If you've been thinking about buying a smartphone
but don't want to get locked into a two-year contract--or pay a minimum of $60 per month for voice and data--your best option is a prepaid phone. Alas, until recently, there were very few models to choose from, and those were mostly on the low-end, underpowered side.
That all changes with the Virgin Mobile Motorola Triumph
, an Android
-powered prepaid smartphone
that's anything but entry-level. It's on the pricey side at $299.99, but you stand to save big in the long run.
Indeed, Virgin's monthly plans start at $35, which includes 300 voice minutes and unlimited data. For $45/month you get 1,200 voice minutes (more than enough for most users
). Contrast that with, say, AT&T
, which charges $55 per month (not including taxes and fees
) for voice and just 200MB of data. Oh, and that's every month for two years.
So how does the no-contract Triumph compare, then, with something like the iPhone
4? Based on my tests, very well.
On the spec side, the Triumph impresses with its 1GHz processor, 32GB of storage, 4.1-inch screen (which is much roomier than the iPhone 4's
), 5-megapixel rear camera, and front-facing VGA camera.Motorola
packs all this into a phone that's admirably thin and light. It's a little boxy-looking, and I don't love the matte-black finish, but that's what cases are for, right?
Unlike Virgin's previous Android phones (the Samsung Intercept and LG Optimus V
), the Triumph is fast. I found it just as responsive as the much pricier Samsung Nexus S 4G: apps load quickly, Web pages scroll smoothly, and Angry Birds runs perfectly. (Go ahead and laugh; the game is a great benchmark for Android phones
I do have a few complaints with the Triumph, but they're all minor. For starters, I dislike the confusing icon used for the Menu button; nothing about it says "menu." I also miss having a dedicated camera button.
As for performance, while the phone itself is snappy, connectivity sometimes isn't. As with other Virgin Mobile
phones I've tested, 3G performance (which is provided by Sprint
) is less than stellar--at least in my area. For comparison, AT&T and Verizon
are both excellent--again, in my area. Your mileage will almost certainly vary, but I'd try to road-test a Triumph before buying, just to be sure.
Until now, most prepaid smartphones required you to compromise on features, performance, or both. The Motorola Triumph is the exception--a splendid smartphone for users who want a rich Android experience without the hefty monthly bill.
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for
over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently,
"How to Do Everything: Palm Pre." Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.