What smartphones work with virgin mobile
Apple iPhone 4S (Virgin Mobile)
The cheapest iPhone 4S available today, if you include the plan price.
No 4G. Much more expensive than other Virgin Mobile smartphones.
Virgin's iPhone 4S is less expensive over time than iPhones on other carriers, but much too costly when you consider the other phones in Virgin's lineup.
Motorola Triumph (Virgin Mobile)
The iPhone 4S on Virgin Mobile is the same model, with the same software, network, and features as you'll find on Sprint. (Also, the Sprint iPhone is pictured in the slideshow below.) Read our Sprint iPhone 4S review for all the details. But note that the Sprint model earned 4.5 stars and our Editors' Choice endorsement at the time, and this version of the phone is only getting 3.5 stars. We can explain.
A Really Cheap iPhone
First, the good news. The $649.99 16GB iPhone 4S on Virgin Mobile works with the carrier's $35 per month Beyond Talk plan, which offers 300 minutes and 2.5GB of 3G data. And Virgin has no contracts, so you can switch out your phone any time you want.
Measured over two years, Virgin's iPhone is much less expensive than on competing plans from Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T. The Virgin iPhone with the $35/month plan costs $1,489.99 over two years. Sprint's model is cheaper up front at $199.99 but requires an $80/month plan with a two-year contract, so it's $2,119.99. AT&T's and Verizon's service plans are even more expensive.
Cricket sells the iPhone 4S for $499.99 with a $55/month plan, making it $1,819.99 over two years, but Cricket's iPhone is only offered in a limited number of cities. Virgin sells its iPhone nationwide.
And remember, you get the same nationwide performance as Sprint. That has its up sides and its down sides. The up side is a relatively consistent network. The down side is that it's the slowest 3G network in the nation, as measured by our 30-city network speed tests. Since the iPhone doesn't support 4G, you're stuck in the slow lane.
A Really Costly Virgin Phone
The iPhone is a brilliant cultural touchstone with an excellent library of high-quality apps. But you'll be paying a massive premium over other Virgin phones for that privilege.
The Editors' Choice HTC EVO V 4G (4 stars) is $299.99 with the same service plan. That's a $350 savings for a fast Android 4.0 phone with a similar-resolution screen, dual-core processor, and lots of apps. (Ignore the 3D stuff, it's a gimmick.)
Most importantly, the EVO V 4G can hit Clearwire's WiMAX network. If you live in a city where that's available, it's a huge difference. When we tested the EVO V 4G, we found the 4G network to be up to eight times as fast as the 3G network.
The HTC One V costs $100 less. That's $450 less than the iPhone. The One V is a lower-powered phone, with a single-core processor, but it's also elegant and runs Android 4.0.
The iPhone 4S has a better camera than the EVO V and deserves to be in the top rank of smartphones, but it isn't $350 better than the EVO V 4G.
The Virgin Mobile iPhone is the least expensive iPhone 4S model available, if you factor in the cost of the service plan. But while it's a good phone, it isn't a good deal right now. We're just a few months away from a new iPhone launch this fall. More importantly, this iPhone costs hundreds of dollars more than high-quality, competing Android phones that work with 4G. Apple made its mark in the wireless world by providing a high-quality product at a competitive price. This iPhone only qualifies if you think no other phone competes.
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