Virgin Mobile’s new Samsung Galaxy Reverb offers an alternative to Samsung’s wildly popular flagship product with fewer frills but much lower long-term cost.
Despite its lack of 4G LTE, the Android 4 Reverb has much of its cousin’s speed when using a Wi-Fi connection. It also has a gorgeous WVGA 4″ display and an advanced onscreen keyboard with dual-purpose (letter/number) keys on the top row and the ability to hold in a letter to capitalize it. Since keys are on the small side, I recommend trying this phone in a store to make sure you think you can get used to the keyboard.
The phone takes nice photos with its 5 MP camera (1.3 MP front-facing) and camcorder. It does not, however, take or play HD videos. The videos play back beautifully on the phone, but for them to play correctly on my computer, I had to use the free Any Video Converter to convert them from MP4 to MPG format.
The Reverb supports an optional microSd card up to 64 GB in size for storing plenty of pictures and videos. However, the 2 GB of onboard memory allowed me to install all the apps I wanted with no trouble at all.
Videos look fine on the Reverb despite its lack of HD, and they download at a pretty good clip over a Wi-Fi connection. I watched the first 20 minutes or so of a movie on HBOGO; it began playing within less than a minute and ran smoothly.
I viewed some music videos using the YouTube app, and they downloaded at a pretty good clip and played smoothly. The voice search of YouTube also did an admirable job.
The Reverb’s 4.8″ by 2.52″ by .44″ size coupled with its dainty weight of 4.53 oz makes it easy and comfortable to carry in a pants pocket.
The Reverb’s battery life seems pretty decent, lasting through the day with moderate voice, text and email usage. Like on many phones, significant Web browsing or game playing will hasten the battery’s demise, as will having a game running in the background.
The big advantages of a Virgin Mobile phone are the low monthly cost and the lack of a long-term contract. Virgin Mobile’s Android plans start at $35 per month for 300 voice minutes and unlimited texts. You can also get 1200 voice minutes for $45 per month, or unlimited minutes for $55 per month.
With a prepaid carrier like Virgin Mobile, you’re not stuck with a phone for two years if you find that you dislike it or just decide you want something else. If you purchase directly from Virgin Mobile, you can even return the phone within 30 days by calling their customer care line for instructions, provided you have saved all the original packaging.
The Reverb uses Sprint’s 3G mobile network rather than their 4G WiMAX, despite its $249.99 pricetag. The HTC EVO V is about the same price as the Reverb and supports WiMAX, but I was never able to get a WiMAX connection during the time I tested the EVO V.
Without a reliable WiMAX signal and the likelihood that many users will frequently connect to Wi-Fi networks, it makes sense to go with the phone you like better rather than worrying about 3G or 4G. Also, Sprint has largely abandoned the old WiMAX technology in favor of building their 4G LTE network.
If you’ll need frequent access to a reliable mobile network, I recommend trying a friend’s phone that uses the Sprint network in your area to make sure you have adequate coverage.
Virgin Mobile doesn’t hit you with fees for going over their 2.5 GB monthly data allotment, but they do slow down the speed significantly. This won’t happen for the large majority of users, especially if you use Wi-Fi whenever you can.
No-contract mobile phones can help you save a lot on your monthly bills. They can also be a great choice for teens, since you have no worries about going over a certain allotment of texts or data. You can’t get 4G LTE or the snazziest, trendiest phones on the market from a no-commitment carrier, but you may be surprised at how nice some of their Android phones actually are.
Some reviewers on Virgin Mobile’s Web site have mistakenly thought that Reverb means “refurb,” as in refurbished. The Reverb is a great prepaid phone, brand new, and with no strings attached.