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Opting to sign up with a prepaid wireless carrier makes a lot of sense because you pay as you go and can leave whenever you see fit. The flipside of this arrangement though is that prepaid cellular providers tend to charge high, unsubsidized prices for archaic low-end phones. The $199 HTC One V on Virgin Mobile shatters the typical business model. This compact Android 4.0 smartphone is lovingly crafted from premium materials, sports an attractive screen, and boasts an advanced camera. If you can make peace with its 3G connection and modest performance, it's a very tempting Virgin Mobile device, even more compelling, in fact, than the U.S. Cellular version since you don't have to commit to a contract.
One key to HTC's success in the past has crafting phones with daring designs. A excellent example was the HTC Legend, which was carved from a single block of aluminum. The HTC One V furthers the Legend's premium looks by flaunting its unibody aluminum chassis.
Painted in a luxurious deep black, the One V's metal surface is matte, possessing an almost sandpaperlike roughness. Like its big brother, the HTC One S, the handset's texture absorbs moisture, repels fingerprints, and provides a sure grip.
The HTC One V takes another design element from the Legend playbook, a distinctive curved chin at the base of the phone. Love it or hate it, the One V's sloping bottom edge helps it stand out in a world filled with basic flat slabs.
With softly rounded edges and compact size, the One V's small stature also makes it a rare sight in today's smartphone market. Compared with the massive 4.7- and 4.8-inch-screened monsters filling store shelves, the HTC One V's 3.7-inch, 800x480-pixel-resolution LCD screen feels practically pint-size.
Despite its small stature, the One V's screen produces accurate colors and wide viewing angles. It doesn't get as bright or render images as sharply as HTC's current superphone the HTC One X. That said, the One V's display is noticeably brighter than the HTC Evo Design 4G, its cousin on Boost Mobile.
Measuring 4.74 inches tall by 2.35 inches wide by 0.36 inch thick, this device is minute enough to use one-handed and easily slip into pockets. The only recent Android phone I can say that about is the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE. At a hair over 4 ounces, the One V shouldn't tear a hole in your pocket either.
HTC keeps the One V's ports and buttons to a minimum. On top you'll find a power key and 3.5mm headphone jack. The right side houses a long, thin volume rocker while the handset's left side contains a Micro-USB port. Three capacitive buttons for back, home, and recent programs sit below the screen. Keep in mind the phone lacks a front-facing camera for video chats.
As the most modest phone in HTC's One series lineup, the HTC One V doesn't come equipped with the same powerful components that grace the One X and One S. Even so, the handset runs the same modern software, including Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and HTC's Sense 4 user interface layered over it.
Designed to be less intrusive than previous Sense versions, Sense 4 skips many of the fancy graphics effects, such as the perpetually spinning 3D carousel of home screens and in-your-face weather graphics.
To unlock the phone either flick a virtual ring from the bottom of the screen to the center, or drag icons into the ring to quick-launch major phone functions. Pulling the camera symbol inside the ring for example powers up the One V's imaging system to snap pictures and shoot video without navigating through menus. Other lock-screen shortcuts include the Web browser, text messaging, and phone dialer.
As on the HTC One S, and HTC One X, you have seven home screens to choose from, each ready to populate with app shortcuts and animated widgets. You'll find HTC's classic weather clock front and center on the main screen. One difference, though, is that tapping the widget's digital readout launches a world clock that lists capital city times in basic text, not the slick 3D globe visual found on the One X and One S.
Hitting the weather portion of the clock does pull up a detailed forecast but the One V lacks the graphics-heavy weather wallpaper that the One X and One S have as an option. On those phones it displays animations in the background and on the lock screen corresponding to current atmospheric conditions.
The bottom of each home screen contains a tab with the same four quick-launch icons shown on the lock screen. I definitely appreciate being able to swap these icons for others or even create and add folders holding multiple app icons. Changes made here are also reflected on the lock screen, and placing application shortcuts on top of one another creates a folder. Sense enhances the browser too, with a Pure Content Reader view that removes ads and displays only the text of a selected Web page. You can also select pages and video to bookmark for later enjoyment offline.
Harnessing the power of Android, the One V features the typical assortment of Google services, including Gmail, Google+, and Navigation, plus the Play Store for downloading apps from a catalog of over 700,000 titles. Additionally, Play serves up digital books, movies, games, and music to purchase. Just like with its sibling on U.S. Cellular, HTC's Watch app was nowhere to be found. The application is a storefront offering its own library of TV shows and movies for rental or purchase.
There isn't much third-party software on the this version of the One V to speak of. There's the airG app to connect to the Canadian social networking site, Dropbox for storing files in the cloud, Twitter, and TuneIn Internet radio. Virgin Mobile has placed a few of its own software titles on the phone such as Downloads for purchasing ringtones and wallpapers, My Account to check your service status, and Virgin Mobile Live to stream a curated list of music and videos.
It's clear HTC made improving camera performance in the One series a major priority. All three handsets (the One X, One S, and One V) use special hardware to improve speed and image quality. As with the One X and One S, I found my One V test unit to focus on subjects quickly and capture pictures nearly instantly.
Of course, the One V's 5-megapixel shooter has lower resolution than the 8-megapixel sensors found in many of today's high-end smartphones. As a result, the camera produced images that were comparatively soft and lacked crisp detail. Indoor still-life shots weren't as clear as I would like either. On the whole they were dark and colors didn't pop off my desktop monitor when I viewed them.
The HTC One V, however, is a real trouper in low lighting. Equipped with its BSI (Back Side Illuminated) sensor and nimble auto focus, I was able to shoot pictures of fast-moving children -- something that gives many phone cameras can't handle.
Video performance was was adequate but not outstanding and the One V's autofocus had trouble keeping subjects in focus. Also, even though HTC says the phone records video in 720p HD quality, movies I shot were grainy with details on the soft side. As with many phone cameras, images I shot outdoors in strong to moderate sunlight were more pleasing, with brighter, more saturated colors.
If you tend to grab for your phone often to snap photos, you'll love the HTC One V's wide range of shooting modes, scene settings, and fun filters. Also, just like the One X and One S, the handset's camera app let's you fire off multiple shots continuously by pressing and holding the shutter icon on the screen. Additionally you can snap pics while the video camera is filming. Be sure to check out our Camera phone image gallery to see how the HTC One V stacks up against other handsets.
The HTC One V may technically be member of the One series but don't expect it to offer jaw-dropping application performance. Proding the One V's Android 4.0.3 operating system along is a modest single-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor. As a result, the phone doesn't respond with the same greased lightning quickness as the One S and One S. Menus and applications appeared and opened without much delay but I did experience some hesitation on the One V's part.
Every so often the device would stutter while I swiped through various home screens, especially if the One V was preoccupied performing other tasks simultaneously such as downloading apps or syncing e-mail.
Linpack benchmark tests confirmed the One V's pokey processing, with the phone notching a low score of 34 MFLOPs (single-thread) completed in a long 2.5 seconds. That's not enough to beat the HTC Evo Design 4G's (Boost Mobile) score of 40 MFLOPs. HTC's top-of-the-line One X, however, turned in a nimble 99.3 MFLOPs (0.84 seconds) on the same test.
The biggest performance weak spot of the HTC One V for Virgin Mobile though is its slow 3G connection. I clocked downloads in New York at a low average of 0.84Mbps. Upload speeds were just as sluggish, coming in on average at 0.56Mbps.
One bright spot is the HTC One V's call quality. When I tested it on Virgin Mobile's CDMA network in New York, callers described my voice as clear with no static or other audio issues. On my end I heard voices that were warm, lifelike, and loud. The speakerphone doesn't produce much volume, I could easily converse with people even in a medium-size conference room.HTC One V (Virgin Mobile) call quality sample Listen now:
The HTC One V's 1,500mAh battery lasted decently long during anecdotal battery drain tests. The handset played an HD video file continuously for 6 hours and 4 minutes. By comparison, the HTC One X clung on for 6 hours and 35 minutes in the same situation.
Going with a prepaid wireless carrier often means having to settle for an aging handset running outdated software. Pouring more salt in the wound, is the steep unsubsidized price you'll likely pay, often hundreds of dollars more than phones sold by major post-paid providers. The $199.99 HTC One V on Virgin Mobile bucks the curve. Not only does this device offer the modern Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS, it's compact, sports a premium design plus an attractive display. Frankly it's currently the best buy on Virgin Mobile. Sure it's not a quad-core or even dual-core superphone or have 4G data access, but for a no-contract handset it's a serious deal. I certainly feel it's a better bargain than the $299.99 HTC Evo V which has marginally better specs or the $649.99 16GB iPhone 4S that's outrageously expensive.