Sunday, June 22, 2008

Motorola w175g, Motorola w260g (Tracfone GSM)

Sorry for the lack of reviews, everyone! Have been a bit on the busy side lately but I really wanted to get a bunch of material out before going on a two-week trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in new Mexico. Thus, a first look at some phones. Starting with the Motorola w175g and w260g, showing just how much $10or $15 can get you...

You may wonder why I'm reviewing two phones at once. Easy: the phones, aside from their form factors, are identical. Same screens, same interface, same everything. Though the w260g carries a $5 premium due to the flip versus bar design.

First, the differences between the two phones: the w175g is the typical featureless black bar phone while the w260 is a slightly less featureless black flip. The w175g does have a textured pattern on its back, but since the unit is made of hard plastic it doesn't really help your grip any. The keypad mimics that of the Motorola Razr, albeit at a much lower quality. It's essentially a big piece of rubber with ribbing to differentiate between rows of buttons. It's moderately useable. In terms of size and durability, the phone isn't exactly small or thin, but it's absolutely pocketable and the featureless black plastic probably makes it seem larger than it is.

The w260g doesn't have the textured back of the w175, but it does have a shiny black clamshell front. Similar to the w370, LEDs will light up for incoming calls and messages, and as a low battery alert or when the battery is charging. It's not caller ID but it's cool-looking and shows up better in the sun. Size-wise the phone is aagin not the smallest one out there, with a nearl-suqare, wide footprint, but it is pretty thin for a phone that doesn't have an antenna bulge at the bottom. The keypad on the w260g is quite a bit larger than that of the w175g (you have more space for such things on a flip phone) but it is also made of a single sheet of rubber and is thus not ideal for much more than typing in phone numbers and menu navigation.

Now to the stuff that is the same across both phones...

First off, the phone ringers get LOUD. Not quite as loud as the Nextel phones of old, but you won't be missing your phone ringing if it's turned up on high. However there is plenty of range on the ringer settings so if you want a quiet phone you can do that. The vibrate motor on both models is decent as well. One complaint I have about the ringer speaker is that it tends to distort at higher volumes and there's no bass response, but for $10-$15 I'm fine with ringer quality.

Call quality is decent as well. While in the little bit of informal testing I did actually experienced a cut-out in a good signal area (basically all of town) on the w260g call quality was solid. No call quality problems like the Motorola c155/c139. Voice quality on both ends was fine as far as I could tell, even when using the speakerphone; this is probably due to the CrystalTalk enhancement software on these phones, which I believe first came out for Tracfone on the Motorola w370. Again, no complaints here, though I wouldn't say these phones win any awards for clarity.

I'm not really sure about battery life as I only got the units in Wednesday but this type of phone tends to have really, really long life (a few weeks even) since there isn't much running and GSM is generally (or seems to be) more power-efficient than CDMA.

For user experience Tracfone has added a few more newbie-specific prepaid features. When you turn these phones o, before activation, you get a message telling you to activate, where to activate and the information you need phone-wise to do so. This information has now been whittled down to the phone serial number (no SIM ID anymore), and no code entry is needed. Once you click past the activation instructions you'll get a messag telling you, on the home screen, to turn the phone off and on again. This message disappears once your phone gets activated, the replacement being "You have 60 days until you need to refill" or similar, depending on today's date and the date you need to add more minutes. Nice touches for people new to prepaid, though for old hands a quick trip to the Prepaid menu to turn these notices off may be required.

For the rest of the UI, you're looking at a typical Compal-made Motorola: close to the old Synergy interface but with slightly larger fonts so some options have to scroll, and a menu system where you have to be careful not to press the center button if you think that's "select" (it usually brings up another menu). Since these phones are basic units you don't get a media gallery to play ringtones and view garphics, nor do you get web, multimedia messaging or MP3 ringtones. You do, however, get quick access to most phone features either from the home screen (by pressing the shortcut-triggered softkeys or arrow keys) or the main menu. I wouldn't say these phones are as easy to use as the Nokia models but they're not all that difficult either.

Two things that stick out as user-unfriendly are volume changing and text entry, however. On the first point you don't have a volume rocker on the side of the phone, and neither do you have dedicated keys at the home screen. So it's a trip into Ring Styles (by a shortcut button if you have one set up), then a few more steps, to change ringer volume. There may be a quicker way, but I haven't found it.

For text entry, the problem is that Motorola uses their old iTAP system on everything with their branding on it. This exclused iDEN phones but includes the phones available on Tracfone. The implementation on these phones is particularly clunky; you don't hit "space" to accept a word and go on, you hit the "menu" key. Or something like that; guess I'm much too used to the smooth experience that is T9. The problem is that the alternative, multitap input, is downright arduous on the keypads these phones have.

So that's about it for the Motorolas w260 and w175. They're certainly worth the $10-$15you pay for them if you buy from Circuit City or the like, and they're fine "free phones" if Tracfone feels the need to bundle them with an airtime card or two. You even get a good signal and a boatload of MIDI ringtones in the package. But these phones ahve "basic" written all over them and their lack of any service other than voice and (rather hard-to-use) text pin their value squarely below $20.

Two phones down, a zillion more to go. Up next: the Motorola i425 from Boost Mobile (finally!).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Page Plus Cellular Adds Online Account Managment

Late to the party, maybe, but it's still very much appreciated...

Page Plus Cellular now has an online account manager with a decent array of features, though for some things (activation, phone and number changes) you either have to call them up or get ahold of a dealer.

What you can do, though, is a pretty good amount. You can update personal information, view and add to your airtime balance, enable and disable features like text messaging and voicemail, and view logs of all account activity. The last two things I can't even do on my Sprint account online! Okay, I can see how many minutes I've used per month and I can see call logs on my bill, but this is better.

Yet another reason to go Page Plus, especially with the Alltel takeover providing a gargantuan coverage footprint for such an inexpensive service. Once I get a little money from my sponsors (check them out, they're great!) I'll probably pick up another phone to use with Page Plus. Maybe the Samsung Juke; it's $110 at Wal-Mart's site right now...

Four Phones In, One To Go

The UPS truck arrived today with the T-Mobile Nokia 2610. Very snappy for "ground" shipping if you ask me. Also, the FedEx truck brought me the Tracfones from Circuit City. So I'm even farther behind on phone reveiws now, but I have a lot more stuff to post up here :).

The Virgin Mobile Slash from Samsung will arrive Friday.

I'll make sure to at least give non-battery-life reviews of all the phones I have right now before Sunday, when I head out to Austin, thence to Philmont Scout camp for two weeks. Which will be quite a task, considering how many reviews I've got to do, but that's my own fault.

Anyway, check back here soon for reviews of everything from the Motorola w175 to the Virgin Mobile Slash!

As a sneak peak, I must say that the w376 (Tracfone Motorola) is a nice phone, taking the strengths of teh w370 and improving upon them.. However if you want a loud ringer, the Motorola w175/w260 remind me of the old Nextel days. More later!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More Phones Coming!

So I've got a lot of ad money now, thanks to you guys checking out the various sponsors syndicated through Google as well as the great store. So I decided to do some phone-buying...

Since Tracfone won't let me buy from their site anymore, I went over to Circuit City's website and grabbed all three new Tracfones: the Motorola w175g, the Motorola w260g and the Motorola w376g. They should be in by the end of this week so I should be able to give everyone at least a first look...

Then I headed to Virgin Moile's website and picked up the new Slash slider from Samsung (say that three times fast). The funny thing is, that phone alone will end up costing me more than the other phones I bought yesterday, combined.

My last stop was T-Mobile's online store, where I picked up a Nokia 2610. It'll be free after a rebate, and was $30 before.

So that's five more phones to review and, likely, give away. Now to finish a big video editing project I've got going so I can review the phones I have had sitting here for a ridiculously long period of time...

Monday, June 16, 2008

AT&T GoPhone Free PhonesLook in the "packages" section of AT&T's GoPhone website and you'll see something interesting: phones that are free or better-

Look in the "packages" section of AT&T's GoPhone website and you'll see something interesting: phones that are free or better-than-free with an airtime card. There are two ways that airtime is included, however. I've marked phones with an asterisk that have the airtime preloaded. The ones with no asterisk have the airtime as a separate card, for even more bonuses and savings!

LG CG150* - $40 including $25 in airtime
Nokia 2610 Refurb - $25 including a $25 airtime card
Samsung a117 Refurb* - $29.99 including $25 in airtime, $40 including $50, $80 including $100
Nokia 2610 Refurb* - $40 including $50 in airtime, $80 including $100
Pantech c120 Refurb* - $25 including $25 in airtime
Samsung a437 - $10 w\$25 airtime purchase

Pretty good deals, if you ask me. Granted, you may or may not have to open up a new line of service to take advantage of these deals, but they're really good anyway. Not bad at all in my opinion for a non-contract cell phone.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Verizon Buying Alltel

So it looks like, for $28.1 billion, Verizon will buy Alltel, catapulting its coverage and user base to the largest in the U.S.

This means a few things...

1. All prepaid providers using Verizon's network will soon get a nice home coverage boost (namely Page Plus Cellular).

2. Nobody knows what'll happen to Alltel's pepaid plans. Maybe they'll stay, more likely they'll go away. They're too good of a deal for the likes of Verizon, it would seem.

3. The landscape on roaming will be changed. Alltel has GSM roaming for AT&T, T-Mobile, etc. With the Verizon takeover that may or may not stay around. In a few places Verizon has kept GSM turned on for roaming, previously used by a company they purchased, but it may or may not happen here.

4. In some areas, Alltel actually provides "Sprint" (Virgin Mobile, etc.) service. This might change when Verizon comes to town.

I'll post more information here as the changeover progresses. It'll mean more coverage for one carrier, sure, but less competition overall...we'll see how this pans out.

T-Mobile: New Phones, International Rates

Looks like there are some new phones headed T-Mobile To Go's way. Best Buy ( has a few models that I've talked about before...the Nokia 1208 ($30) and the Nokia 2760 ($70). The 1208 is comparable to the 2610, it seems...maybe a little cheaper on T-Mobile's side. The 2760 is your typical Bluetooth camera flip low-end phone.

In other news, you can get internet on T-Mobile To Go...but you have to go to Mexico or Canada to do it. In canada, it's a pretty penny (well, a penny and a half) per kilobyte and in Mexico it's $0.01 per KB. However it's cheaper to talk in Canada than in Mexico, with roaming rates of 69 cents per minute versus $1.49. You're better off getting a SIM in that particular country, but that's assuming your phone is unlocked, which it may or may ot be.

Also, MMS (if it's available) doesn't cost anything extra in Canada or Mexico vs. what it costs here. Neither does texting in Canada; 10 cents to send, 5 to receive. In Mexico, and in elsewhere, text messages are a whopping 35 cents to send, though still 5 cents to receive, apiece.

I still don't understand why T-Mobile To Go doesn't allow data access beyond their free (and admittedly okay) T-Zones.

New Tracfone\Net10 Phones, Available For Sale

Looks like the newest Tracfon\Net10 phones are available online now, for sale.

LG 300g (bar phone) - $30
LG 400g (not-as-ugly-as-I-thought flip phone) - $40

Of course, both phones include $30 worth of airtime.

Also, the LG 1500 + an accessory kit is available for $50, or refurb'd with no kit for $30. The Motorola c261 is available refurbished for $30.

On the Tracfone side...

Motorola w175 (bar phone) - $15
Motorola w260 (flip phone) - $30

Also, the LG 225 (with an accessory kit) and the Motorola c261 (without) are $50, including a double minutes for life card. Decent deal, I'd say.

EDIT: The Motorola c261 is actually $40. Even better deal!

Also, shipping is currently free for all orders of $35 or greater.