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Cheap Cell Phones: Virgin Mobile’s Ultra Low-Priced TNT! Flip Phone

While the TNT! definitely won’t bust the wallet, neither will it blow the brain

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating


TNT! by Kyocera Wireless for Virgin Mobile

TNT! by Kyocera Wireless for Virgin Mobile

Image © Kyocera Wireless
Guide Result: Split Decision
Recommended For: Very Basic Users, Extremely Low Price
Not Recommended For: Moderate to Advanced Users

In working with Kyocera Wireless, prepaid cell phone leader Virgin Mobile has backed itself into a corner with the new, ultra-cheap cell phone known as the TNT!.

With a pint-sized price tag of $19.99 (even many cell phone accessories cost more than that), we learn in this TNT! cell phone review why the amusingly named phone is anything but dynamite in its form and function.
Creative Marketing

Knowing there’s nothing about the TNT! that would blow consumers off their rockers on the feature front, Virgin Mobile’s creative marketing folks decided to market the phone differently.

They did so solely based on its low price as compared to – well – consumer purchases that have absolutely nothing to do with cell phones. Now that’s different.

Virgin Mobile is actually selling the allure of buying the TNT! for less than “a pizza pie or petroleum at the pump” by reminding us of the difficulty to purchase those items today “for just 20 bucks”.

Virgin Mobile is focusing on the fact that the TNT! won’t “blow up your wallet”. That much we can’t contest.

This entry-level clamshell, though, is absolutely as basic as a basic cell phone gets. The TNT!, which is an acronym for Talk ‘N Text, is on the lower end of the Virgin Mobile handset collection and for the most part only allows you to talk and send text messages.

You won’t find highly advanced features – such as a touch screen or GPS mapping technology – even remotely in the same universe as the TNT! flip phone. You also won’t find some relatively basic and commonplace features in the TNT! such as a cell phone camera or Bluetooth (i.e. for wireless Bluetooth headsets).

For a slight step up on the feature line and for $30 more, the TNT! was released alongside another low-priced Virgin Mobile phone: the Arc by UTStarcom. Instead of $19.99 for the TNT!, the still-basic but not-as-TNT!-basic Arc retails for $49.99.
TNT! by Kyocera Wireless for Virgin Mobile

TNT! by Kyocera Wireless for Virgin Mobile

Image © Kyocera Wireless
Feature Set

Now that we’ve covered what the TNT! can’t do, here’s what it does have.

  • Basic games
  • Real-music ringtones
  • A speakerphone
  • Basic mobile Web access
  • 3.3 hours of talk time (relatively low for today’s standards)
  • 5 hours of standby battery time (low for today’s standards)
  • A small, internal screen (only comprising half of its space)
  • A small, banner-style monochrome external display
  • Very low phone storage (only 30 megabytes)

  • The external display shows the time, date and caller ID. The phone is limited to holding 250 contacts. The TNT! weighs in at a very light 2.8 ounces, which is a perk, and measures in at 3.5 inches by 1.8 inches by 0.6 of an inch, which is thin and appropriately small.

    One surprising concern about the TNT!, though, is its primary display screen. Few phones make it off the shelves with such a low-quality screen. There’s actually a minor delay in the TNT!’s primary screen when responding to your actions and repainting the screen.

    The TNT! became available for purchase beginning on Aug. 20, 2008 at Virgin Mobile’s Web site and is available now at major retailers including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and RadioShack.
    The Bottom Line

    While this review subtracted points from the TNT! for a lack of style and a lack of features, these deductions were offset by the reality that this clamshell is for the most part priced as low as a cell phone can go.

    If cash is a serious consideration for you and you can’t spring for 30 or so more bucks for a sleeker, more feature-packed handset and if all you need is the most basic of features, the TNT! could get the job done for you.

    If instead you can afford to treat yourself to a new cell phone beyond what it’d cost to order a pizza and if you require some of the most standard features of cell phones today (like a camera), the same TNT! that won’t blow up your wallet will blow up your brain.

    Your Two Cents: Have a comment or question related to this cell phone review? Chime in on the forums!
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