Audiovox Flasher V7 CDM-8910 (Virgin Mobile) review: Audiovox Flasher V7 CDM-8910 (Virgin Mobile)
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 Audiovox CDM-8910 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.
Perhaps the most important addition to the V7 Flasher is the VGA camera. It includes a 4X digital zoom and a flash, but the image quality is nothing you would want to print out. Still, it performs adequately for casual snapshots. The LED-based flash is good for a few feet but not much more. The Flasher V7 can also take pictures when closed, and unlike many phones at this level, it offers an image preview on its external display.
Once you take a picture, you can e-mail it, upload it to the Virgin Web site, or store it on the phone's memory. The amount of storage for pictures depends on the resolution. You can save 100 shots at the 160x120 setting, 75 at the 320x240 setting, or 50 at the 640x480 setting. There is no IR port or PC-syncing capabilities, so the only way to get the picture off the phone is to send it via Virgin's service for 25 cents per image. There is no other multimedia-messaging support, which could limit the phone's appeal.
As you would expect from a Virgin phone, the V7 has some quirky offerings. The quality of the 32-chord musical ring tones is particularly good, and you can download them from VirginXL, Virgin's new online data service. The V7 is the first phone to use VirginXL, which also offers downloadable games, a WAP 2.0 browser, and an online photo-album service. Virgin has also done an impressive job of signing up brand-name content providers that will appeal to younger users. Exclusive content from MTV and Comedy Central includes TRL Video Voting, the Rock Paper Schizzle game, and ring tones from Crank Yankers.The call quality on the Virgin Mobile Flasher V7 was excellent. We tested the dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900 and AMPS 800) phone in the New York City area. We had no trouble finding a signal, even indoors, and nearly always made static-free connections. The speakerphone worked reasonably well, with callers only occasionally complaining that they couldn't hear us. Once we taught the phone to recognize our voice commands, the various voice-dialing features were easy to use.
Though we beat the rated talk time of 3.5 hours by a half hour, that performance was a bit underwhelming, even for a compact phone. On standby, however, the phone lasted almost eight days--a full day longer than the promised time. Keep in mind that using the camera and multimedia applications will drain the battery more quickly. According to the FCC, the Flasher V7 has a digital SAR rating of 1.15 watts per kilogram.