I’m typing this on my new Android phone. It hurts me to say those words, but I had to do it. As much as I love love LOVE my iPhone, I hated paying AT&T’s prices. Stephen and I want to retire early, so I’m trying to save money wherever I can.
With AT&T, I was paying $39.99 per month for 450 anytime minutes and 5000 night and weekend minutes. In the past year, I’ve never even reached 300 minutes in a month. I currently have 4,146 rollover minutes. I also pay $25 per month for 2GB of data. I haven’t used 2GB of data in the two YEARS I’ve had my iPhone 3Gs. And finally, I pay $5 per month for 200 text messages. This is the one area where I have started to exceed the monthly limit. On my last bill, I went over by 182 messages, which cost me an additional $18.20. I’ve already gone over by 194 so far in June. Moving to the unlimited text plan would be $20. In total, my last AT&T bill was $95.80 with the taxes.
Earlier this year, Stephen started looking into Virgin Mobile’s prepaid wireless plans. The cheapest plan was $25 for 300 minutes, unlimited data and unlimited texting. Awesome price, but how could I give up my beloved iPhone? Neither of us was ready to make the move. But about a month ago, my iPhone dropped out of my jeans pocket when I was getting out of my car. It landed face down on the blacktop, and I ended up with a long crack in the glass screen. It still worked perfectly, but I hated looking at that big crack. Still, I wasn’t ready to give up my iPhone.
For some reason, in the past week, I started thinking about Virgin Mobile’s great prices again. In addition to the ugly crack, my iPhone doesn’t hold a charge as well as it used to. I could replace my iPhone 3Gs with the same model for only $50, but that wouldn’t do anything to alleviate the pain of spending around $1,140 on service every year. So I started looking at Virgin Mobile’s phones. I knew the only mobile operating system that could even begin to replace iOS was Android. I thought the most promising one was the LG Optimus V, which turned out to be the one Stephen focused on when he was researching phones. I read a lot of reviews, of both the phone and Virgin Mobile, and they were decidedly mixed. But, recognizing that consumer reviews tend to skew negative, I decided that for the price I was willing to take the chance. Saving ~$70 a month was too good to pass up. The savings would pay for the new phone in just over two months.
Making the switch turned out to be surprisingly easy. I ran to Target this morning and picked up the LG Optimus V for $149 (down from $200). I took it home and let it charge while I went to meet a friend. When I got home, it was charged so I was ready to call Virgin Mobile. I wanted to keep the same number I had with AT&T, so I gave them my mobile number and PIN and got my account set up. They said that it could take up to 24 to 48 hours to port the number, but it actually took about two hours. As soon as I saw there was no service on my iPhone, I called back and finished the activation. Normally you don’t have to call back, but with the unfamiliar phone, I decided it would be easier. Even so, it took me a bit to figure out that I still needed to run through an additional activation process on my phone after I hung up. The worst Virgin Mobile reviews were about their customer service, but both people I spoke with were friendly and helpful and got my business taken care of as quickly as possible.
Now to the phone itself. It is worth noting that the iPhone does not come with a manual, and the Optimus V comes with a 136 page book. The iPhone is very intuitive, and I feel like there will be a bigger learning curve on the Optimus. When I got my first iPhone and synced it, it just grabbed all my contacts and my calendar off my iMac. With Android, it seems like everything takes at least one extra step. The Optimus V manual doesn’t even address things like putting music on your phone. It just has a couple pages about connecting your device to your computer with no further detail about what kind of files you can put on your phone and which ones you can’t. Luckily, it is pretty easy to find instructions on how to do almost anything on the internet, but with my iPhone, I rarely needed to look up instructions for anything.
The Optimus is slightly smaller and lighter than the iPhone, but I really miss the solid feeling of the iPhone’s glass screen. The whole phone just feels sturdier than my new phone. I’ve had iPhones since they first came out, and this was the only time I’ve cracked the screen on one. I’ve done far worse damage to plastic phones in the past. Virgin doesn’t yet offer any accessories for the Optimus V on its website, so I ordered a Body Glove case and a car charger through Amazon.
Parts of the interface remind me of the little Nokia phone I used to have. Some of it just looks really outdated next to the iPhone. It seems like this is mostly cosmetic, but sometimes it makes certain functions a little more laborious, like looking for ringtones. Although it isn’t quite as intuitive as the iPhone, it is possible to figure lots of things out without the manual. Yet theres a two page table of status and notification symbols, and the meanings of many of them are not obvious. There are lot of things that I will end up looking in the manual for.
I already had lots of music in iTunes, from both in-app purchases and from ripping my CD collection. Luckily, I had converted my iTunes music library to the non-DRM versions whenever they first offered it. There might be a few that still have DRM protection, but most of my music can be put on my new phone. However, the phone comes with a 2GB micro SD card, so in order to put a decent quantity of music and other data on the phone, I had to run out and buy a bigger micro SD card. Some people complain that the iPhone doesn’t have a card slot, but at least I don’t have to run out and make another purchase in order to put data on my phone. I don’t like having some stuff on the phone and some on the card. To put my music on my phone, I had to create a music folder on my card, then open up my music files on my computer and physically drag and drop any songs I want on the new phone into the music folder on the card. But again, it’s not nearly as convenient as syncing iTunes. I just have a playlist in iTunes called Current Favorites and whatever happened to be in it at that moment was what was synced with my iPhone. I think there are some apps that operate similarly, but I don’t keep all of my music on my phone, so it isn’t too onerous.
I also have an investment in Apps from iTunes, although they are mostly free or really cheap. Of course, I can still use all of them on my iPad. I’m told that the Android App Market has a larger selection of free apps. However, if you download an app on the phone, it doesn’t automatically show up on one of the four pages you have for shortcuts and widgets. You have to go to the menu, click add, then click shortcuts, then click application, and then scroll down until you see the app you want, then click it to add. Once it’s on the screen, you can click and hold it until it vibrates (just like on the iPhone) and move it where you want. I am not crazy about the Marketplace interface on the phone, yet downloading apps from the Marketplace website on my computer, then syncing to the microSD card, then putting the app on my phone seems so much more unwieldy than syncing the iPhone.
Setting up email was a breeze, but I don’t like the interface as much as I like the interface on the iPhone. I had to set it to “never” for how often I want it to check my email, because I was getting notifications all the time. I don’t care for the notifications because often (but not all the time) if I open the program directly for new mail or a message, I still have to go into the notifications list separately to clear them so the icons disappear. I had a notification for a text message and opened it from the notifications screen. I didn’t have time to look at it then, so I closed it. But it doesn’t show in my list of text messages and it is gone from my notifications. I didn’t delete it. Perhaps in was in a different program, but I don’t find it anywhere now.
I was able to convert my Apple Address Book to vCard format, copy all of my contacts to the micro SD card (I used the included SD adaptor and a usb SD card reader), then load them onto the phone from the card. But if I make any contact updates on my phone, they won’t automatically sync back to my computer like with the iPhone. As for my calendar, I expect there will be no compatibility at all, so I will have to re-enter everything in the Optimus V. I pretty much only use the calendar on my phone anyway, so it’s not tragic, but of course I can’t sync appointments between my phone and my iPad now.
The main criteria for both the phone and Virgin Mobile’s service is whether they will meet my needs. It will be an adjustment, but I know they will. It just won’t be as easy or enjoyable to use the LG Optimus V as the iPhone. Would I go back to the iPhone if the service were more reasonably priced? In a second. I already miss it. But I missed that extra $70 a month ($840 a year!) more. And the prepaid plan (which really just means I pay at the beginning of the month instead of the end) means I am no longer locked into a contract. Hopefully, someday the iPhone will be available with reasonably priced service (and without paying $650 for an unlocked phone). Don’t get me wrong, the Optimus V phone and the Android operating system are very good, but so far I find them both inferior to the iPhone and iOS. Everything is just a little more work than it was with the iPhone. If someone has never used an iPhone and especially if they have a PC instead of a Mac, I think most people would be perfectly happy with Android. But in my book, it definitely takes second place to Apple’s iOS. Now that you can buy an iPhone as cheaply as $50, I think the main impediment to even wider adoption is the cost of the service through Verizon or AT&T. I was perfectly happy with AT&T’s service, just not with the cost.
June 28, 2011: Four days in, and I still miss my iPhone terribly. Every task just feels clunky in Android. Don’t get me wrong, I am sticking with this phone & plan as long as I am saving so much money. But the second a reasonably priced service plan is available for the iPhone, I am going back. I can’t see how anyone who has tried both would pick Android over iOS for any reason other than finances. My assumption was that Android would be a very close second to iOS and that it would probably be even better than I expected since I have a pro-Apple bias. But although Android is far from terrible, it is a more distant second to iOS than I thought it would be.
June 29, 2011: I’ve read a lot of complaints about how the battery life on the LG Optimus V is not good. So today, I printed out a list I found of phone settings that will help optimize my battery life. Unfortunately, before I could implement them, the battery died.
July 1, 2011: Today my boss texted me to tell me I could leave work early. Unfortunately, his text arrived while I was talking on the phone, and there was no notification sound. I didn’t notice the text until I was leaving at 5:00 pm – the regular time. I should have checked, but since my iPhone always notified me of a message no matter what I was doing, I figured this phone would too. Nope.
January 24, 2012: Now I can honestly say I despise my phone. Why oh why did I think this was a good idea? Is the torture of using an Android phone worth saving $70 per month? Actually, yes. As much as I dislike this phone, I like saving money more. I’m still wishing and hoping for a more reasonably priced service option for the iPhone.