Cell Phone Saga Pt. 3: The Review

It has been a month since I upgraded to a new phone and made the switch from Virgin Mobile to AT&T’s prepaid service. How has things been working?

The Phone – Samsung Galaxy Express Prime

I think I’ll start by tackling the meat and potatoes behind switching: the phone. My old phone, which I discussed extensively in previous installments in this saga, was slow and was nearly unusable thanks to its limited memory. Despite being only a year old, it acted like it was ten years old and struggled to keep up.

As also mentioned in a previous installment, the search for a new phone was not easy. I had a strict budget of less than $200, but still needed something that would work and work well. I needed something with enough storage to store my apps, etc – plus be compatible with using the microSD card as a form of expandable internal storage.

The search was not an easy task. All prepaid carriers I checked (Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, metroPCS, etc.) only had phones in the 16GB storage flavor in my price range. Really, most only had iPhones and Samsung Galaxy models in the upper storage sizes.

After talking with a co-worker and going to our Walmart, I settled on the Samsung Galaxy Express Prime. Cricket Wireless sells the same phone, and that was what I going to go for. Unfortunately, our local Walmart didn’t have the Cricket flavor, so I went for the AT&T service instead. (And I’m thankful I did – more on that later.)

After buying the phone, the person at Walmart set it up for me and got it registered with AT&T everything. I started playing with the phone that afternoon and testing out things on it.

This is where I’ll step into my bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece review.

Build Quality

The build quality of this phone, for a $99 phone, is exceptional. It is built just as well as a $300 Samsung Galaxy, which (to me) says a lot.

Speed and Responsiveness

This phone is very snappy in comparison to my old phone.


Photo of the T420, taken with EP2.

One of the biggest things I was worried about in upgrading was the camera. The camera on my old phone was extremely good, and was the only decent thing on that phone. It took clear photos, had a great flash system, and also took good videos.

I didn’t loose much in the transition, thankfully. There is one or two things that annoy me about the camera on my new phone (which I’ll discuss) – but in terms of picture quality, there was no real difference. Images taken with the 4x digital zoom are of much higher quality than my old phone, though – although I try to avoid using digital zoom when possible.

The downside to this camera is that it doesn’t want to focus. My old phone was extremely easy to focus, I just tapped the screen to form a focal point. This new phone doesn’t like that; it just gets extremely blurry when you do that. The other downside to the camera on this phone is that close-up shots (macros) are of horrible quality, whereas my old phone did fairly well with macro shots.

Call Quality

In my eyes, a cell phone has one critical role it needs to do well: make and receive calls. After all, it is a phone.

There is no real difference in audio quality between my old and new phone. The audio quality is just as good. My old phone would drop out at random times during a call, which is never fun. I’ve noticed that this new phone can do the same – but I have an idea of what causes it on this phone that I’ll discuss later.

Here is a recording of a call I placed to WWVH, to test the call quality and the call recording app which I don’t recommend installing.

Entertainment, Internet, and Apps

Internet access is internet access. This phone spends about 80% of the time connected to WiFi, but the other 20% is spent elsewhere or when the WiFi in my building isn’t wanting to cooperate. It displays websites decent, and the new phone comes with two built-in browsers; a Samsung browser, and the standard Chrome mobile browser.

I found out that in addition to playing standard music files, this phone can synthesize MIDI files. This is great. I’ve been wanting a phone that can synthesize MIDI’s on the go, as all of my previous phones (besides my first phone – an LG Optimus Elite) could not play MIDI files. This phone can, which is odd considering my last phone was an Android and couldn’t do it. As for MIDI synthesis, this phone is exactly like my first phone – down to the samples and SoundFont.

This phone comes with a lot of apps out of the box, which is one caveat. AT&T pre-loads their apps, Samsung pre-loads theirs, and Android gives you the standard assortment. While AT&T and Samsung’s apps may be used by some, I’ve never used any of them (except the Samsung Browser and Samsung Notes.) I’m sure there is a way that you can remove these apps – but I typically just ignore them and deal with it.

Suggestion to Google/Android: Why not implement a built-in call recorder? For some applications, a call recorder or a valuable tool. I feel it wouldn’t be that hard to implement in the call control panel. The app I’m currently using to record calls is not that good and has loads of annoying ads. Just a thought…


One of the issues with my old phone is power consumption. This phone is much more efficient; it takes nearly two days on a full charge to deplete the battery to around 8%. This phone charges extremely quick.

Fun/nice fact: this phone comes with a USB cable that plugs into a travel adapter. My first phone did this – but none since have (until this phone.) I like this concept much better because you can plug the cable into your computer and you can charge it from your computer, transfer files, or do both! I usually just let Google Drive and the cloud do the transferring for me, but it’s nice to have a backup. (I know that you can get microUSB-to-USB cables cheaply almost anywhere. But why go through that hassle when they can give you one, and some of those I would not simply trust.)


All phones will have their issues. This phone is no exception.

  • The “face proximity sensor” on this phone doesn’t work that well. When you make a phone call, the phone will only disable the screen if it detects your face is near it, so you can’t press buttons (like a facial version of butt-dialing) if your speaking normally, but will allow you to use your phone and talk (or use speaker phone) will doing something else. This phone’s face proximity sensor doesn’t work right. I’ve had a couple calls drop thanks to it thinking I’m pressing “End Call” when in reality I just moved the phone slightly while talking.

AT&T and the Service

I’ve heard mixed things about AT&T, especially with their landline/cable services that seems fairly commonplace around here. I’ve also heard that AT&T is relatively expensive for cell phone service, and their support isn’t that good. I simply disagree.

AT&T’s service is fairly well spread and the quality is decent. It’s about what you expect from a main carrier.

The support from AT&T – at least prepaid – isn’t anywhere near what people say it is. My experiences with their customer service is fairly decent. They’re usually helpful, although they sometimes don’t speak clearly and can be difficult to understand. On the other hand, Cricket Wireless had horrible customer service.

Is AT&T better than VM? The night is still young, but time will tell. I think they’ve already exceeded my expectations, but then again it has only been a month.