updated 09:55 pm EDT, Tue April 5, 2011
Budget Android handset on affordable plan
Confirming several leaks, Boost Mobile has formally unveiled its latest smartphone, Samsung's Prevail handset, at a special event in New York City. The device represents the carrier's flagship smartphone, which will be sold alongside several BlackBerry offerings and the aging Motorola i1. Electronista attended the introduction to take a closer look at the new device, which may prove to be one of the most attractive smartphones paired with contract-free data plans.
The Prevail is designed to be an entry-level Android handset, with basic features that provide a compromise between affordability and capability. From a hardware standpoint, the phone integrates an 800MHz processor, 480x320 LCD touchscreen and three-megapixel camera.
Despite the lackluster hardware, the Prevail offers a decent Android 2.2 experience. Boost Mobile stuck with the stock Android build, a decision which we agreed with. The processor is not the fastest chip to load pages or play YouTube content, but the overall experience is what we expect from an entry-level Android device.
Boost Mobile executives highlighted their "shrinkage" plan, which starts at $50/month for unlimited data, texts and voice. For every six months a customer pays their bill on time, the plan drops by $5 until it reaches $35/month after 18 months. We already though Boost Mobile's smartphone plan was extremely competitive at $50/month, but the "shrinkage" incentive makes the proposition even more attractive for long-term customers.
As a reference point to Boost Mobile's plans, Verizon offers an unlimited voice package that starts at $70/month -- without data or text packages. For any Android-based device, the plans jump by $30/month, while unlimited mobile-to-mobile texting plans start at an additional $10/month. Stack that all together, and customers face a bill that costs at least $110/month. Even for the basic smartphone plan, which includes 450 talk minutes and unlimited data, customers have to dish out $70/month plus $0.20 per text.
While we can't say anything negative regarding high-end Android flagships, paying an extra $30/month equates to $720 through the course of a standard two-year contract. That said, the Prevail truly represents the most affordable way for anyone to step up from a feature phone to a smartphone without paying a premium for expensive data plans.
For anyone who wants the fastest handsets with the highest-resolution displays, dual cameras, dual-core processors and other flagship features, the Prevail is clearly not an option. However, anyone who will be satisfied with the Android 2.2 smartphone experience and a capable device likely faces the conflict between Boost Mobile or obtaining a subsidized but free device tied to an expensive and long-term contract.
The smartphone market so far has been dominated by carriers forcing two-year subscriptions with mandatory data plans. Just last month, Nokia announced its partnership with T-Mobile to offer the Symbian-based Astound C7 with a cheaper $10/month data plan. We were impressed that a company had finally offered a decent solution to the entry-level smartphone category, but the Prevail seems to have upstaged T-Mobile's offering by embracing a popular platform and even cheaper plans.