line…the S3 is a huge improvement over the Triumph, but at least in my Houston suburb, the VM/Sprint network pretty much (still) sucks. Honestly, I had hoped to post a good review, because even at $35/month, VM is a great deal, and I  think the whole subsidized phone programs run by the big guys are just a huge scam. I honestly think just about everyone who can add and subtract should go prepaid, but at this time, depending on your needs, I can’t say that VM is the provider you should go with.