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Virgin Mobile Arc review: Virgin Mobile Arc

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7.0

Virgin Mobile Arc

The Good

The Virgin Mobile Arc is a basic yet stylish camera phone, with decent call quality and an affordable price point. It also has Bluetooth and voice dialing.

The Bad

The Virgin Mobile Arc has a slightly crowded keypad and bad photo quality.

The Bottom Line

If you want an attractive yet affordable basic camera phone, the Virgin Mobile Arc is one of the better options in Virgin Mobile's lineup.

Virgin Mobile is known for its entry-level phones with catchy names, and the Arc by UTStarcom is no different. The Arc sets itself apart from the rest of Virgin Mobile's lineup with a unique and very appealing curved design. Otherwise, it has a decidedly basic feature set, with a VGA camera and Bluetooth as two of its most advanced features. We're not complaining, though, since it's very affordable at only $49.99 with no contract required.


Design

Out of all the Virgin Mobile phones we've seen cross our path, the Arc is probably one of the most stylish. Measuring 3.6 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.8 inch thick, the Arc has a slim and curved body, which is swept inward from top and bottom to create a very streamlined and sporty look. Also, the phone's surface is made of a soft-touch material that makes the Arc pleasant to hold in the hand. It is clad in red and black tones, similar to the colors of Virgin Mobile.


The Virgin Mobile Arc has a camera lens on the front.

Even though it is a basic phone, the Arc does have a 1-inch-wide diagonal color display. It only supports 65,000 colors, but that's good enough for basic date, time, caller ID, and battery and signal strength information. You can also use the color display as a self-portrait viewfinder when the camera is activated. You can adjust the wallpaper and the clock format, but nothing else. Above the display is the speakerphone grill, and underneath it is the camera lens. There's a headset jack, dedicated camera key, and a volume rocker on the left spine, while the right is home to a voice command button.

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.


Features

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.


The Virgin Mobile Arc takes disappointing photos.

The Arc also comes with a built-in VGA camera. Though it isn't a very high-resolution camera, it's good enough for quick snapshots. You can take pictures in four resolutions (640x480, 320x240, 160x120, 128x96), three quality settings, three shutter sounds (no silent option), five white balance settings, four color effects, and 10 fun frames. Other camera settings include contrast, a self-timer, brightness, up to 2x zoom, and the ability to take self-portraits. Photo quality was pretty horrible, with a lot of blurriness and overcast tones.

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.


Performance

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.

7.0

Virgin Mobile Arc

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7