As one of the pioneers of the pay-as-you-go service model, Virgin Mobile has proved popular with younger, cash-strapped customers looking for simple but unique handsets on the cheap. With the new Flasher V7 from Audiovox, the carrier takes a new direction by offering its first camera phone and better data-network access. Similar to the for Verizon Wireless, the V7 should endear itself to customers looking for a relatively full-featured phone without a pesky contract. And at $169, the price is right. The 3.2-ounce Virgin Mobile Flasher V7 is certainly lightweight, but at 3.3 by 1.6 by 0.8 inches, it doesn't feel particularly small. Overall, the design seems a little staid, given the youthful, fashion-conscious audience it is trying to attract. Though it comes in silver and navy-blue options, the Flasher just isn't that flashy, looking a lot like all the other clamshell-style mobiles on the market.
A small external display shows the time, the date, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). Though the screen is monochrome, it's easy to see in direct light. Other exterior features were minimal. The camera lens and the flash are on the lower-left corner, while a volume rocker and a convenient camera button sit on the left spine.
Inside, the phone features a bright, 1.75-inch-diagonal display capable of showing 65,000 colors. One place that Virgin does innovate a little is with the menu system. Rather than using text and small icons, the V7 offers large, colorful symbols for its settings, pictures, and messaging categories. Likewise, the navigation buttons and the keypad are clearly separated, well organized, and easy to navigate. A four-way, circular toggle offers one-click access to account information, text messaging, call history, and data services.The Virgin Mobile Flasher V7 comes loaded with a number of consumer-friendly features, including a contact manager with a 99-name address book that has room in each contact for three phone numbers. Contacts can also be organized into caller and messaging groups and be paired with a ring tone or a picture for caller ID. Unlike many midrange phones, the V7 also works as a speakerphone and supports voice dialing. Other features include a vibrate mode, text messaging, multiple call timers, a scheduler, an alarm clock, a world clock, and a usage alert. The last of those is particularly handy because this is a pay-for-play phone. Rather than subscribing to a yearlong contract, Virgin Mobile users prepay for their cell time. They can access their account information through the phone's menu system and find out exactly how much money or calling time they have left before they need to load up on more.