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Cell Phone Review: Virgin Mobile’s Low-Priced Arc Clamshell

While the Arc won’t break the bank, neither will it blow you away

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (1 Review)


Arc by UTStarcom for Virgin Mobile

Arc by UTStarcom for Virgin Mobile

Image © UTStarcom
Guide Result: Somewhat Recommended
Recommended For: Basic Users, Low Price
Not Recommended For: Advanced Users

Prepaid cell phone service leader Virgin Mobile doesn’t merely just turn on a primarily youth demographic because of its low-cost, no-contract airtime.

The Sprint reseller has also etched a mark for itself by offering a library of bargain basement-priced cell phones.

Next up in Virgin Mobile’s economical line is the new Arc clamshell cell phone from handset manufacturer UTStarcom.
At $49.99, though, the Arc makes no competitive threats to today’s do-it-all phone craze. Bluetooth technology (i.e. for wireless headsets) and a basic cell phone camera are as advanced as it gets.

Feature Set

Taking a red bath in crimson affords the Arc its only design attraction. Beyond its cool color, though, the Arc is a relatively basic cell phone.

Measuring in at 3.8 inches by 0.7 of an inch with an arc of 0.8 of an inch and weighing in at 3.0 ounces flat, the Arc has appropriately paid close attention to today’s standards for size and weight. The Arc’s full feature list includes:

  • A VGA (basic) cell phone camera
  • Bluetooth wireless technology
  • Full-color internal and external screens
  • Text messaging
  • Games
  • Screensavers
  • Photos and graphics
  • Real music ringtones
  • Mobile Web
  • Speakerphone
  • Voice dialing
  • The ability to change the menus to Spanish
  • TTY/TDD enabled for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • In addition, the Arc can access Virgin Mobile’s unique Sugar Mama service. Virgin Mobile says about its Sugar Mama: “It’s a way to earn free airtime in your spare time. Give us a minute of your time and get a minute of airtime.”

    The Arc can also access VirginXL (or VXL for short), which is where its customers can purchase various cell phone goodies including ringtones, ringback tones, games, graphics and other “boredom busters”.
    Arc by UTStarcom for Virgin Mobile

    Arc by UTStarcom for Virgin Mobile

    Image © UTStarcom
    With a talk time of 3.5 hours and standby time of 14.5 days, the Arc’s battery life is average to slightly underwhelming.

    Despite the Arc’s low price of $49.99, which comes with one standard battery, a second or replacement UTStarcom battery will run you an additional $29.99.

    With this battery priced at 60 percent of the cost of the phone itself, this gives you an idea of how much the phone’s overall price is subsidized and/or how much of its overall price is consumed by the battery’s cost.

    The Arc also comes packaged with one charger. While its primary screen (when flipped open) is somewhat small, the screen is clear, crisp and friendly to the typical eye.


    While the Arc scores points in this review for its crimson paint job, its plastic casing elicits concern.

    While consumers these days tend to replace their cell phones (and especially their low-cost cell phones) every year or two, the Arc’s casing wouldn’t stand the everyday abuse test for too long until it’d start showing wear and tear.

    On the bottom, left and right sides of its casing, the Arc has various functions including a headphone jack, a button for initiating the camera, a volume up and volume down button, an input jack for the phone’s charger and another button you wouldn’t know what it does until you press it (it’s for voice dialing).
    The trouble here is that some of these need your fingernail to open and use them whereas others just want you to push them. As it’s not immediately obvious which ones require which action, you may first find yourself trying to use your fingernail for a particular function that actually just wants you to push the button.

    Since one of the Arc’s fundamental selling points is its low price, another troubling consideration is what it’s competing against in the marketplace for phones in the $50 range. For example, the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic packs much more style, durability and features (including iPod-like functionality for music) for the same exact price.

    The Bottom Line

    The Arc ultimately isn’t a status symbol and won’t give you that feel-good, hip feeling you have when you whip out an iPod or iPhone. While it lacks advanced features such as a touch screen or GPS mapping, the Arc does cover most of its bases at an affordable price.

    Should you desire even fewer features (i.e. no cell phone camera) and an even lower price, the Arc was released alongside the ultra low-priced TNT! flip phone by Kyocera Wireless. As compared to the Arc’s $49.99 cost, the ultra-basic TNT! retails for a pint-sized $19.99.

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

    Reviews for this section have been closed.

     4 out of 5
    Basic but gets job done, Member Joew20853

    I switched from Verizon contract to a pay as you go. All I need is a phone that makes calls which this one does nicely. It is similar in functions to the Verizon LG phone I had before. The camera is not near as good, but who cares. I was able to pair with my bluetooth earpiece with no hitches. While I have only had it a month, I have not found anything not to like. I paid $40 on-line with Virgin Mobile and go $20 of airtime included. Effective cost $20 plus tax.

    13 out of 14 people found this helpful.

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