Let me make this easy for you. If you buy the Motorola Triumph now, you are doing it wrong. Opt for the HTC One V or the HTC Evo V 4G. A Triumph in comparison to either HTC phone is a rip off.
Let’s talk about the Motorola Triumph. It’s still the “best” phone you can get on Virgin Mobile and likely elsewhere that is also prepaid barring the slightly less fantastic Exhibit. Two weeks ago I forked over an arm and a leg to ditch my year-old long over-used Optimus V for this behemoth of a phone. So let’s talk about the Motorola Triumph.
We already remember the first weeks – the glory of getting the newest phone in the market and praising how wonderful it was to finally have an actual smartphone. That’s how it was when the Triumph came out in Summer of 2011. It was short-lived though as quality control issues came to light through numerous blogs, forums and just about everywhere else. That tarnished my enthusiasm for the phone and I held off from buying it. I had been using my replaced Optimus V from February 2011, and was nearing the practical limits of what it could do, and only by deleting messages, application caches and just about everything to keep it from displaying the dreaded low on spasce notification, was I able to prolong its life.
The build quality problems I knew about were screen flickering issues, super-weak GPS signals and general system instability. If only I had a source for these uncited problems!
My particular handset does not exhibit the GPS problem, the flickering problem is more likely a software bug and even at that, it’s less noticeable overtime as you learn how to avoid it (wait at least four seconds between pressing the power button into sleep and then out of sleep). So my problems at the very least are not the usually reported problems, are at least not among those that were reported at release of the Triumph.
The Big Problem – Wi-Fi
No, my problem is with wifi. Yes, wifi, the very point of having a smartphone is Internet connectivity and through wifi at that. So what does my Motorola Triumph handset do? It crashes and then restarts.
Here’s the deal. At the University of Minnesota, we have a wifi network called “UofM Secure” because you need your “X500” credentials to login, which is simply a username and password. This is technically a 802.1 EAP network, which is all just a fancy authentication system based on WPA and WPA2. It’s secure and wonderful, and definitely beats having to authenticate through an open wifi network login page.
So with the Motorola Triumph, if I’m in an area with wifi, and it is already connected without going into
Settings > Wireless & networks > Wi-Fi settings, there’s a low chance of the crash. But if I do have go through settings to select the network (essentially forcing wifi to connect), it will often become unresponsive and then just crash! But then it gets better. It can do this multiple times if the network does not come back on its own without going through settings. The saving grace now is the phone is fast enough to restart in less than 30 seconds, but still. It is ridiculous to have a phone that crashes because it has connected to wifi.
But the problem does not end there, oh no. In fact, wifi problems continue. If I am connected and either downloading a page, podcast or using some sufficient amount of wifi data transfer, there’s a large possibility that I will lose the connection to the network. And you know that means – more chances to restart. Typically, this is rarer than the previous restarting problem, but it certainly does happen in places where the Optimus V (at the university) had no problems on the network. I can be reading in Google Reader and suddenly, bam! no wifi. But here’s the kicker – and a confusing point – it’s not just 802.1 EAP in this case. It happens at home to in my 802.11n network, the connection will suddenly drop out – just like that, in the blink of an eye.
To explain that better, let me contrast with the Optimus V. At home, I never had a wifi drop out, if it had gone to sleep and turned wifi off, it would reconnect seconds after waking up, no problem, and while using the phone itself, it would stay on perfectly for extended periods of time to the point it never actually dropped out while I was watching. Ever. For instance, my favorite podcast player, Listen by Google, would allow me to listen and download podcasts at the same time. The Motorola Triumph cannot do this because it will often drop out, and Listen even insists that when I try to listen/stream while downloading – especially while the download is incomplete, it will state, “An error occurred while playing this episode.” That error never came up on the Optimus V. It may not be related to the wifi, but the staggering amount “Error (file not found)” and “Error (connection timed out)” notices I receive from Listen is surely a sign of the wifi problem – it simply cannot keep up a stable connection for an entire 60MB file.
But it’s not just Listen, it’s something as simple as browsing. I can be checking my bus schedule and be unsurprised that what I thought was just slow Internet on campus was actually due to the phone losing the connection yet again.
There are certainly lesser problems in the phone, but this is the one I demand to be fixed. It absolutely must be solved. Either by software or hardware or magic.
Let’s talk about some other observations. I have had this phone for two weeks; long enough to get a feel for oddities.
Let’s begin with the battery life. In a normal school day, I clock in at 6am and clock out around 3pm (and by clock in and out, I mean take off and put on the phone from the charger). By noon, I usually from down to 55% with light to moderate usage, though with heavier usage it goes to 40%. That’s no a big deal. Now, if for some reason wifi is being insane inane on any given day and it disconnects and reconnects continuously, well, say goodbye to that battery – 40% by 9am! Great. Actually, barring that exception, I’m pleased with the battery life in the phone. I have not had a close call yet, and I feel like I need to keep more battery life for a longer day (like Wednesday with my physics lab through 5pm), I go into Airplane mode with cuts me off from the celluar network (and who needs that during lab?) Since I only read and despise games, this works fine for me. No problems there.
Now how about that keyboard? Here’s an example of my poor typing with the stock Android keyboard.
Now, how abiut rhat keyboars. This keybaord isbso easyto use becuas it ahs no ictiondarg. Revooutinary right? This is ibsabity.
Why did it come out like this? Because autocomplete does not exist on this phone naturally. Oh no, somehow, there is no dictionary except for your previously imported list of contacts and built-in names. So the words, “about”, “keyboard”, “easy”, “because” and more are unintelligible because it cannot correct them, it doesn’t know them. This demonstrates a lack of … what, I don’t even know? Who decides to sell a phone without an autocorrection dictionary? Who’s fault is this? Motorola’s? Google’s? The World’s? My solution was to install the ICS Keyboard that was simply too slow on the Optimus V (and immature at the time). But do normal people even know they can do this? My father certainly does not and his messages look like they were often written by birds (that may be angry).
Speed & Stability
Speed and stablity are interesting topics. Barring the occasional wifi-restart, the phone is generally stable. I run LauncherPro as the homescreen, and it runs with minimal effects enabled (none of that cubic nonsense) without any problems, the apps drawer scrolls smoothly, webpages, long lists and everything scrolls just fine. Stability wise, I’ve rarely had an app crash on its own and if it did, it was Facebook, and that didn’t work well on the Optimus V anyway. Switching from portrait to landscape works fast and flawlessly, where on the Optimus V, it was quite slow. On the Triumph, the phone is pretty much always responsive to the touch, but a problem is the capacitive menu, home and back buttons are less responsive than the actual screen, so I have to hit them multiple times quite often to know I registered a response. The haptic feedback helps, but it’s minimal.
I’ve spoken about comfort before. Comfort is in terms of being able to swipe with one’s thumb from corner to corner of the phone. That is kinda possible but not easy with this Motorola Triumph’s huge 4.1” diagonal screensize. In fact, it almost hurts. Actually, it does hurt to overextend; with two hands the problem is solved, because you can hold with one hand and swipe with the other. So now I know why everyone claims smaller phones are better. The screensize is great and all, but the pixel density is more important for me compared with actually being able to interact with the controls. If you’re holding the Triumph in one hand, it’ll be a tricky maneuver to hit that notifications bar, which apparently is something you do pretty often.
Initially, I heard various reports of weak 3G reception and that reasoning isn’t condemned by the fact there is visually 4 bars on the Motorola Triump while there are 5 on the Optimus V. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but in my experience, the Motorola Triumph is fine in the University of Minnesota, Saint Paul region. The bars are a bad indicator of 3G service, and as far as I know, I have always been able to send and receive text messages in all but the deepest depths of the great buildings at the university.
The OS – Android 2.2.2
What else is there? How about the operating system itself? Android 2.2.2 isn’t bad; but it has no more to offer than my already year-old phone, the Optimus V, running the same. 2.3.5 I believe is the leading version of Gingerbread but I don’t even remember what it could do; let alone improve performance. It doesn’t matter either way, every app functions perfectly – nobody can drop 2.2 support because, well, there are 96% of all Android phones running that. Oh yeah. That said, after having experienced the glorious Ice Cream Sandwich, well, it’s a shame this phone will never support either an official build or completely a self-installed variant. Hacking the TouchPad to support CM9 was easy enough but on the phone it’s a slightly different story.
So, how about a numeric score? I like the 1-5 scoring system, but let me explain how I broke the score down all down.
- -1 for the many and consistent wifi connectivity problems
- -0.1 for the outdated version of Android despite being available for more than a year and half, software wise and hardware wise
- -0.1 for the insane screensize and minor discomfort
- -0.2 for a completely broken stock keyboard
Despite those cons, I liked that the phone is suitably fast for a 1GHz processor and modern phone smartphone; it actually feels fast enough to be smart, and that goes for being responsive too. And of course, for having more storage space even after twice as many apps as I had on the Optimus V at the end of its life. So my final score is 3.6 out of 5. So that’s a 72% satisfaction rate, which is considered a B+ in my physics courses; a C- in the curvless world.
While writing this, I did a little more testing. Using my favorite Wifi Analyzer and Listen to download an episode of Tech News Today. The episode in question was only 25MB. While it was downloading in the background, I was watching the Analyzer. My office is about 8 feet away from the n-router, and that’s separated by a single wall. In that time, the wifi dropped out from a nearly -30 dbm signal to a mere -80 dbm signal and of course the download was interrupted; my laptop was still receiving wifi perfectly right next to the phone. Wikipedia explains that anything around -10 dbm is the ceiling on wifi signal but anywhere from -30 to -70 are fair game for wifi. A drop from -30 dbm to -80 dbm is definitely unusual as this is a logarithmic scale and that’s like dropping 50 orders of magnitude. So I don’t think I’m making all of this up.
Despite all of this, I consider myself lucky as there were no restarts while writing.