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Apple iPhone 4 Virgin Mobile review:

Apple iPhone 4 Virgin Mobile

For comparison, listen to our call samples from the iPhone 4 on AT&T and the iPhone 4S on Verizon:

Listen now: Apple iPhone 4 (AT&T) call quality sample

Listen now: Apple iPhone 4S (Verizon) call quality sample

Compared with the Verizon iPhone 4S, however, voices weren't as crisp. I put all units on max volume, and the Verizon model sounded the best, as if the person were speaking closer to the receiver. At his end, my friend agreed with me, saying he heard me most clearly when I was speaking into the Verizon handset.

Our AT&T iPhone 4 performed the worst. Call quality was noticeably poorer -- my friend's voice sounded muddled and there was a subtle, continuous buzzing sound. In fact, I initially thought I had been put on speaker because the sound quality was so disappointing. Compared with AT&T's device, voices on the Virgin iPhone were fuller and didn't come off as tinny and harsh. Again, my friend aligned with me on this. He said my voice sounded incredibly staticky and hollow on the AT&T model.

Verizon iPhone 4S, Virgin iPhone 4, and AT&T iPhone 4
We compared the Verizon iPhone 4S, the Virgin iPhone 4, and the AT&T iPhone 4. Josh Miller/CNET

Virgin's 3G EV-DO Rev. A network runs noticeably slower than AT&T's and Verizon's 3G networks. Keep in mind, however, that data performance depends on a number of factors, including location, so the speeds I saw might differ from what you see. For my Virgin unit, while ESPN's desktop site took just a couple more seconds to load than on the other phones, desktop sites like CNET and The New York Times took nearly twice as long. Furthermore, downloading the 24.6MB game Temple Run took almost 7 minutes more on average.

Virgin's iPhone 4 AT&T's iPhone 4 Verizon's iPhone 4S
CNET mobile site (load time in seconds) 15 13 8
CNET desktop site (load time in seconds) 26 15 8
New York Times desktop site (load time in seconds) 38 15 11
ESPN mobile site (load time in seconds) 10 9 6
ESPN desktop site (load time in seconds) 32 18 15
Temple Run (26.4MB app, download time in minutes) 10:35 3:08 3:23
Ookla (download speed in Mbps) 0.21 2.62 1.05
Ookla (upload speed in Mbps) 0.49 0.35 0.91

Our times were averaged from three trials, all from the same location. When loading Web sites, the history and cache were cleared each time. All networks were operating on 3G.

If you want a smartphone (which, frankly, most people do), you usually have two options. You can get one on a standard carrier at a lower price, but you'll be bound by a contract. Alternatively, you can go to a prepaid carrier and pay more for the same phone. But, you won't be chained down by any two-year agreement. If you're someone who wants to go the latter route, then you can consider the iPhone 4. It's much, much more expensive than Virgin's other smartphones (currently, its third highest-priced device after the iPhone 4 and 4S is the HTC Evo V 4G for about $240), but it will deliver that unique and satisfying iOS experience. And while 3G speeds aren't that great and you'll be paying through the nose, if you want that Apple experience, this phone will deliver the goods.

What you'll pay

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