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Virgin Mobile Shuttle is the carrier's first 3G handset

Virgin Mobile launches its first-ever 3G phone, dubbed the Shuttle.

Virgin Mobile Shuttle is the carrier's first 3G phone.
Virgin Mobile Shuttle is the carrier's first 3G phone. Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile and Personal Communications Devices (formerly known as UTStarcom) have announced the Shuttle, the carrier's first-ever 3G handset. Equipped with EV-DO, GPS, and a slew of high-end features, the Shuttle is one of the first signs of Virgin's Helio acquisition, in that it is enriching its rather basic lineup with strong full-featured devices previously associated with Helio.

Virgin Mobile's Shuttle has a slide-out design
Virgin Mobile's Shuttle has a slide-out design. Virgin Mobile

Indeed, the Shuttle will feature Virgin Mobile's first location-based services from uLocate, like Buddy Beacon, a friend-finder application found previously on Helio phones, as well as Where, an application that delivers local information such as nearby events and restaurants. Other features include a 1.3-megapixel camera, a 2-inch screen, video capture and playback, messaging, an integrated media player that supports both streaming and sideloaded music, stereo Bluetooth, SD card support, and support for Virgin Mobile's Contact Vault that lets you back up your contacts online.

Following the Virgin Mobile tradition, the Shuttle will be available without any contracts for only $99.99, which is a fairly decent price for a multimedia phone. With the Shuttle, Virgin Mobile is also introducing its first Mobile Web data packs, available in monthly plans or a pay-as-you-go. For the monthly plans, it's either $5 for 20 MB of Web surfing and unlimited VirginXL, or it's $10 for 50MB and unlimited VirginXL. For pay-as-you-go, it's $5 for 5MB of Web surfing only, $10 for 20MB and unlimited VXL, and $20 for 50MB and unlimited VXL. (VirginXL is a Virgin Mobile service where you can download games, graphics, and ringtones, as well as get access to streaming video from partners like MTV and Comedy Central).

It'll be available exclusively through Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile starting September 28.