I’ve now had the TracFone Samsung Galaxy Centura for two full months, and have used it as my primary phone for most of that time. In my initial review, I was cautiously optimistic that this device would be a winner. After plenty of time working with it, I have mixed results.
First, I LOVE the pricing structure offered by TracFone. I started with a 200-minute card ($40 retail). This card also includes 90 days of service. And because of the “triple-triple” feature of TracFone’s smart phone program, the 200 stated on the card first tripled to 600, then tripled again into 600 units in each “bucket” of talk minutes, text messages, and MB of data. This has worked out perfectly for me. 60 days into my 90-day card, I still have almost exactly one-third of my data remaining. That puts my average cost per month at right around $14 – something I definitely can live with.
Next, I do enjoy the flexibility of Android devices. While I have played with them before, I’ve never really used one as my primary device for such a long period of time. I really like the ability to customize different settings such as the lock screen, home screen shortcuts, keyboard layout, and widgets. Task automation is another cool feature that I’m learning about in the Android OS.
Unfortunately, that brings me to the negative aspect of the Centura. It’s simply not powerful enough to do all these tweaks and customizations. The more I learned about Android, the more I wanted to tailor it to my needs. And the more I tailored, the slower my phone got. If I wasn’t so eager to get the first Android from TracFone, I would have been much wiser to wait and see what else TracFone came up with, hopefully something more powerful.
Far and away, the biggest culprit in slowing down my phone was adding a custom lock screen/launcher app, which allowed me one-touch access to my most used apps, directly from the lock screen. Another tweak that seemed to bog me down was a custom keyboard app, which frequently lagged during text entry. Reverting to the default settings for these two options resulted in much snappier performance, but then again my phone isn’t quite the way I want it any more either.
With that said, I have no doubt that I am asking more of this device than 90% of TracFone users out there would do. I guess I might be what some people call a “power user,” and the Centura is an entry-level device. I routinely use over two dozen apps every day, and with all the customization I mentioned above taking up system resources, it couldn’t keep up.
[EDIT 3/6/2014 – I strongly prefer the Dynamic II over the Centura. These two devices have the same suggested retail price as of today, so I see very few reasons to go with the Centura. Click here to read more about why I prefer the Dynamic II.]
If you are thinking about purchasing this device, and you plan to use it mainly for talking and texting, you’ll be fine with it. If you currently have a non-smartphone, and would like the option of email, web surfing, music or podcasts, maybe some Facebook and occasionally some other apps – I think you’ll love it. But if you are considering making the leap from an advanced smart phone on one of the big networks, be careful – you might end up disappointed with this one.
Similarly, if you are considering this as a first-time smart phone for someone on your Christmas shopping list, I’d say go for it. I think they will be happy with how much more they can do on a smart phone as opposed to their old QWERTY or flip-phone.
If you aren’t in a rush, though, you should also be aware of another development in the TracFone world. Shortly before Thanksgiving, TracFone announced the addition of a “bring your own phone” (BYOP) option. This allows users to purchase a used or otherwise out-of-contract Verizon-compatible phone elsewhere (with several important limitations), and then activate with TracFone’s service. The pricing of the service is the same as for the Centura and other smartphones you’d get directly from TracFone. This is intriguing, but so far I haven’t heard enough success stories to recommend the option. If you can hold off and let the dust settle, and the BYOP is a success, you’ll be better off spending $100-$150 on a used Android device instead of buying this phone directly from TracFone.
Finally, here are a few key criticisms I have for the Centura:
1. For some reason, it is impossible to transfer apps to the SD card. On most, if not all, previous Android devices I’ve used, it is possible to move at least some of the apps from internal storage to an SD card. This allows users to add apps in excess of the internal storage. Unfortunately, and for reasons I’m not experienced enough to understand, that is not possible on this device.
2. One seriously frustrating glitch, that is clearly an error on the part of Samsung, is in the clock. For unknown reasons, and at seemingly unpredictable times, the phone’s internal clock defaults to Greenwich Mean Time. This affects many aspects of the phone’s operation, including alarm and calendar apps. On one occasion, this glitch occurred overnight, resulting in my alarm not waking me at the appropriate time. There are some work-arounds, such as switching into and back out of airplane mode, or making a call. However, as in the case of my overnight glitch, you might not always realize the problem before it’s negatively affected your life.
3a. This one is probably more than most people will expect from their phone, but I really like being able to use a play-pause answer button on my headphones when listening to music or other audio content. For about five years now, I have used iPhone headphones with a build-in microphone and playback controls. I love to use that same style of headphones with all my phones. Some work perfectly with the headset controls, and others not at all. Less common, however, are handsets like this, where the play/pause button works sometimes but not always. Since this feature is unreliable, it’s just one more way that the Centura reminds me that it’s not all I wish it was.
3b. The Centura was not able to utilize the microphone of any wired headset I tried. I have 4 different brands of headsets, and none worked for voice calls.
4. Audio quality is terrible on any of my wired headsets. There is a persistent static buzz in underneath any audio that comes through the audio jack. Switching to bluetooth helped quite a bit, but the quality there was still lacking compared to other devices, especially Apple’s i-devices.
Bottom Line: A year of owning this device, including the initial purchase price, is going to cost me right around $300. If I wanted an iPhone or high-end Android device like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One on a contract carrier, especially Verizon, I would end up paying many multiples of that. For the price I’m paying, I feel like I am getting great value for my money. I’ll keep watching for the next great thing to take it’s place, but until that comes along at a similar price I’ll be content with my Centura on TracFone. Click here to get yours.