The most powerful prepaid smartphone in America gets a full review. At twice the price of the LG Optimus V, is it worth the cost of admission? Read more to find out.
It’s pretty amazing that in the past three years how much the wireless landscape has really changed. When iPhone came out, it was $599, and people actually bought and used it as a prepaid phone at the same price that the postpay users bought into. Fast forward to today, and iPhone is now banned from prepaid, and its price has fallen to a maximum of $299.
Seeing a phone for the same price, that can rival iPhone feature-for-feature, and not have a contract attached to it, is what the Motorola Triumph was built to do.
When we unboxed this phone for the first time, we were generally impressed with its build quality. This does not appear to be a non-Motorola manufactured device. We already knew that it was ODM’ed by Huawei, as one of Motorola’s first Android ODM endeavors.
Motorola has been trying to make outsourcing manufacturing work for them for years now, and we can think of all the failures along the way. Name one Motorola C-series phone that you actually enjoyed. No, we couldn’t either.
As such, there was quite a bit of apprehension about what would happen when we first powered on the apparently-outsourced Droid-alike Triumph. Would it handle more like a Droid, or more like Motorola’s history of ODM failures…
Thankfully, it handles more like a Droid, a lot more.
Unlike the LG Optimus V, we were able to install our usual payload of apps without running out of in-phone storage. We had a similar woe on the other Virgin Mobile Android phone, the Samsung Intercept. The phone has an ample 2 GB of internal storage, so thankfully, storing apps that do not support App2SD are not an issue on this device.
Quickly, we realize where this device slotted into the Android ecosystem; a true cost-effective alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S. While it is a bit slower, it has a few more modern features like built-in HDMI output, and also does not get bogged down by a poor firmware implementation.
Unfortunately, this phone does not appear to be built off of any specific Droid firmware branch from our pokings-around. We suspect this is due to its ODM heritage.
While Virgin Mobile and PhoneNews.com probably will never see eye-to-eye on their anti-rooting policy (Virgin claims it is a violation of their terms of service, something we don’t see legally binding), the phone is indeed easy to root. One-click rooting exploits from other phones have already been ported over.
Unlike LG’s blunder, there is no easy one-touch option to enable Mobile Hotspot on the device… it is fully locked-down, unlike the Optimus V. So, while Optimus V gets to hotspot without the gray area, you’ll have to root the device to enjoy the same functionality on the Triumph.
Also equally mildly disappointing (and equally not unexpected), the battery life. It gets through the day, but power users will want to keep a portable charger around. The surprising bit for us is that the battery is indeed Motorola-manufacturered, and yet performs like what we would expect from an ODM product.
Thankfully, we do expect this phone to get some traction in the hacking community, it’s cheap enough to be useful for the elite phone community, and when combined with Google Voice, it can be used without changing your phone number. Considering the $35/month voice plan has only 300 minutes, this is actually an attractive option for falling back to other prepaid, voice only phones should you run out of minutes in a month.
And yes, Google Voice works well with this phone. In fact, you can finally make free VoIP calls using the many Google Voice SIP bridges that have emerged. The CPU is powerful enough, and battery long lasting enough, that we were able to carry out Google Voice phone calls without problem. It’s also a low-bandwidth task, so the 2.5 GB throttling threshold should not affect that (however, we were not able to test that scenario, yet…).
We’ll have camera photos up in a follow-up article, but what impressed us the most was the built-in LED flash. Finally, a good prepaid phone with a flash. And, it also works with Motorola’s on-Market Droid LED flashlight tool, so you can use it as a flashlight all the time as well.
In the end, we were left throughly impressed with the Motorola Triumph. The only features we found lacking were the lack of an extended battery accessory,Â and a poor performance by the front-facing camera. We really don’t see the front-facing camera as anything more than a novelty on this device, unfortunately… it was too grainy even in excellent lighting conditions.
However, all of that aside, this is now our prepaid phone of choice. While $299 in this economy is an extreme expense for many, this will now give you the capability to do just about anything an iPhone can do, and without selling your soul for a two-year contract.
It’s a great phone, and despite Virgin Mobile’s recent drawbacks on quality (and pricing) of service, it still makes for the best bang-for-your-buck solution out there.
Updated to correct a reference where we did not refer to the phone properly as the most powerful prepaid smartphone in America today.