Samsung Virgin Mobile - it takes pictures
Written: Jun 21, 2012 (Updated Oct 22, 2012)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
UPDATE, October 22, 2012, getting photos onto your PC (see the bottom of this review)
Adventures in cell phone land
I needed to upgrade from the $15 phone that I bought at a convenience store three years ago, but I didn't have a lot of money to spend. In fact, all I had was an Amazon gift card that a friend sent me, so I went searching. Since I'm already on Virgin Mobile, and their service works for me, I looked for the cheapest phone that they offer.
Samsung Restore came in at about $70, and it qualified for free shipping. It's supposed to be 3G, and it lets me do things that my cheap old phone just would not do. I still do not have to sign any contracts with Virgin Mobile, but they say that I can get cheap monthly plans with unlimited texting and web access, email and stuff. Plus I can take pictures. Well, that is true, and my $35 a month plan suits me just fine, now that I finally got the phone working. Sort of.
You can also go with straight prepaid, adding money to your phone whenver you need to use it. And the monthly plan has no strings. You can use the plan for one month and then go back to straight prepaid or upgrade to a more expensive plan, or down to a cheaper plan. (I hope that makes sense.)
Frustration compounded by lack of instructions
Now, although I can't qualfy as a geek or a techie, I do know something about the gadgets that I use. The instructions that came in the box with this phone were sadly inadequate, and the Virgin Mobile web site was less than helpful. I charged up the battery with the included wall charger until the little green light came on, but then I couldn't make the phone do anything. At least I did know to press the "off" button that looks like a red telephone handset and hold it, in order to turn the phone on. The instructions didn't even have that little tidbit of info.
All that came in the box along with the phone and wall charger was a "Quick Start Guide" that told me to activate the phone but did not say how to activate it. All I got from the "activate" button that glowed at me in white letters on the screen was a balloon-filled screensaver.
It did not even identify all the features and buttons on the phone. I had to find the camera button by trial and error.
I tried to use the web site to activate the phone, but I couldn't get that to work, either. Apparently, it takes pushing the right buttons on the phone for the web site to activate your new phone, and in the meantime, my old phone did not work because I had switched to the new phone on the web site. I could not call anyone, not even Virgin Mobile customer service, on either one of my two phones. I'm glad that I didn't need to call 911!
The local Radio Shack came to the rescue, with the helpful clerk showing me that pushing the "activate"" button did nothing until you also pushed this other button, the one that hangs up the phone. It has a picture of a red phone handset on it.
Then I couldn't find the keyboard. Back to Radio Shack, where they didn't know either, but while we played with it, the keyboard suddenly slid out from the side of the phone. You don't have to push any buttons; you just slide it out from under the phone pad.
I have tried and tried to download the full user's manual from the Virgin Mobile web site, but the site freezes up every time. Virgin Mobile's customer support said they would get back to me about that, but they never did.
I managed to find the built-in camera by trial and error. It takes pictures and video. I think it records sound, too, but I still haven't discovered how to do that.
Maybe some day the full instructions will finally download from the web site.
The phone itself
The phone is small enough, measuring about 4 1/2 inches by 2 inches. It's kind of thick (about 1/2 inch) and heavy, and it will not fit into the phone holsters that Radio Shack sells. Fortunately, the key pad locks about 30 seconds after you quit using it, so I haven't made many pocket calls.
It takes pictures, which is a plus for me because my cheap digital camera bit the big one two years ago, and my webcam is tied to the big old desktop computer. The camera is on the back of the slide-out keyboard. Do not try to use it with the keyboard slid out. I tried that, and it just made me crazy.
If you want to send a text message, just slide out the keyboard and press "enter". It automatically goes to text messaging when you slide out the keyboard. Or you can cancel and either go to your contacts or go to a variety of things on the menu. It has web access, but when I get my Gmail on the phone, it won't let me do much of anything. I can't find a way to delete an email or reply to it. The only button that I have found is to visit the links in an email.
Oh, Lord God of Cell Phones, please send me an instruciton manual! (Seriously, I doubt that instructions would improve the functionality of this cheap phone.)
Keyboard from hell
Now, I'm a small woman with slender fingers, but if my thumbnails ever get too short, I will not be able to use the tiny keyboard. The buttons are tiny. And sometimes -- often, in fact, either a button thinks I pushed it twice or it thinks that I never pushed it at all. And often I push the wrong button because they are so close together.
Battery life is at least three hours for voice service, sometimes more if I am not using it much. In fact, if all I do is texting, it will last six hours or more. I mean hours of use, so if it's just sitting there for a day or two, it still has a pretty good charge.
Call clarity is very good. I was having too much crackling and breaking up with my cheap old phone, and this one is much better. Sometimes I do have trouble hearing the person on the other end, but there is no crackling or breaking up.
This phone takes dcecent photos, even in low light, as long as you can be at least three feet away. Anything closer will come out blurry. It's a little slow, and when the cat moves while the shutter is going, I get a blur. But for the price, it's decent. It also takes video, but that takes a big chunk of the memory.
It's easy to send the photos by text, but I haven't found a way to email them or transfer them to my computer. Once again, I NEED the complete instructions.
This is one sturdy phone. I dropped it on the pavement when I got out of the car, the back popped off and the battery came out. But when I put it back together and held down that red button until the phone came on again, it worked just fine.
Technical Stuff (from the Amazon web site)
Fast 3G connectivity
Turn by turn directions with GPS using Virgin Navigation
Fully customizable home screen with One Click
2.66" LCD screen and slide-out full QWERTY keyboard
What's in the Box: Samsung Restore handset, rechargeable battery, charger, 256 MB microSD memory card, quick start guide
(my phone came with no memory card)
Despite all the problems, I'm satisfied with what I got for the price. I would buy it again, but I would demand a full isntruction manual to come with it.
UPDATE, October 22, 2012 (see the bottom of this review)
Thanks to the helpful people at my local Radio Shack, I am now able to get photos off my cell phone and onto my PC. I had to buy a USB cable and a memory card. If your PC has a card reader, all you need is the memory card. My phone did not come with either a memory card or a USB cable, but some phones do come with the memory card. Check carefully when purchasing a cell phone. If it comes with accessories, it could be a better deal than buying them separately.
To get the photos onto my PC, I have to plug in the USB cable and then go to the tools on the cell phone menu to connect to the PC. Then the PC takes over with a "wizard" pop-up box asking you what you want to do.
I don't know how it works with a MAC.
Read all 3 Reviews
Write a Review
Amount Paid (US$): about 70
Recommended for: Adventurous Technophiles - Tough and Durable