I have had my TracFone Galaxy Centura for almost two weeks now. I started toying around with it right away, but didn’t activate it until about three days later. I’m now on day 8 of using it nearly exclusively, dumping my previous devices into a drawer to get the full experience. So far, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.
Before I get too far into this review, though, I should point out that I am evaluating this as a $99 phone, with a monthly cost potentially as low as $7. I don’t have the same expectations for a Centura on TracFone as I would have for an iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy S4 on a Verizon contract.
In my opinion a good way to estimate the cost of a phone is the total payments over two years. I’ve seen this done different ways, and of course we have to recognize that contract plans offer a lot more data than what you might use on TracFone. Regardless, the minimum 2-year cost I’ve seen for owning an iPhone 5s on Verizon’s network is $2100.
Compare that to a TracFone Centura, adding a $20 airtime card every 90 days, and the total including the initial phone purchase would be approximately $275 depending on your local sales tax. Even if you went with 450 minutes (which would triple to 1350 minutes, 1350 texts, and 1350 mb of data) every 90 days, the total would be about $750 – a far cry from the iPhone price. (Click here for more details on TracFone pricing.)
Of course there are ways to tweak the numbers on either side, but my point here is that no matter how you might do the math, this Centura with TracFone service will save you significant money against a top-of-the-line smart phone on a contract. So that is how I chose to evaluate this device – as a bargain option for people who are likely to use TracFone anyway, not as a replacement for a high-end phone.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I am happily surprised with this device. I previously carried a TracFone feature phone, for voice and text calls, and an iPod touch, for the apps and audio content. I used my iPod for a lot of organizational stuff – email, calendar, reminders, alarms, notes, and minimal web browsing. It also was my source for time wasters like Facebook, casual games, and YouTube. Further, I listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and/or music on a regular basis. But I’m close to home most of the time, so I can usually use all those features over WiFi.
When I heard about TracFone offering Android phones, I was hopeful, but not necessarily optimistic, that one of those Android TracFones might replace both devices I previously carried. (Truth be told, the headphone jack on my iPod recently quit working, so I started using a hand-me-down Android device for audio content, bringing my total daily device count up to three.) So far, I have to say that the Centura is doing the job admirably.
Right out of the box, the Centura looks better than I thought it would. The design style is clearly (to me, anyway) similar to Samsung’s flagship Galaxy devices such as the S3 and S4. In my opinion, it doesn’t look cheap, though it is quite light weight.
Some people might think it feels cheap due to the plastic construction. But to me, it feels well-balanced and sturdy. The battery cover clicks snugly and securely into place, which for me is a big part of what makes it feel cohesive and secure as opposed to flimsy. And having broken a few ipods in the past, I’ve grown to favor more plastic construction over metal and glass, as the plastic absorbs impacts better.
I am also a fan of the size of the Centura. It is very nearly the same dimensions as an iPhone 3gs, or just slightly thicker than an iPhone 4 or 4s. The Centura, like the iPhone 4s and earlier iPhones and iPod touches, has a 3.5-inch screen. The trend over the last several years has been toward increasingly larger screens, and if that is your preference you will be disappointed with this model. But for me, it is perfect. I strongly prefer to be able to operate my phone with one hand. Once you get over the 3.5- or 4.0-inch screen size, depending on the size of your hand, it becomes difficult to reach the upper corners of a screen with your thumb.
Next, of course, is the important question of how well it runs apps. Because I have my Google account configured to automatically download previously used apps to a new Android phone when I add it to my account, I had around 70 apps downloaded right away. I have since added 10 more, bringing my total up to 80.
Everything seems to be running fine so far, with the slight exception of when I played around with a “live wallpaper.” For those of you that don’t know, this is kind of a gimicky option in Android that allows users to make their background image move. When I tried it out, it decreased my battery life and slowed the performance of the phone. Other than that one afternoon, I have not had problems.
Apps usually load quite quickly, and swiping side-to-side between home screens or through my pages of apps works smoothly. I’m sure that a Samsung Galaxy S4 or new iPhone makes these transitions faster than the Centura, but for my $100 TracFone, I’m very happy with its speed. I should also add that I’ve had better results with the speed of the OS when I shut the phone down completely every night. Similar to old Windows PC’s, this phone seems to run better when you give it a fresh restart regularly.
Of course, things happen to operating systems over the course of time, especially as new apps are added and when the phone is used extensively. So only time can really tell how it will perform on a regular basis. But so far, I see absolutely no reason not to recommend this device to someone looking for their first smart phone.
One thing that I definitely need to point out is the operating system here – this phone runs Android 4.0, also known as the “Ice Cream Sandwich” or ICS version of Android. As I understand it, Ice Cream Sandwich is the lowest you’d want to go in terms of buying a new phone now. ICS has since been superseded by Android 4.1, nicknamed “Jelly Bean,” and 4.2 “Kit Kat” is just around the corner. Explaining the differences among these Android versions is subject matter enough to fill an entire website on its own. For my money, though, Ice Cream Sandwich is good enough and will be acceptable for at least a year or 18 months to come, and probably as much as two years or more.
I’ve got a lot more to report on my experiences with this phone, but I’ll publish that in a future article (or two) on this blog. For now, I think that if you are anxious to get this phone and are looking for an objective opinion, my suggestion is to go for it. You can click here to get to TracFone’s website and place your order.