I’ve talked badly about my dumb-yet-faithful LG501C Tracfone. Black Friday has finally put it out of its misery and has allowed me to usher myself into the modern era of in-car connectivity.
That sounds almost asinine to say, doesn’t it? When I started driving on my own 11 short years ago, car-to-phone connectivity was still mostly limited to cars that had built-in phones, and navigation systems were rare and, by necessity, powered by DVDs — sometimes multiple discs for multiple regions of the country. How the mind reels when it considers how far we’ve come in such a short span of time!
November 2013 marks one full year we’ve been pounding out articles here at In-Car Tech Tell, and a full year that I’ve been frustrated by the LG501C’s inability to test the ever-growing range of cool smartphone connectivity capabilities in most of the cars we review. The last month worth of cars I’ve tested had the ability to stream Pandora internet radio or other content via Bluetooth, but I couldn’t put that capability to the test because my phone was too dumb. Some recent vehicles have had problems even connecting with the LG for simple handsfree phone use — a sign the world has moved on while I stubbornly clung to the relative simplicity of a voice- and text-only phone.
When a friend of a friend on Facebook tipped me off to a Black Friday deal that could net me a prepaid Android 4.0 smartphone for $30, my interest was piqued — and even moreso when I figured out that was less than a third of the unit’s usual selling price. (The phone, if you’re curious, is the Samsung Galaxy Centura sold as a Straight Talk phone.) That deal, combined with my increasing need to buy Tracfone minutes due to doing more business calls on my phone of late, was all I needed to push me over the edge and go Android.
My wife will be making the switch with me next month. We’ll burn down our remaining Tracfone minutes, then port our numbers over to the pair of Straight Talk Centuras, both of which we bought with two-year protection plans for about two-thirds the cost of a single Centura at regular retail. It will be a net cost increase for us, compared to our expenses with the Tracfones, but in the end, it’s worth not having to worry about running down expensive minutes. No more hitting “ignore” when my wife calls me at work until I can get to a landline and return her call. But more than that, it’ll be worth it just so I get to more fully test all the cool in-car tech coming our way in 2014.
The best part about this deal was that I didn’t have to brave the Black Friday shenanigans at my nearest Walmart. I initially thought the deal would be an in-store-only kind of deal when I looked up the advertisements for it. Those ads seemed to indicate it would be a Thursday night deal (ugh) on top of it all. I checked Walmart’s website Thursday night and saw the $30 Galaxy Centura had sold out online. There was still a $45 Centura bundled with a rubberized case, and I thought about buying it, but by the time I tried to add it to my cart, it, too had sold out. Lucky for me the $30 phone deal was back in stock online by the middle of Black Friday. I came, I ordered, and now, I wait.
I’m fully aware the Centura isn’t the fastest or most capable smartphone out there. Plenty of phones are faster than its 3G connectivity and 800 MHz processor. But most of those phones cost about $150 to $200 more when the Centura is sold at full retail. And besides, I’m pretty easy to please. I’ve enjoyed a $138 Avatar Titan Android-powered notebook for most of the last year after reading plenty of negative reviews about same, so I’m betting I’ll end up generally liking the Android 4.0 experience on my phone, perhaps even more than I do on the laptop.
I’ll keep you all apprised of how the transition goes — mostly in the form of reviewing things like voice texting and Pandora streaming that I’ve been unable to review before. Stay tuned.