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The Perfect Valentine: $149 Android + $25 Virgin Mobile Plan

LG Optimus VJust 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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  1. Incompatible processor precludes Flash. Sorry. []


  1. Great article, and thanks for laying out how to root this one Ward! Virgin Mobile (Sprint) offers the best value in mobile right now. I put two of our teens on their other Android offering (Samsung Intercept) before the holidays. They aren’t the latest Android powerhouse phones (CPU-wise) but do the job very well.

    V-Mobile uses different gateways to get to Sprint’s data network, and we have found (in rare instances) data access to be lagging compared to the other Sprint phone we have in our household. Not a typical occurrence though. Thanks again for the great article!

  2. Have you tried this with any of the VOIP apps? My samsung suffers from the always use speaker phone bug. Don’t want to buy another phone with the same problem.

    [WM: Tested with CSipSimple (free in Android Market), and both the handset speaker and speakerphone options work as you would expect.]

  3. Looks good, plus I got $50 n free rewards @ Best Buy. I know where I’m going this afternoon!

    Thanks for your reviews & of course everything else you contribute.

  4. Any suggestions for a feature and price equivalent unlocked GSM (preferable AT&T frequencies) Android phone? I’m still humming along with my Nokia E72 but wouldn’t mind SIM-swapping every so often to change things up a bit.

    [WM: We’ve got an original Google-branded Nexus One for sale for half price + shipping. Works perfectly. It’s on the T-Mobile 3G frequencies but we’ve used it with AT&T on Edge for over a year and never noticed the difference.

  5. In the southeast unless you are in a densely populated area or within a mile of the interstate system there is no service. At least that has been my experience. For all ATT’s faults they are the only carrier that I can get service even when I am out in the sticks. Sometimes so far in the sticks it is a 30 minute walk to the nearest road.

    [WM: You’re absolutely right. However, for those of us in more densely populated areas, it’s kinda crazy to pay AT&T over double the rates charged by these new carriers… for less features.]

  6. Thanks for the heads up.. looks pretty sweet, aside from not having any coverage when we go on vacation down in the Outer Banks.

    [WM: Keep driving to Pawleys Island. Works fine here. 😉 ]

  7. Does rooting it, unlock it to use it as i travel with GSM to other countries?

    [WM: This is not a GSM phone. It only works on Virgin Mobile/Sprint 3G network.]

  8. for some reason my comments are not showing up from me posting from my phone..hmm…

    anyhow, is there any trick to get C SipSimple to work with this phone. I mean really all u should need is ip address, username and pass… but it keeps timing out.. just thought I’d see if anyone else has been having this issue as well and figured out what to do…

    btw… I did also try the advance and expery mode as well and tried a more indepth config, still no go.

    [WM: Be sure the ports are open in your firewall and IPTables. Better yet, use the WhiteList with Travelin’ Man.]

  9. I am running a slightly older version of PBXInAFlash

    * Running Asterisk Version : Asterisk
    * Asterisk Source Version :
    * Zaptel Source Version :
    * Libpri Source Version : 1.4.10
    * Addons Source Version : 1.4.7

    also ports are of course forwarded to the PBX

    [WM: Better head to the forum. Too hard to diagnose on blog comments.]

  10. These things have WiFi… is this potentially a poor man’s iPod Touch, no service necessary?

    [WM: Great idea! Added an 8GB microSD for under $20. That’ll store 2,500+ songs easily.]

  11. Great article! immediate after reading, i got up went to radioshack and bought it.
    If ward tells me to get it, i dont even hesitate 🙂

  12. I notice that Google Earth and Flash will not install from App store – not compatible with this phone…Earth ok I can live with, Flash maybe not.

  13. @Ward. Excellent effort. It is really helpful. I have a quick question, can I use Sipdroid plus GV combination to make free calls over their data plan? If "NO" can I make it after rooting my phone, because someone told me that VM have blocked some functions of GV? Thanks in Advance.

    [WM: With a $49 OBi device, you can do it indirectly using OBiTalk for Android.]

  14. One good news I want share. Now you can tether (means, use your phone Data plan to share with your other devices such as your laptop)without voiding the warranty and rooting hassle by down loading a simple App from Android Market called "Quick Settings". Download the App, scroll down, and find "wi-fi hotspot. Make sure that you are looking in the "hidden" section of quick settings. In Quick Settings go to customize, then scroll down and select wi-fi hotspot towards the bottom under hidden settings then move it up to the top. This App works like a charm. Enjoy!!

  15. Read your article last week and picked up the phone at Target Thursday evening.

    Friday morning my Mediacom Cable internet connection goes down. Being the customer-friendly organization that they are they told me they can’t get a technician to my house until Tuesday. Four days with no internet.

    Got tethering working last night. Works great! I didn’t use barnacle wifi because I haven’t rooted the phone yet. I used the Quick Settings app to turn on the existing tethering support in the phone. Latency is a little high, but right now I’m seeing 1Mb down and 300Kb up.

    Haven’t tried rooting or SipSimple yet, but after this brief experience with the phone I’d say I like it much better than my Nokia E71. The Nokia, while functional, turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment.

  16. Thanks ward for great article, I was not sure if i should go for the phone and dump At&T that I am paying $125.00 per month with 25% off every month.

    I went and bought the phone butt I notice that the battery does not keep up for 5 hrs. In my case it is going only for 3 hrs with CSipSimple running but not in call. Any hint how to improve battery life.

    [WM: We’re not seeing that kind of battery problem. Try turning off Wi-Fi if you’re not using it.]

  17. Does the camera serve as a video camera? Is YouTube and other video playback good? I damaged my iPhone 3G and am wondering if this is a big step down.

    [WM: The camera can do video. It’s about the same quality as an iPhone. Whether that’s good enough is obviously your call. If you buy the phone from Radio Shack or Best Buy and it doesn’t meet your needs, just return it. Check with your local store for their return policy.]

  18. I was suffering with bad battery performance with my Optimus V. I’d have to charge every 4 to 5 hours. I installed the JuiceDefender app and have been very careful to turn of the wi-fi when not needed. I unplugged from the computer 14 hours ago and the battery is still above 70%!

  19. I got much better battery performance from the Optimus V by momentarily turning on Airplane Mode for about 12-15 seconds once after the phone boots. This workaround cures some kind of bug for this model (talked about in Howardforums) that burns up the battery faster when the phone is on 3g. I also use JuiceDefender and leave the phone on wifi all the while I am at home. Ward, thank you very much for writing about this phone. My first smartphone & I really like this phone a lot!

  20. The Optimus T is available at the T-mobile website for $99.99 refurbished. Got one for my wife as she can make $100 worth of minutes last a year! You have to call to get the deal, the website was not completing the check out yesterday and gives a different error today. For anyone needing very few minutes or a WiFi only phone ($0 per month), its the best deal so far.

  21. An extra note on the Optimus T prepaid ordering online…it works if you use Internet Explorer. I tried 2 days with Firefox. It would go in the cart, but clicking on the next step to complete the order would generate an error every time. By ordering online thru Chase reward’s link to T-mobile earns me 500 points…worth $5. so effective price of $95 + tax!

  22. Nice article. In Canada we recently had the Optimus One on sale for $150 with a $100 Visa gift card. So the net cost is $50 with no contract term required.
    I got one, unlocked it, and installed custom rom cyanogenmod 7 based on android 2.3. It has built-in SIP support – no need for csipsimple.

    However, I’m still looking for a GV app like Talkatone on the iPhone, that lets you log into gtalk and make GV calls without mobile minutes or additional hardware like obitalk.

  23. I have long been a fan of LG, looks like my next phone will be LG as well… Oh and thanks for the comments on the battery life. Was concerned about what I have heard so far.

  24. My 3G quit working March 19. It took VM 18 days to finally fix it (I can remove the battery in my sleep now). At least I love my Optimus V again. I recommend following [at]VMUcare if you are on Twitter and emailing vmusocialcare[at]sprint.com directly for support. Support on the Virgin Mobile website is a waste of time.

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