Prepaid phones get a bum rap, but the Motorola Triumph hopes to change that. As Virgin Mobile's new flagship device, the Triumph provides a 1-GHz processor, a large 4.1-inch screen, and HDMI output--pretty nice specs for an Android phone that doesn't require a contract. At $299, this 3G-only handset costs more up front than what most other carriers charge, but over two years, the Triumph's more aggressive voice and data plans could save you $1,000 or more. It all comes down to how much smartphone you're getting for your money.
At first glance, you might mistake the Motorola Triumph for the Motorola Droid. The phone has that familiar blocky shape, but it's softened by slightly rounded corners. There are few defining accents save for the chrome finish on the power and volume buttons, the border surrounding the camera, and the Motorola decal located on the back. The 5-ounce Triumph is light without feeling chintzy, thanks in part to a soft-touch back that makes this handset easy to grip.
The four usual touch buttons reside beneath the screen, and two small speakers sit on the bottom left and right edges of the device. The headphone jack rests at the top, while the microUSB and mini HDMI ports line the bottom of the phone. Right-handed users will find the power button's location (on the top left side) to be awkward.
Overall, the Triumph looks and feels solid, but we prefer the T-Mobile G2x's elegant curves and understated style to the Triumph's plain exterior.
The Motorola Triumph features a 4.1-inch display with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. That's lower than what you'll find on the Motorola Photon 4G for Sprint (960 x 540). The Triumph's screen is fairly bright, but the pictured looked a little cloudy compared to the sharper panel on the Photon. The Triumph also has narrower viewing angles.
Nevertheless, the Triumph's screen is fine for surfing the web and watching video. As we watched Kanye West's colorful "All of the Lights" video, we appreciated how vibrant Rihanna's fire-engine red hair looked. Outdoors on a sunny day, though, it was difficult to make out text on the screen.
The Motorola Triumph's speakers easily filled a small room with loud, clear audio. As with most phones, bass was lacking, which resulted in muted explosions during the Columbiana trailer. We heard clear vocals when listening to music, but we noticed that the highs become slightly distorted at maximum volume.
Typing on the Triumph's stock Android touch keyboard was quick and responsive. We liked the light haptic feedback and large keys. However, we wish that you could hold down keys to access alternate symbols.
Motorola also includes an alternate keyboard called TouchPal, which is supposed to offer smarter word prediction. We appreciated such features as the www./.com shortcut for entering website addresses, as well as easy access to emoticons, but we found the standard keyboard to be more accurate.
Software and Interface
While we prefer Google's newer Gingerbread software, Android purists will appreciate the bare-bones Android 2.2 Froyo OS loaded on the Motorola Triumph. The lockscreen features a large clock, with indicators for the battery and any active alarms resting beneath. Sliding the lock tab to the right unlocks the phone, while sliding the sound tab to the left disables the phone's sound.
Opening the lockscreen provides access to five customizable screens waiting to be filled with apps and widgets. Tabs for the dialer, app tray, and web browser sit at the bottom of the screen. Clicking on the app tray revealed all of our apps listed alphabetically in a clean 4 x 4 vertical grid.
Keeping in line with Virgin Mobile's younger demographic, the Triumph's app selection focuses on music, location-based services, and social networking. First, we streamed music from artists that performed at Virgin Mobile festivals using Virgin Mobile Live. Then we used Poynt and Where to search for local attractions such as restaurants and movie theaters. The Triumph also comes with Scvngr, a location-based game that we used to checked in at a local restaurant and earn points.
Aside from Facebook, the Triumph features the airG mobile social-networking app. We liked how easy it was to meet new people while playing a few rounds of Zombie Slots. A Flirt feature makes it easy to find eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, and we found a large number of chat rooms and forums for people looking to chew the fat or discuss their favorite television show. Overall, airG is a welcome diversion.
Equipped with a 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 512MB of RAM and 2GB of on-board memory, the Triumph offered pretty solid performance. During our tests, apps and menus opened quickly, and we swiped through screens with ease. We were able to run three windows and a game of NinJump simultaneously before noticing any lag. It definitely helps that this phone doesn't use an Android skin such as Motoblur, which can weigh things down. Our only issue is that the device sometimes didn't respond to our initial finger taps.
On our benchmark tests, the Triumph held its own against the Droid X2, LG Revolution, and the T-Mobile G2x. The Triumph scored a blazing-fast 34.4 on the multi-thread Linpack test--nearly three times the 12.2 average. The Nvidia Tegra 2-powered Droid X2 scored 30.2, while the G2x notched 34.9, barely defeating the Triumph. The Revolution came out the winner with 35.6. We got an impressive 2,223 from the Triumph on the CPU Benchmark, which beat out the Revolution's 2,221 and was just behind the G2x's score of 2,422. The Droid X2 was the clear winner with 2,663, shattering the 931 average.
The Triumph lost its footing during the An3DBench graphics test. While it scored a respectable 6,444--beating the 6,266 average--it was soundly beaten by the G2x's impressive 11,074 and the Droid X2's score of 7,416.
3G and Web Data
Operating on Virgin Mobile's 3G network, the Triumph could rarely get more than two bars of service at any given time. However, mobile websites loaded pretty fast. It only took the Triumph 7.9 seconds to load ESPN's mobile site and a slightly longer 9.3 seconds to render NYTimes.com. Loading the full desktop version of LaptopMag.com took significantly longer, at 20.2 seconds.
On Speedtest.net app, the Triumph averaged a download speed of 510.3 Kbps and a dismal 99 Kbps upload speed. The Droid X2 fared slightly better with 573 Kbps and 152 Kbps respectively. Unfortunately, you can't use the Triumph as a mobile hotspot for sharing the data connection with other devices.
The Triumph's 5-megapixel rear camera captured clear shots with sharp detail and vibrant color. Our subject's blue plaid shirt popped, as did the tree's green leaves during our outdoor test shots. However, the phone took nearly two seconds to fire, which resulted in annoying lag. When we shot subjects under fluorescent lighting, our photos took on a yellowish tinge. The Triumph's flash performed well, but it blew out subjects close to the camera.
This Virgin Mobile phone can also capture video in 720p. Footage shot in downtown New York City looked a little blurry. While the front-facing camera was able to provide vivid color, images had noticeable pixelation.
There's also a front-facing camera for video conferencing. Too bad neither Motorola nor Virgin Mobile include a dedicated video chat app. Video and still images were grainy and appeared washed out.
During our battery test (continuous web surfing over 3G) the Motorla Triumph lasted only 3 hours and 45 mintues, falling far below the 5:30 average. You'll definitely want to tweak your power settings to use as little juice as possible or invest in a spare battery.
We made a few test calls with the Triumph and our callers reported that our voice was loud and clear. As with most phones, ambient noise such as a busy street or a loud cafe interfered with calls. On our end, our callers' voices came through with a minimal amount of echo and were loud enough to fill a small room on speakerphone.
Plans and Value
The true appeal of Virgin Mobile is that it offers more affordable data plans than most of the major carriers. Starting at $35, plans offer subscribers unlimited data and messaging along with 300 anytime voice minutes. By comparison, a 4G phone on Sprint costs $79.99 per month for unlimited data and 450 minutes. (Virgin Mobile starts out with less minutes because its subscribers tend to talk less.) Over two years, you'll pay $2,118.76 on Sprint versus $1,139 on Virgin, a savings of $979.76.
For 450 to 500 minutes, 2GB of data, and unlimited messaging, AT&T ($84), T-Mobile ($65) and Verizon ($89) charge considerably more per month than Virgin Mobile. Virgin Mobile also offers 1200 minutes with unlimited data for $45 per month, and $55 includes unlimited data and minutes. Both of these plans are also cheaper than what the big four carriers offer.
On the other hand, T-Mobile has a new promotional plan that undercuts Virgin. If you sign up for two lines of service, you'll pay as little as $49.99 per month for 2GB of data and unlimited texting and voice minutes--$5 less per month than Virgin Mobile. And T-Mobile's phones include 4G data. If you want to go the no-contract route, T-Mobile sells a limited selection of prepaid Android phones, including the low-end Samsung Dart ($149) and the refurbished Galaxy S 4G ($349) for the same $50 per month. The catch is that only the first 100MB is 4G. If you want 4G speeds all month, you'll have to step up to $70.
The term "prepaid phone" conjures up visions of a poorly constructed device with even worse performance. Thankfully, the Motorola Triumph for Virgin Mobile defies the stereotype. For $299, you'll walk away with a mid-level Android phone that mostly satisfies, from its light weight and big screen to its 1-GHz processor. The best part is that you'll save hundreds versus competing carriers over two years. What keeps this handset from garnering a higher rating is its weak battery life. Overall, though, the Triumph is a good value for those who are content with 3G speeds.