Finally, a No-Contract Smartphone That’s a Powerhouse

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I’ve long been a fan of Virgin Mobile’s cellular service, if not its actual phones. The company offers no-contract plans that start at $35 per month and include unlimited (well, unlimited with an asterisk) data.

But its phones, well, so far they’ve been mostly entry-level models. And they’ve run on Sprint’s older, slower 3G network (Sprint owns Virgin Mobile).

All that’s about to change. Starting May 31, you’ll be able to buy the HTC Evo V 4G smartphone for $299.99 and pay as little as $35 per month for 4G service — no contract required.

Color me interested.

The Evo V runs Android 4.0 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich), the latest and greatest version of Google’s smartphone operating system. I’ve long been a fan of Virgin Mobile’s cellular service, if not its actual phones. The company offers no-contract plans that start at $35 per month and include unlimited (well, unlimited with an asterisk) data.

But its phones, well, so far they’ve been mostly entry-level models. And they’ve run on Sprint’s older, slower 3G network (Sprint owns Virgin Mobile).

All that’s about to change. Starting May 31, you’ll be able to buy the HTC Evo V 4G smartphone for $299.99 and pay as little as $35 per month for 4G service — no contract required.

Color me interested.

The Evo V runs Android 4.0 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich), the latest and greatest version of Google’s smartphone operating system. Most of Virgin’s other Android-powered phones are stuck running Android 2.2 or 2.3.

Other key specs include a 4.3-inch screen, front- and rear-facing cameras (the latter capable of capturing 5-megapixel photos, HD video, and 3D images!), and a mobile-hotspot option (meaning the phone can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five devices, like a laptop, tablet, etc.).

Best of all, the Evo can pull down data at 4G speeds thanks to Sprint’s WiMax network. You’d expect to pay extra for that kind of performance boost, but Virgin’s no-contract plans continue to start at $35 per month. That gives you 300 voice minutes and unlimited data (though it’s 4G only for the first 2.5 gigabytes; after that, Virgin throttles you back to 2G territory).

As it happens, Boost Mobile (also owned by Sprint) will be offering a nearly identical version of the Evo V 4G, and for the same price. Their plans start at $45 per month, but actually drop every six months you remain a paying customer. After 18 months, you can be paying as little as $30.

Until now, choosing a no-contract smartphone meant sacrificing features and performance. The Evo V 4G, while not the state-of-the-art Android phone, offers way more power than anything currently available. Watch for my hands-on review in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on this? Sound like just the smartphone you’ve been waiting for? Or still not enough to sway you from, say, an iPhone? Let me hear from you in the comments!

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