9 06 2012
The Virgin Mobile iPhone is Asinine
I’m a notoriously cheap bastard. It’s a byproduct of growing up broke, going to college broke, and going to law school … wait for it … broke. Now I’m working, and I’m still broke.
I want the best and newest gadgets. It’s my birthright, as the family geek and as a child of the DOS/Windows 3.1 era. I was in third grade when I first installed Windows 3.1. It was off of a family member’s six floppy disk collection, which in retrospect, was probably bootlegged.
So, being that I’m a geek, and being that I hate my out of date, iPhone 3GS, why in the world would I not want to jump on the prepaid iPhone bandwagon.
Well, I’m already on a prepaid iPhone. But let’s come back to that.
The problem with the Virgin Mobile solution is two-fold. First of all, the phone itself has to be a VM iPhone. No bringing your own device, no subsidies. You are now $600 poorer, at least. Congrats.
The more important problem is that Virgin Mobile sucks. I say this as a former customer. My first venture into the prepaid smartphone world was a HTC Touch Pro running Windows Mobile 6.5. I had it on Boost, which is technically the same network as Virgin.
My data speeds were amazing. In fact, I may have even tethered the phone to my netbook for an entire summer, when I was living on a friend’s couch. Gotta check the sports scores and Facebook, right?
After that summer, when I returned to countryside Virginia, I saw the Virgin Mobile ads for $25/month Android with unlimited data, all on the Sprint network! Hell, that’s half of what i was paying Boost, and I’d get ANDROID. OOOOhhhhhh.
Long story short, it was awesome. For a month. Then the influx of thousands of new phones killed Virgin Mobile’s servers. I had data outages in Washington D.C., Miami, and at home in Lexington, Virginia. Even once the outages stopped, my speeds were still unusable.
I then moved back to California after graduation. I used the phone all the way across the country, from Lexington, Virginia, to Los Angeles. It sucked the whole way. It even sucked during the week I spent in Kansas City. You’d think they’d get it right in their corporate home town.
Needless to say, I later ditched the phone. It wasn’t worth the $25/month savings to have a phone that half of the time couldn’t even handle streaming Pandora. Don’t even think about using Google Maps Navigation when you got lost either.
So, I know what you’re thinking. It was just his phone. Nope. My brother got an Optimus V on Black Friday last year, against my advice. His data speeds were tolerable for a couple of weeks. They have been crap since. He’s not a geek at all, and he still describes the phone as “unusable.”
So why the big difference between Virgin, Sprint, and Boost? The rumor on the internet is that it has something to do with Virgin’s network management system. They seem to shove all the traffic through a narrow pipeline of servers in Kansas. The theory sounds about right. When you do a SpeedTest, using the app, the closest server almost always goes to Kansas, even if you’re in Los Angeles.
Being that the experience on the iPhone is heavily dictated by the data speeds, I’d pass on VM’s iPhone. There are far, far better alternatives. Straight Talk, for example, has a Bring Your Own Device plan. It allows you to buy that used (or new) AT&T iPhone and put their SIM card in the back. $45 a month, unlimited everything.
Straight Talk is where I’m at, even if I am too broke for a new iPhone.