Smart-ish cell phone recommendation?
March 23, 2010 11:07 AM   Subscribe

What is a good smart-ish phone usable with Verizon's inexpensive data plan?

I am a cell phone idiot, currently using a 5-year old phone that does nothing but make/receive calls/texts. I'm considering upgrading to a smart-ish phone, so I can experience all this newfangled email and web browsing that the whippersnappers like these days.

Ideally I'd like one that is usable with Verizon's $10/month data plan, since I don't expect to use a lot of data. This would rule out the truly smart phones like the Droid & Blackberry. I would be fine with an older model or used phone.

Here's what I'd like, in order of importance: good call quality, durability, a qwerty keyboard (not onscreen, a real keyboard), and a not-too-annoying web browser.

I see that the Samsung i760 was recommended in a similar question from a couple years ago. Is that still a good choice? Do you have any recommendations?
posted by medusa to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As far as I understand it, and I just canceled my $30 a month data plan (Blackberry), that $10 they charge is mandatory no matter if you have an older phone, and it does not apply to any data in the sense you might be believing it does.

To get a "true" data plan you're going to have to shell out $30, even if you just use your phone to receive emails (only reason I kept the Blackberry for as long as I did). Verizon's mandatory $10 charge is something to do to to ensure a revenue from non-data plan users. If does not give these customers any kind of data plan, it's just a newish fee they've imposed to offset some of the money they've been losing from those using older phones.

Verizon is that regard has really upset me because I cannot use a phone I shelled out good money for (Blackbery Curve) unless I pay for their $30 data plan. The $10 charge is mandatory no matter what and it will not cover my Blackberry, despite the fact I just want to use it for phone calls and texts now!

I'd suggest going the prepay route and stay away from Verizon or any kind of contract for that matter. Prepay allows you to pay for only the data you want and it's exactly what I plan on doing when my Verizon contract expires.
posted by deacon_blues at 11:49 AM on March 23, 2010

I don't have any solid recommendations other than you should go into a Verizon store and try some for yourself. My only experience was with a single model (not the Samsung i760, but I don't remember the make and model), and it wasn't positive.

My wife and I were in your same situation, and the "data phone" seemed like a fantastic in-between model in concept, but a pain to use in actuality. Maybe we were impatient, maybe the one model in store wasn't their best, or maybe we should have avoided the Droids all-together, which we ended up getting (I still hate the monthly fees, but I love what it does). The model we saw had two screens, one touch and one not, and a tiny keyboard. The touch responsiveness was poor, and they keypad was awkward to say the least. Compared, to the Droid, it felt like dated technology.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2010

What smartphones have you used? Honestly, the web is AWFUL on virtually all of the phones that will qualify for the $10 plan. The devices are poor to begin with and Verizon typically cripples them even further by forcing them to use their own proprietary browser. It will be nothing like the experience on the Droid, Eris, Pre, or Pixi (to name a few decent smartphones available on VZW). And if you are expecting something like an iphone experience, prepare to be extremely disappointed.

The closest thing might be a Windows Mobile phone, but those are dated, buggy, and very hard to use for those who aren't technically inclined.

I suggest that you either pony up the cash for the real data plan for stick to standard voice/text phones.
posted by The Lamplighter at 12:27 PM on March 23, 2010

As I understand it now, Verizon categorizes their phones into "Smartphones" (Droid, Palm Pre, Blackberry) and "Multimedia" phones (LG Chocolate Touch, Samsung Rogue). The Smartphones require the higher data plan, where the Multimedia phones require the $10/mo. plan.

Smartphones are sexy. Nice interfaces, tons of options, decent performance. I was in the same boat as you not long ago, and I upgraded from a fairly standard flip phone to the Chocolate Touch. It's not bad, but there are trade-offs. I do like that it's a bit thinner and smaller than an iPhone, for example. I do not care for the screen-based keyboard, though. I have gotten used to it a little, but it's only slightly more efficient than the keypad on my old phone.

The web browser is disappointing. The processor in the phone is not very efficient, and while it does show full web pages, the screen is still too small for that to be useful. It takes me back to the days of the 56K modem, actually.

My wife got the Motorola Rival, but she uses it pretty strictly as a phone. Can't comment on the browsing, but the actual keyboard is nice, and she likes it overall. Are any of these worth the extra $10 for a few MB per month? I wouldn't do it again.
posted by Cheesoning at 12:29 PM on March 23, 2010

One more thing - it was suggested to me to try out an iPod Touch for wi-fi browsing and e-mail and such. You're not tied to a cell phone plan and you have the whole Apple App store available, too. I think I would have been happier going that route.
posted by Cheesoning at 12:32 PM on March 23, 2010

So, I'm the one to whom the Samsung i760 was recommended a bit over 2 years ago. I followed that advice, but I upgraded to a Droid the first day I was able to. Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of that phone (though I'll sell it cheaply if you decide you really want it!). Windows Mobile is just irritating in far too many ways.

From what I've seen, your choices really are either a smartphone or not a smartphone. The difference is usability between smartphones and others (for web) is pretty huge. My phone previous to the i760 was a Motorola Razr, and while it had a web browser, it wasn't really particularly useful.

Cheesoning's dumb phone + iPod Touch plan is a decent one if you frequently have WiFi accessible to you. Otherwise, I'm not sure what else to say. Once you get a smartphone, it's pretty impossible to go back.
posted by JMOZ at 12:57 PM on March 23, 2010

An Android device with the $30 a month plan is really want you want to look at. If you intend to do ANY web browsing from your phone, smartphones (Android tends to be more consumer friendly than Blackberry in my experience) are really where it's at. I believe I'm the one who recommended JMOZ look at the i760. At the time it was about the only device Verizon carried that fit his needs. Now the Droid would be my recommendation for anyone who needs wi-fi, good web browsing and a QWERTY keyboard.
posted by Phoenix42 at 1:27 PM on March 23, 2010

Phoenix42 is the one who recommended the i760, and for that, I think him. (It was as good a phone as I could get at the time). The Droid is great, but I do have 1 comment-

You think you want a hardware keyboard. If you get a phone that allows you to use Swype (a really nice virtual keyboard), you'll find yourself using the hardware keyboard less and less. I hardly use it at all.

What phones are available on the $10/month plan? We can see if there are any hidden jewels, but otherwise, my earlier advice still holds.
posted by JMOZ at 1:38 PM on March 23, 2010

I have a Samsung Rogue and it is ok. It's listed as a 3g multimedia phone, so you should be able to use it on the 10 dollar internet plan. That doesn't include much data, though. It's 25 MB iirc, so if you watch Youtube videos you could pretty easily end up with a huge data bill.

The Rogue has a beautiful touch screen and a pull out keyboard. You can only use the default Verizon internet browser, which has things about it that are very annoying. No multi-touch, it doesn't ever remember user names and passwords so you have to enter that information in every time you visit a site. The browser does work much better than phones like the Env, Env2 or Env3. The phone has a pretty nice camera and you can sync music and video on it using Windows Media player with a little work.

I think that the Rogue may be the best choice in the 3G multimedia category, but if you want to spend very much time surfing the internet on your phone you really need a smart phone. It's pretty easy to hit the 25MB limit just doing a small amount of surfing daily and then you are paying 20 cents per MB.
posted by jefeweiss at 1:39 PM on March 23, 2010

I have the Rival and the $10 data plan. I love it. Works great with almost all news sites. it's surprisingly fast for browsing. Y!mail and Gmail work really well on it, if you dont have to download an attachment other than a photo.
posted by sandra_s at 1:47 PM on March 23, 2010

I have a Samsung i760. I picked it because it has WiFi, and I use it on a Page Plus (prepaid) plan with limited data. It's okay, and I feel like it's decent for browsing the web, but as people have said, Windows Mobile is annoying, as is the lack of a scroll wheel/button.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:09 PM on March 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone - all of these answers are helpful. You've given me good suggestions for 3G multimedia phones to look at, and food for thought about whether or not to upgrade to a real smartphone or try an ipod touch.
posted by medusa at 11:22 AM on March 24, 2010

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