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Review of the Virgin Mobile Arc (by UTStarcom)

We’re back today with our second handset review. A few weeks ago, we reviewed the Samsung Slash. Sticking with Virgin Mobile, today we’ll take a look at the Arc by UTStarcom. The phone launched in July, and has since come out in various colors. One poster on Howard Forums noted that a gold version is available at Target. I got the red one.

The expectations caveat once again: This phone will not blow your mind. It is not meant to. I think I put it best in a post on HoFo, which is gleefully quoted in user Love Souljah’s signature:

Why doesn’t Dan Brown write sleazy romance novels? Why doesn’t Wal-Mart sell thousand-dollar car stereo systems?

They’re appealing to an audience. Same with VM.

So, now that we realize that the Arc is not the G1, let’s hit the review.

Form factor

Flip phones aren’t exactly my bag, though prior to about a year ago I owned them almost exclusively. They seem to be popular enough. Many of even the newer cell phone models are of the flip variety, including the RAZR, which is still the best selling handset in America.

There’s nothing wrong with the Arc’s form factor. It’s a slim clamshell which flips open rather easily. This means that it fits easily in your pocket, and isn’t a pain to open up — though I’m not sure I know a flip phone that is. All in all, the form is pretty benign. That can be a good thing if you’re not looking for something overly fancy.


Straight up, I am not a fan of the Arc’s keyboard layout. In particular, the dedicated Web button is the most troubling. It’s where you would typically find the End button, which on this phone is stowed below it, and is not as prominent in position or size. That one definitely threw me off. Why not put the Send and End buttons where they usually are, and put the speakerphone and Web buttons below them?

Not to harp on the issue, though I clearly am, I ended up hitting the End button a few times while trying to use the letters D, E, and F, as the End key is right above the number 3. Maybe I’m just out of practice, since I use a BlackBerry nowadays. Still, not everyone is proficient with their key accuracy. Thankfully, hitting End just brings up a Save Message dialog, so you can get back into it without losing what you’ve typed.

Other than that, it’s a pretty straightforward keyboard.


The LCD screen isn’t much to look at, but it gets the job done. Once again, we’re going with expectations here. I’m not expecting a high-res screen, but I can say I’m expecting a little more than this.

The top image in the graphics section of VirginXL is (or was, at the time of testing) “Amanda in Hot Thong.” Dude. Sold. So I went to that, and guess what? Amanda isn’t so hot. Well, she very well could be. Problem is, I can’t really tell. Assigning her as wallpaper helped a little, but then her face is covered by Virgin Mobile. Eh. Not like I could see it anyway.

Call quality

I had the same deal as I did the Slash with the Arc. Call quality was crisp and clear. Once again, this is in New York City, so we can expect at least a moderate level of coverage. Since it was pretty clear, though, I can imagine that there aren’t many internal issues with the Arc which hinder its call quality. This almost makes up for the disappointing display.

Mobile Web

Again, the mobile Web is similar to that of the Slash. The separate Web and VirginXL screens is a bit of a pain, but not enough to make me rail on it for a paragraph. Browsing speeds are about what you’d expect from a non-EVDO phone. Some pages loaded quickly, while others took a while to connect. C’est la vie.

The downloads from VirginXL are rather quick, though. No complaints on that end. Amanda went from website to phone in about two seconds. Honestly, I didn’t even really notice. That’s a good thing.

Other than that, it’s your basic 2002 mobile Web experience. Remember: expectations.


That’s a picture of a portion of my bookshelf, taking with the Arc. Not bad, right? I mean, it’s far from great. This is a VGA camera, though, so I’m not expecting to get the same out of this as I do my Powershot. For simple MMS, this does just fine.

Speaking of MMS, I tried to send an MMS to the phone, and it wouldn’t accept. I wonder why. Does anyone else have this problem with the Arc?

I enjoyed the voice dialing feature, and normally I don’t like them. It picked up my voice pretty well. The last time I actually used a feature like this was with a Samsung I got in 02 or 03. The Arc picks out my voice much better.


As I said in the form factor section, this phone feels fine while I’m holding it. It’s weight, just 0.2 pounds, makes it even better. Honestly, though, holding it kind of makes me want to chuck it at someone. I don’t know why. It just feels natural as a projectile. Thankfully, I was able to avoid such a temptation on the subway.

The flip is smooth, and it fits in my pocket with easy. Certainly better than my clunky BlackBerry. Can I get a trade in? (Just kidding.)

Final thoughts

I’m not as high on the Arc as I was the Slash. Then again, with my predisposition towards sliders over flips, and with the general objective superiority of the Slash, this was to be expected. That isn’t to say the Arc is bad. It’s to say that there are perhaps better models out there.

Factoring in price, though, it’s a decent bargain. The Arc has all of the basic functionalities, including Bluetooth, and has a decent camera set up and voice dialing application. If it was priced closer to say, $30, I’d be all-in. As it stands, I’m lukewarm on the Arc.

Price: $49.99

Carrier: Read the Virgin Mobile review

12 Responses

  1. mike Says

    I’ve had an arc for just under 2 monthes and now, randomly, the screen has just turned white and won’t show me anything… the phone works but its now good now. thanks vorgin mobile for losing my numbers!

    Posted on December 15th, 2008 at 2:09 pm
  2. Lilith Says

    I have had my Arc for a short time, snagged it on black friday for 19.99…. However today, my phone began hanging up after 5-9 sec., I’ve never dropped it. It will answer calls, but won’t really let me call out. Also allows me online & sends/recieves text. What is wrong with it?

    Posted on December 17th, 2008 at 1:37 am
  3. Tia Says

    Mike- did you try turning off the phone and removing the battery. The same thing happened to my other phone and I took the battery out and put it back in and its all better.
    And my question is what is the extra port on the bottom of the Arc next to the charger port? Anyone know?

    Posted on February 3rd, 2009 at 2:21 pm
  4. Amy E Says

    I’m pretty sure that extra port is to download pics into a computer – a USB port.

    Posted on February 24th, 2009 at 11:17 pm
  5. Oona Says

    I’m thinking about buying this phone from the virgin mobile website, I came here to see if it’s really worth my money. My question is when I looked on it’s features on the website, it didn’t say anything about a ‘full color display’ like some of the others. I just want to make sure it’s not in b&w.

    Posted on May 25th, 2009 at 4:32 pm
  6. anonymous Says

    The extra port at the bottom of the phone is just another charging port. This phone cannot connect in any way to a computer.

    Posted on July 1st, 2009 at 3:49 pm
  7. freewareguy Says

    As I was looking for a metropcs alternative, I found Virgin Mobile ‘texter’s delight’ plan most excellent. Needless to say, I got me a UtStarcom ARC and did a little review of it here:

    Posted on August 14th, 2009 at 4:41 pm
  8. Carlea Says

    i got this phone when it first came out last summer. & i loved it! i never had the problems mike & lilith talked about. the only problem i had with it was hitting the talk button when texting instead of the number one because the keys are so close.

    Posted on August 17th, 2009 at 2:07 am
  9. dylan Says

    if ya have problems try removing the battery while phone is on and hold power on for 15 secs

    Posted on March 15th, 2010 at 11:11 am
  10. Michelle Says

    I have had my pjone the ARC Red as above for over 1 year now and I have been trying to find a car charger for it??? any ideas? VM doesnot carry them and anything else seems to haveusb plug in and not pin like the charger for home I already have that came with it. I beleive this model is CDM8074VM however I can’t find anywhere that you can buy a car charger for this model with the pin hole in phone and not usb port type? Any one have any where?

    Posted on March 23rd, 2010 at 1:40 am
  11. behappy Says

    Anyone out there know of how to get in touch with a person at Virgin Mobile with any decision making capabilities ?

    during my many minutes and several phone calls to VM.

    One fellow explained that IF I had purchased a pair of shoes that had been reduced I could not get any credit, he was using Walmart as his example.
    I guess that’s when I decided to try the email route and the results where just as bad,

    3 days ago I sent…
    The message submitted by the user is:

    the answer I received *3* days ago was;

    “Thanks for sending us an email. We received your message dated 06/05/2010 10:26 PM .

    Our team is looking at your email right now, and we’ll be sending you a response within the next *24* hours. Please do not reply to this email since this is an auto-forward email.

    In the event you need to contact us regarding your original message, please refer to the Incident # 100605-013544 . This will help us locate and review your correspondence with us.

    Thanks once again for writing. We’ll be in touch very *soon*.

    Virgin Mobile USA Customer Support.”

    WHAT’S A FELLOW TO DO,. looks like I’ve only got a few weeks left to get this done
    PS I’ve been with SPRINT since mid 90′s and it was a hair puller with them during the start up days but not any more so there is hope.

    Posted on June 8th, 2010 at 2:24 pm
  12. Sheila Says

    i kind of like this phone and im trying to find another to buy it so far not. anyone know where i can purchase one.

    Posted on February 7th, 2011 at 7:06 pm

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