TracFone's Straight Talk subsidiary is launching its first Android phone, probably some time in September. It's the Samsung Galaxy Precedent (image, left) and appears to be physically identical to the Boost Mobile Samsung Galaxy Prevail. Straight Talk has confirmed that the Precedent will run on the Sprint network. Boost Mobile is wholly owned by Sprint and Boost phones also run on the Sprint network with no off network roaming.
Very little in the way of official information or specifications are available for the Precedent, however as the phone is apparently identical to the Boost Prevail, here are some specs, reviews and hands on videos of the Boost phone.
- Android 2.2.2 with Access to Android Market™
- 3.2-inch 320 x 480 px glass capacitive touchscreen
- 2MP fixed focus camera with QVGA video capture and no flash
- GPS enabled with Google Maps navigation, free and unlimited
- Bluetooth support for stereo headphones, handsfree headsets and file transfer
- Easy access to Gmail™ and Google Talk™
- Switch between portrait and landscape
- Speakerphone with voice-activated dialing
- Standard Android MP3 Music Player app
- Supports microSD™ cards up to 32GB (2GB card included)
- Voice mail, caller ID
- 1500 mHa battery, up to 6 hours talk time and 9 days standby.
- 800 MHZ Qualcomm MSM7627-3 processor
- No GPU (Graphics co-processor)
- No Adobe Flash support
- No proximity sensor
- 124 MB internal storage memory
- 384 MB RAM
- 3.5 mm headphone jack
- USB charging
- 1900 MHz only
- EVDO Rev A 3G data (the faster of two EVDO variants)
- WiFi 802.11b/g/n
- Dimensions: 4.43” X 2.26” X 0.47” (113 x 57 x 12 mm) 3.81 ounces (108 g)
To summarize the reviews, the Prevail and Precedent have:
- Excellent screen quality; sharp, with good color saturation and touch sensitivity
- Good overall build quality and physical appearance
- Better than average battery life for a smartphone
- User interface responsiveness that's usually OK but can lag or hang at times
- Slightly better than average call quality
- A screen that washes out in bright light
- Camera quality that's OK for casual photos in good light but only fair indoors.
- Low quality video recording
In my opinion anyone waiting for this phone might as well buy the Prevail, which is available now. Here's why;
Same coverage as Boost: I'm 99% sure that there will be no roaming for Straight Talk under Sprint, which means that coverage will be identical to Boost and generally inferior to what current Straight Talk customers experience on the Verizon or AT&T networks that all the current Straight Talk phones use.
How much worse? Here's Straight Talk's coverage map for its current phones. Curiously Straight Talk only seems to publish one map even though the coverage area for their CDMA (Verizon) and GSM (AT&T plus roaming) based phones is different. The map below seems to represent the GSM service. The CDMA coverage is actually smaller because of the lack of roaming.
Here's Boost's coverage map showing the Sprint native network:
Quite a difference! To be fair, Sprint's native network covers most of the places where people actually live and work as well as the major highways in most regions. Millions of Boost and Virgin Mobile users find it meets their needs. Just don't expect the Precedent to work everywhere that current Straight Talk phones do.
Why am I so sure that there will be no roaming on the Precedent? It's because the Prevail only supports the 1900 Mhz band, which is what Sprint uses. Verizon and US Cellular, which are the other major CDMA operators and the only significant potential roaming partners for Sprint, use the 850 Mhz band in most areas, which the Prevail doesn't support. Samsung didn't submit the Precedent to the FCC for approval, which would be required if it used different radio hardware or ran on different frequencies. The FCC approval process takes months and the Precedent goes on sale next month so there is no time left for approval.
Straight Talk's hard data cap: There are numerous reports on online forums of Straight Talk having an undocumented 2GB data cap on their current unlimited service on AT&T. That's not bad in itself, most "unlimited" plans have some sort of cap and 2GB is fairly typical. The problem is that when you exceed 2GB, Straight Talk allegedly shuts off your data, not just for the rest of the month, but permanently. Sprint currently has no cap on Boost Unlimited and a 2 GB soft cap on their Virgin Mobile unlimited plans. Most industry observers believe that Boost will soon adopt a soft cap too. With a soft cap, when you use too much data, your data downloads are slowed to near dial up speeds for the rest of the month, but full speed is restored at the start of the monthly billing cycle. It's possible that Straight Talk will adopt a soft cap or no cap policy for their Android phones on the Sprint network, but they haven't said so. But do you want to take a chance of having your data cut off permanently?
No real price advantage: Sure, the Precedent's list price is $30 cheaper than the Prevail. But the Prevail goes on sale regularly and is currently on sale for the same $149.99 price as the Precedent at Target stores. Straight Talk's unlimited service is $45/month which is $5 less than Boost's. However Straight Talk refills are rarely discounted and sales tax is charged on them in many states. Discounts are widely available on Boost refills. For example, CallingMart.com sells Boost $50 refills for $47.04 if you use coupon code ca3p-1207. This can be reduced another 1% to $46.04 if you join and use CallingMart's free "points" reward program. There's no tax on refills from Callingmart and other online refill vendors, so if Straight Talk charges tax in your state Boost can actually be less expensive. Then there's Boost's "shrinkage" which reduces the monthly cost of service by $5 for every six on-time refills to $35/month after a year and a half.
I'm glad Straight Talk is finally getting an Android phone. But it's really a Boost phone with Boost coverage and with little or no price advantage and the potential of having your data terminated if you use it too much. I'm hoping that Straight Talk eventually adds Android phones running on AT&T with the much more extensive AT&T postpaid coverage that their current Symbian smartphones enjoy. That would be something worth taking the chance on the hard cap for.
If you are still interested in the Precedent, click here to see if it will be available in your area and to reserve your phone.