Just when AT&T and Verizon thought they’d suckered everyone on the planet into paying $100 a month for 24 months to get a functional cellphone with either an iPhone or Android phone, along comes a breath of fresh air. Close your eyes and try to picture Google’s Nexus One paired with a $25 3G cellphone plan with unlimited data, unlimited messaging and 300 minutes a month. Did we mention NO CONTRACT? Flash support? Nope.1 But tethering is possible for talented geeks and nerds as well. For those that don’t spend their whole life yacking on a telephone, this combination hits the sweet spot. It’s especially appealing for both the older generation who need the security of a cellphone but rarely use it and those under 25 that seldom converse other than in sparkling text messages.
With the addition of the free CSipSimple app from the Android Market, you can place SIP calls through your favorite SIP provider or PBX in a Flash server for little or no cost using either a WiFi or 3G data connection. Or you can use the free OBiTalk for Android app in conjunction with a $49 OBi device we previously reviewed to make free Google Voice calls in the U.S. and Canada.
First, the bad news. It’s not a Nexus One. And now the good news. It’s even better. It’s LG’s new $149 Optimus V for Virgin Mobile. Yes, it weighs an ounce more and is perhaps a few millimeters thicker than a Nexus One, but in return you get Android Froyo 2.2. Aside from that, the phones are virtually identical: beautiful screen, quality feel, 3.2 megapixel camera, Facebook, Twitter, full integration of Google Apps including Google Market, Gmail, Google Voice, Maps, Latitude, Voice-Enabled Navigation with GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth (cell phone and audio pairing finally work reliably in Froyo!), and 3G service on Sprint’s rock-solid nationwide network. The phone is rated at 6 hours talk time and 168 hours standby… and it can be rooted in a couple of minutes if you hurry. The phones went on sale this week at Best Buy, Radio Shack, and other Virgin Mobile retailers. But they won’t last long at least without a patch to close the rooting door. So, yes, it is the Perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Stop reading and start calling until you find one. They’re that good, and they’re available on line as well. Best Buy currently has them for $129.99. Be sure to check out the Comments to this article for late-breaking discounts.
Virgin Mobile actually offers three cellphone plans for the Optimus V. All are contract-free! And all include unlimited messaging, email, data and web services. The only difference is in the cellphone minutes per month. $25 a month gets you 300 minutes. $40 gets you 1200 minutes. And $60 gets you unlimited minutes. The signup process only takes a couple of minutes, and you have the option of recurring billing by credit card only if you choose it. Unlike AT&T and Verizon, international calling is downright reasonable. The big cities in Mexico are 2¢ a minute, most of Europe is 25¢ and other countries are all over the map (literally). Pakistan, for example, is 5¢. So there are no gotchas, at least that we could find.
Once the phone is enabled, you’ll want to hurry over to the Android Central Forum which will walk you through rooting the phone using your favorite Windows machine. The only trick is finding the Windows USB drivers for LG phones. HINT: Look here. Once you get Sun’s JRE and the Android SDK installed, SuperOneClick handles the heavy lifting in a few seconds. Once the phone is rooted, you can download SuperUser, TitaniumBackup, and Barnacle WiFi Tethering from the Google Market. The only trick to Barnacle is to choose Skip wpa_supplicant in Settings. Finally, you’ll want to disable over-the-air (OTA) updates so that the provider doesn’t mess up your perfect phone down the road. Here’s how. Renaming the keys file is all that is required, and the easiest way to do it is using Root Explorer (available in the Google Market for a couple bucks) which is money well spent. Happy Valentine’s Day to all. We’ve listed a few of our favorite Android apps below to get your started. Enjoy!
Originally published: Friday, February 11, 2011
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- Incompatible processor precludes Flash. Sorry. [↩]