Virgin Mobile currently offers six phones, whose features vary greatly to suit every usage requirement. Their standard model, the Shorty, offers a basic speakerphone, text messaging, a selection of ring tones and a 65000 color LCD screen. It retails at $40. The Snapper includes a built in digital camera that displays at 300 megapixels and includes a flash, a basic speaker phone, web browsing and mobile AIM service. Mobile AIM service is the portable version of the AOL Instant Messenger service that you use on your computer. With Mobile AIM service you can view your Buddy List , send and receive IMs, set your away message and more with your mobile phone. The phone also includes the Virgin Mobile standard internal and external 65000 color LCD screens. The Snapper retails at $100. The top of the line Switchback, with 256/256 Mb of Flash/Ram memory, opens sideways to make a miniature laptop with full web browsing and text messaging or it can be used unopened as a candy bar phone. The Switchback has a QWERTY keypad, specially designed for text messaging mobile devices. The external and external screens offer 65k color. It retails at $150. Some phones, such as the Switchback, include MP3 support, FM radio, and polyphonic ring tones.
All Virgin Mobile phones have a micro browser or a WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) browser, it is optimized to view sites configured to display on small, mobile devices. Unfortunately, not all sites are made for WAP browsing.
Virgin is traditionally known as a pay as you go provider. However, they are changing directions by now offering monthly plans and only one pay as you go offer at the hefty amount of $.18 per minute. The monthly plans range from $14 for 100 minutes to be used anytime to $60 for 600 minutes to be used anytime with an unlimited number of prime-time minutes. By registering a credit card at the Virgin Mobile web site, users can avoid “topping up” with phone cards. This makes Virgin Mobile streamlined just like every other contract service provider, except Virgin has one major advantage, no contract.
Virgin did not skimp on the services. Every phone comes with text messaging capability and a text messaging mailbox, voicemail, an address book, a calendar/scheduler, a reminder feature, a calculator, stopwatch, a world time zone clock, automatic redial, speed dial allowing the user to conference call a group, built in games, optional ring tones, caller id, a phone e-mail service for $3.99 per month and more. Also, TTY/711 calls for the hearing impaired can be made from any Virgin Mobile phone without incurring extra charges.
Virgin Mobile has a well designed web site where most customer service questions can be answered or account changes can be made. This means customers can get assistance, check the company’s latest deals or make account changes at any time day or night, no more waiting in the customer service que.
Virgin Mobile will offer local number portability beginning in November of 2006. This means customers switching to Virgin Mobile from another service provider will be able to keep their former phone numbers.
On the downside, Virgin Mobile’s advertising and ways of conveying information are generally geared to an under thirty crowd.
Older people may find their web site to be confusing and difficult to navigate. The phones do not offer some business features such as Bluetooth or G3 enabled streaming video conference calling.