The Arc flips open quite easily, and when it is fully open, the phone is laid out almost completely flat. The 1.8-inch internal display supports 262,000 colors, which results in a decent-looking display, but the Arc's default menu style doesn't take full advantage of it. You can adjust the contrast and the backlight time, but not the font size.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a square toggle with a middle OK key, a dedicated speakerphone key, and a dedicated Web browser key. The toggle also doubles as shortcuts to your VirginXL account to see how many minutes you have left, a new text message, the Recent Calls menu, and the VirginXL store, where you can buy and download ringtones and graphics. Below the navigation array are the Send, Back, and End/Power keys, as well as the number keypad. We thought the keypad felt a little crowded, but at least the keys are nicely raised above the surface of the phone, making it easy to dial and text.
Like most of the other Virgin Mobile phones, the Arc doesn't have much in the way of features. However, it has a good set of basics for those who want a simple phone primarily for making calls. Those basics include a 500-entry phone book, with each entry able to hold up to five numbers, two e-mail addresses, two instant messenger names, and a homepage URL address. You can also assign a contact to a caller group, a photo for caller ID, and a personalized ringtone or text message alert tone out of nine sound files. Other features include text and multimedia messaging, a speaker phone, a vibrate mode, a calendar, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a calculator, a world clock, a stopwatch, and voice command functions. It also has a wireless Web browser and Bluetooth.
You can personalize the Arc with wallpaper, screensavers, themes, ringtones, and message alert options, plus you can download more via the Virgin XL Web portal. Demo versions of Gameloft Jukebox, DChoc Arcade Pack, and EA Arcade Pack come included with the Arc, but you'll have to purchase the full version from Virgin Mobile.
We tested the Virgin Mobile Arc in San Francisco using the Virgin Mobile service. Call quality was decent, but we did get quite a bit of static and echo. Callers could hear us loud and clear, however, so it wasn't too bad. Speakerphone calls were not too bad, either; callers couldn't tell much of a difference on their end, but we did think they sounded very tinny and hollow on our end. We managed to pair the Virgin Mobile Arc with the Plantronics Discovery 925 without a problem. The Virgin Mobile Arc has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and 14.5 days standby time. We had a tested talk time of 4 hours and 5 minutes. According to the FCC radiation charts, the Arc has a digital SAR rating digital SAR rating of 1.37 watts per kilogram.